Mod Note: Each day we'll be posting the top WSO forum posts of 2014. This one was originally posted on 7/7/14 and ranks #16 for the year by total silver banana count. You can see all our top ranked content here.
Fellow Monkeys, this is my story of triumph, success, and most importantly, humility. It may be long, so if you want a quick "tl;dr" synopsis, scroll to the bottom. This is a long, but incredibly sincere thank you to Wall Street Oasis and more importantly my mother.
I grew up having a very "different" background (at least I thought at the time). Many of my friends had happy families living in nice houses, I on the other hand, didn't know my dad and my mom was living paycheck to paycheck just to make sure there was a roof over my head and food on the table. My mom was always my motivation to always strive for success, and make the best of myself. She is the biggest success story I know. She grew up in the Philippines, relatively wealthy (think upper-upper by their standards), actually, but when her father passed away, the entire inheritance was handed down to her brother, an alcoholic who had nothing going for him. My mom on the other hand was en route to getting her degree. The money got wiped out within a few years (he's now homeless).
With no foreseeable future, she moved to Japan to work at a Corporation where she met my Dad, who was in the navy at the time. My parents stayed together for 3 years, and my Dad convinced her to move to America, the place where dreams come true, right? Wrong. My dad (who decided not to marry her) denied her citizenship, and my mom could not get a job. I was now 6, and my mom gave up on her dreams of becoming an executive and instead had to become a Nanny to ensure I could live my life to the fullest. She is the most successful, strongest, and dedicated woman I know.
Failing at my Fresh Start
Fast forward 11-years to my senior year of High School. My grades were sub-par (around 2.8) and I had no goals in sight. Luckily due to my above average SAT scores, I was accepted to more than just a community college, though the school I matriculated to is a non-target by most peoples standards. I went to a relatively large State School in New York (Albany, Binghamton, and Buffalo). I thought this would be a fresh start. Nope. I drank about 5 nights of the week, studied minimally, and had no true motivation and guidance. I ended up getting a cumulative 2.9 my freshman year. I was on the verge of being not let into the business school and boy did that send a haunting jolt down my spine. I knew I was better than this. I remember having a long talk with my mom, her incredibly disappointed, yet supportive tone, and me thinking "what's wrong with me?" The reality of letting down a woman who sacrificed everything to give me the life she always wanted me to have was unbearable, and I knew it was time to get my act together.
My Realization and Turnaround
Sophomore year was the start of my transformation. I needed a 3.25 cumulative GPA to get into the business school. Half way through the year, during winter break, I found Wall Street Oasis. The motivation people had to get into Investment Banking, Sales & Trading, and the like, was incredible. This was a new world to me, and I knew this was the path for me. I had always been intrigued by business, but for once I had a concrete goal set: to get into high finance. That's when I found out about the Finance Honors program that my school offered. You needed a 3.5 GPA at the start of your junior year and every subsequent semester, meaning kids got cut along the way. I put my best foot forward and ended up getting a 3.9 my sophomore year, pulling my GPA up to 3.5. I got accepted to the program and the class was roughly 40 of us.
Now it was time to get that summer job for my junior year. I ended up getting a spring semester internship at a boutique bank working in theirdepartment, which I loved. My boss was great, and every alum I spoke to who did the 1-year internship with this firm was doing something incredible (M&A , Goldman , S&T, etc) so instead of pursuing a , I decided to stick it out for a year and hoped that things would work out. My junior year ended, and I was still in Finance Honors, and my class size was now 16. My GPA was around a 3.6.
My summer internship at this boutique was awesome. My boss taught me how to model, how to write more eloquently, and most importantly, my boss connected me with a TON of people. He worked buy-side prior to being recruited to head this segment of the firm. It was incredible how many things I was learning, connecting what I learned in school and utilizing it to a more practical use. My boss taught me a lot of shortcuts, and helped prep me for my interviews. This was when my networking efforts really kicked in. I emailed EVERYONE. I must have sent out 300+ emails over the course of my entire summer, and what I did find to be true was that you really do only get an initial 10-15% response rate. BUT, and THIS IS IMPORTANT, follow up with those who did not respond every 2 weeks and they will eventually respond (emphasize you understand they're busy). This bumped up my total response rate to about 40-50%. I tried to leave the best impression as possible, and from the responses and help I got, I don't think I did too poorly.
Entering my senior year, I had an internship that I was still dedicated to and a senior thesis due by December and so my networking slowed, but was still running. This is where I saw my efforts from the summer come to fruition. People were contacting ME. I'm not talking about texts from friends. MD's and VP's and analysts were emailing me, curious on how I was doing and offering help if they could. This made my life a lot easier. Along with that, my Professors knew I had worked hard to get into and stay in the honors program, and they too connected me with alum who I would never have found on my own. Lastly, I was President of the student-run investment group on campus my senior year, so all of the alum who had been in it (roughly 20 students per year get accepted, and in 8 years since inception, that meant roughly 160 alums) were messaging me just to see how it was going or if they could help me or the group in anyway. To recap real quickly, I had 3 sources of networks: 1) my efforts, 2) professors contacts, 3) alums from the investment group. And conveniently, those were the reasons I was offered full time positions.
Upon graduation, I had 3 offers, one from each of those networking sources mentioned above. Each offer I got was better than the last. My first offer (MM MO position in NYC!) I got was around March, and boy was I excited! Life couldn't get any better. That is, until I got my second offer (MMIBD position in NYC!) in April. I was extremely excited to be getting this opportunity. I went out and bought all of my friend's drinks for all of their support and bearing with me and shutting up during my first round phone interviews.
I thought recruiting was done and I was set to graduate. But one final opportunity came right before graduation, there was a position open at one of the most prestigious firms on the street. With the help of 2 alums, I had an expedited interview process, and within a week I was given my third offer (BB FO IBD position in Los Angeles!).
I had the job of my dreams, at a great location. Furthermore, I was graduating with magna cum laude, and my mom had the biggest smile on her face. I went to almost being completely rejected to the business school, to being one of 16 people to graduate within the finance honors program. Something else to marvel at was this was the second year the program had a 100% placement into reputable firms and respectable positions. I start my training this Wednesday and I hope to continue to work hard and strive to thrive.
Final Words and Advice
1) To all of the non-target students or kids who didn't grow up in the best of neighborhoods, know that if you work hard, there will be light at the other end of the tunnel. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.
2) Never, ever, let anyone tell you that you can't do something. The only person holding you back is yourself, and once you can get over that hump, you will be amazed at what you are able to accomplish.
3) Set your goals high. To quote a cheesy line by Norman Vincent Peale, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars". As lame as this line is, it truly does hold true. I would have been happy with my MO offer, and I knew I'd be better off than most graduating students. It wasn't FO but it was something I could be proud of.
4) Take risks. People who take risks are the one who reap the long-term benefits. I understand everyone's need for security, but taking calculated risks will allow you to realize your true potential.
5) Network. This is key to your success. Do not network to get a job, rather you should do it to make connections. Everyone you speak to know your true intentions, so no need to make it more noticeable, but if you can break down that barrier and connect with them on a personal level, you will see remarkable benefits, at least I have seen this to be true.
6) Believe in yourself. You know what you are capable of, and you should realize that you are actually better than what you may think.
I hope this didn't take too much of your time. I just wanted to send out a heartfelt thank you to WSO for all the guidance it has given me, and my mother for the strength I needed to utilize the words that have been said in WSO.
As Promised, here is the tl;dr:
Single Mom moved from Philippines to America (NYC), had a terrible job by most peoples standard (nanny), though I am incredibly proud of her. I had bad grades in HS and my freshman year at a non-target state school in Upstate New York. Almost didn't get into the b-school. Turned around sophomore year and graduated this past May as 1 of 16 students in the Finance honors route (3.5+ GPA required). President of the student-run investment group my senior year. Networked hard during summer internship. Graduated with 3 offers. Took offer in BB FO IBD in Los Angeles. Training in NYC starts Wednesday. Now I want to payback my debt to this community and my mother.
Again, thank you for everything, Patrick and the WSO community. Good luck to everyone, and never stop pushing! Willing to answer any questions either on the comments or PM if you prefer.