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.