Monthly Archives

April 2020

The Adventures of Being Adrift

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

Lost. It’s a feeling we have when we’re presented with what seems like an endless amount of choices, yet a very small amount of time to explore them. This isn’t just a familiar feeling for me, but it’s likely something that everyone who is reading this has felt at some point in their lives. I even let myself become adrift and consumed by this fear of seeming lost. I eventually came to realize that being adrift just meant that I had a new adventure in store. 

For me, that adventure began back in high school when it seemed like just about everyone was taking on specific activities and classes to get into certain schools. From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like they had their life figured out, and I thought mine was too. Growing up in a family filled with engineers I believed my path had already been chosen for me. As senior year came to a close and having struggled through my AP Chemistry and Honors Physics classes, becoming an engineer no longer felt like the right path. I  always enjoyed my involvement in business clubs, yet it wasn’t until I visited Dubai in the summer after my senior year of high school that I truly fell in love with the business world. 

A few weeks before orientation at the University of Minnesota, I ventured out to see the marvel of a city that I had heard so much about⁓Dubai. The more time I spent there, the more I  learned how Dubai had transformed from an impoverished desert into a thriving metropolis. Before discovering oil, the people of Dubai relied on pearl diving as their primary source of income. However, after observing what happened in the rest of the Middle East, the king at the time, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, had known that this resource wouldn’t last forever. Thus, they heavily and strategically invested to transform Dubai into the metropolis of wealth and wonder that we all know today. I discovered that Dubai’s transformation was fueled by their strategic investments, then fell in love with finance. Knowing that finance is a field that impacts billions of people and organizations globally, I decided to go against my familial norms and pursue a career in finance. 

I was thankful for this eye-opening realization, but it hadn’t dawned on me until after orientation, so I spent my freshman year working hard to transfer into The Carlson School of Management. I started to explore the different branches of finance, and uncovered that each one was so interesting to me and came with a myriad of opportunities : consulting, financial services, corporate finance and the most well known of them all, banking. The workaholic in me was instantly drawn to the world of banking, especially the 80 hour work weeks and high powered clients.

About halfway through my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to visit Carlson alumni out in New York. While I was there, I became entranced by all of the people, companies, but mostly by the scale and caliber of the work they did.  In spite of all of this,  as I used our alumni connections coupled with the power of LinkedIn and started to study for banking interviews, I felt something was amiss. While I knew it might not be a perfect fit, I started to repress this feeling that something wasn’t right. After not knowing what field I wanted to go into and transferring into Carlson, I didn’t want to start from scratch again. On top of this, that summer I was already going to Singapore to do a corporate finance internship, but my mind was still set on banking.

The first few weeks of my internship felt endless, because of the lack of available work. That all changed as soon as I proved to our finance director that I could handle a heavier workload. During this time I was able to connect with her, and I never felt this connected to anyone or at ease when I explored banking. Through her mentorship, I was able to see corporate finance through a new lens. The work I had done had helped the organization stay accountable to its stakeholders, improved their business processes, and ensured their employees’ well being. I was even able to help them get a crisis management framework that they are using amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. 

While I loved the fast pace work environment of banking, I just couldn’t see myself fitting in with the organizational culture that surrounds it. Especially not for over 80 hours each week. The most important thing I had learned was that the workaholic in me would thrive in any environment, but finding a company that matched my values and where I felt a greater sense of community would be the biggest deciding factor. For me, that company is Microsoft.  I’m excited to start my virtual finance internship with them this summer, and for a new adventure to begin! Feeling lost can be daunting, but a little courage can go a long way. Courage isn’t always about confronting your fears, it’s accepting that you will feel lost again and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s better to conquer your fears than to let your fears conquer you.

 

— 

Subha Ravichandran is a member of Scholars of Finance and the Executive Vice President of the Minneapolis Chapter. Subha is currently a Junior at the University of Minnesota and is majoring in finance at the Carlson School of Management.

This Is It: The Most Important Lesson for Future Leaders of Finance

By Courage, Humility No Comments

If I could offer one piece of advice to millennial professionals in the finance industry who have never been through a bear market, much less an unfolding societal crisis like that caused by the COVID-19 virus, it would be this: Pay attention.

Extreme times reveal core values. Crises reveal character. This may be one of the single most important moments you will ever experience in your development as future leaders of our industry. Decades from now you will talk about this with your children and grandchildren, with the employees who will then be reporting to you, with the companies and businesses you will be running. The pandemic of 2020 will be one of the things that formed you as a professional and a person. 

Now is a time for heightened mindfulness. Pay attention to what you are feeling and how you’re reacting to situations. At work. At home. In the communities, you are a part of. What matters most to you amid the profound unfamiliarity and uncertainty and anxiety we are living with on a daily basis?

Watch the people you admire and respect. How are they behaving? My bet is that those rising to this occasion are radiating an outward-focused commitment to attending to and serving others, while at the same time, they seem centered and grounded. 

This is the secret to leading effectively in a crisis. You need to find the solid ground on which you can stand – stable, centered, strong. But that solid, stable ground has to be the conviction that your purpose, at times like these, isn’t to worry about yourself – it is to help others. To help real people in the real world with real problems. 

As I wrote in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008 – 2009, “The best way to make it through a crisis is to stop focusing on your own problems and start helping others with theirs.”

Learn that. Experience that. Live that. And you will have the most important thing you need to lead our industry through peak and valley cycles and crises in years to come. 

 

John Taft is the Vice Chairman of Baird. John is a current member of the Board of Advisors of Scholars of Finance, the former CEO of RBC Wealth Management, has served on the board of several Non-Profit Organizations, and is deeply committed to the prosperity of our communities. This blog post originally appeared on financeforthegreatergood.com.

Enduring the COVID-19 Quarantine

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility, Impact, Integrity No Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the world as a singular, integrated entity—one free of borders, restrictions, or individual nations. Rather, a massive unit of free-flowing thought, boundless inspiration, and limitless ideas. With our current circumstances, how could I not? No matter which corner of the Earth you hail from, you are likely to be one of billions stuck at home, battling similar feelings of concern, angst, or frustration toward the COVID-19 quarantine. However, looking past its overtly devastating impact and a tragic impediment to society, COVID-19 has left one particularly remarkable effect on the world—solidarity

A new degree of global awareness, one that is far too often lost in the hectic pace of everyday life, has been garnered by so many of us. For example, never have I found myself so engaged in the daily lives and feelings of those from Italy or China, who were initially afflicted the most dramatically. Never have I been so inspired by the collective voices of citizens singing from balconies, or videos of healthcare workers stripping their masks off in celebration of success. Never have I felt so in sync with the world or understood so clearly the nature of humanity—to suffer, and heal, as one.

Still, even with a firm grasp of the nature and severity of the situation, how are we going to get through this? As Scholars of Finance members, business students, and analytical enthusiasts, we are certainly accustomed to a level of unpredictability, but never before on this scale. How can we make the most of our time during the COVID-19 quarantine? In what ways can we harness growth and continue to build our personal and professional skillsets? While I am no expert, I am happy to share the number of ways I have been sustaining my productivity and sanity, plus a few more that might help you do the same.

First and foremost, while I have continued maintaining relationships that I have formed with professionals during my first semester at NYU Stern, I have also continued maintaining personal relationships. It is equally as important to check in on those who care about you and to be responsive. Allow your academic and professional roles to be principal in your life, but prioritize your friends and family just as carefully. From personal experience, when you have trouble balancing all of these different sectors of life, consider revisiting the Scholars of Finance core values—integrity, humility, curiosity, courage, and impact—to help guide your decisions.

Furthermore, it is very possible to excel in your academics. Following a relatively strict time schedule to complete your coursework, possibly one identical to your pre-quarantine schedule, deems itself a promising plan. Give yourself a structure. Consistency is key. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to change out of those pajamas you’ve worn for three days!

On a more professional note, it is unfortunate to hear that many summer internships have been canceled. However, there are a number of firms that are willing to accommodate internships digitally. In fact, just last week I interviewed for a firm that told me to expect the possibility of an online transition. Additionally, there is a multitude of online resources aimed at providing alternatives to those whose internships have been canceled: I’d recommend simply opening up your LinkedIn account, and I can guarantee that a number of these resources will pop up on your feed. If you’re having trouble, be sure to reach out to your established connections or create a post—you never know who might be able to help you. Luckily, interview prep, resume workshops, and career panels are still in abundance. Many companies are hosting live and interactive webinars, such as Wells Fargo’s 2020 Beyond College Webinar Series, and are committed to your success now more than ever.

With that, I hope a weight is lifted off your shoulders and you are able to find clarity in the transition to a digital academic/professional experience if it comes down to it. Again, it can be extremely beneficial to stay busy. Keep up with your coursework, continue advancing your professional skills, and maybe even pick up a new hobby—personally, I’m trying to learn Spanish!

To the extent that you can, try to mirror or slightly modify activities that helped you find success, and peace, before the days of the COVID-19 quarantine. In the midst of enormous chaos, it is vital that you keep stillness inside of you. Here at Scholars of Finance, there is a tremendous amount of support and guidance through all of this, so do not hesitate to reach out to a member or an executive should you feel lost or defeated—maybe even consider joining our organization in the future. Lean on your family, friends, and mentors as you see fit. It is difficult to overstate the tragedy and disturbance that COVID-19 has brought us, so please know that any fears or concerns you may have are valid, understood, and empathized with. Above all, stay positive and hopeful for the future—your own future, the future of the sick or less fortunate, the future of the economy, and the future of the cities you might call home. As not just a member of Scholars of Finance but a student at NYU Stern, I am incredibly hopeful and optimistic for the greatest city in the world (and others) to beat COVID-19 and to return just a little bit greater.

 

— 

Tony Ferrara is a member of Scholars of Finance and one of the original Co-Founders at New York University. Tony is currently a freshmen at New York University and is majoring in finance and sustainable business with a minor in public policy at the Stern School of Business.