Late in my penultimate year of college was when I got introduced to the swashbuckling world of Finance. I started taking a keen interest in the financial markets and the more I got drawn to them, the stronger became my repulsion for my technical Engineering coursework. I was so infatuated that when applying for full-time jobs, I put all my eggs in the Finance basket, thereby negating the prospect of working in a traditional Engineering setting.
It was a gamble that paid off spectacularly as I got what I wanted. Becoming a Big Swinging Dick on Wall Street one day did not seem all that distant a dream after all.
When I finally had some time to breathe at the end of the recruitment process, I reflected on the rollercoaster leading up to that point. With the benefit of hindsight, I wished that I had cultivated an interest in Finance much earlier. That way, instead of choosing to major in Engineering, I probably would have picked Finance, a relatively less demanding field of study in college. This would have spared me many a night spent in the library. “What was the point of having killed myself studying Engineering when I ultimately chose to work in the domain of Finance post graduation?” is what I used to brood over.
It was not until I had spent a few months at work that I truly realized the value of Engineering. It bestowed upon me an analytical mindset and a problem-solving ability, which are assets that come in handy in every field. The workload and the accompanying stress equipped me with resilience and tenacity, which help me power through whenever the going gets tough. Lastly, when applying to different investment banks, it probably distinguished me from a lot of the other applicants who had a Finance / Economics background.
Let’s fast forward to my present day scenario. I spent two and a half wonderfully rewarding years working in Finance but am now contemplating a different field of work. Perhaps even drastically different. I’ve been facing well-intentioned questions regarding my thought process. The reasoning behind this questioning is that my experience in Finance might “go to waste” if I pick a non-Finance profession.
I acknowledge these questions / suggestions and completely understand where they come from. Having said that, regardless of how much time I have spent in Finance, if there is another line that I feel very strongly about and which seems more captivating to me, I would consider pivoting even if that resulted in my years spent in Finance “go[ing] to waste”.
But I do not believe there will be wastage and regression. I would like to explain my thinking with the aid of the farewell email that I had sent to my fellow Goldmanites at the time of departure from the firm. The parts in bold drive home my argument but I would encourage you to read the email in its entirety.
As some of you may already know, the firm and I have parted ways.
I will fondly look back on the two odd years that I spent donning the Goldman jersey. I would describe the Goldman culture as being internally cooperative to be as externally competitive as possible. It is by virtue of this internal cooperation that I benefited the most during my time here. Thus, a big, heartfelt thank you for the teachings, mentoring, memories, and experiences — all very valuable additions to my Life Resume. While I may not have always met expectations, I would certainly like to think that I gave it my 120%, approached tasks with a proper attitude, and above all, was genuine.
I may have learnt the odd technical finance concept or two; however, the more valuable lessons, at least in my perspective, that will indelibly stick with me stem from becoming grittier and more resilient, learning to take calculated risks, dealing with colourful personalities and understanding what makes them tick, becoming comfortable being uncomfortable, and finding a way and doing whatever it takes to get the task done.
I am not certain about what the future holds but am filled with nervous-excitement at the prospect of what might be in store. I had never imagined working in finance let alone plying my trade at Goldman Sachs when I used to make those walks of shame from the library to my 8am class as an Engineer at Georgia Tech. I want to spend the near future devoting time to family, reading, writing, golf, cricket, the football world cup, lifting, and day-dreaming.
I plan on being in the city for at least a few weeks but my gut tells me to eventually move back to my old stomping grounds in Kolkata, India where I will be with my family and closest friends. I have spent close to seven years now Stateside and have truly come to believe that the days are long but the years are short. I take enough confidence and self-belief with me from my time here at Goldman that I can add value to whatever it is that I end up pursuing “full-time”.
I wish you the very best in all your future personal and professional endeavours. My phone number and personal email address are +16784627580 and email@example.com respectively. If you ever happen to visit India, especially if near the City of Joy, please do reach out to me.
I have not fully decided what it is that I would like to pursue “full-time”; it might very well be a return to Finance. However, I do not want to regard the prospect of working in a field that is very different from Finance as an outlandish vision.
Whenever self-doubt with regard to this vision does creep in, the following quote by Steve Jobs serves as a source of comfort:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
I, too, would like to believe that the dots will connect going forward. In the worst-case scenario, the volatile journey will make for a good fucking story.
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