Following my instincts, taking the path less traveled, and leaning in before my career even began definitely paid off.
I knew early on that I wanted to work in the investment field. In college I concentrated most of my free time on learning about finance, and I spent summers working on Wall Street. During my senior year, as my classmates were coveting Wall Street offers, I took the less traveled route of applying directly to business school. I turned down an offer from a prestigious firm and resisted the temptation to pursue the typical path. I had to drown out a great deal of unsolicited advice saying that I absolutely must work before going to business school. I was told again and again that I didn’t have sufficient experience, I wasn’t prepared, and I was downright crazy to think that anyone would hire me in the investing field straight from business school.
I went all-in with business school, knowing that if I didn’t lean in, I’d regret it later. I knew my MBA would make me a better investor and allow me to accomplish more once I entered the working world. I didn’t want to become comfortable at a job I didn’t love and possibly be sidetracked from my long-term goals. Although I am the type to always have a back-up plan, I decided to move forward without one.
Fortunately, I was accepted to Harvard Business School that January. In my class of 900 students, there were eight direct admits; eight of us who were crazy enough not to work before pursuing an MBA, and who would be competing for jobs with people older and more experienced upon graduation. During one of my classes, we were assigned to write a hypothetical personal reflection for our 10-year reunion. Mine was positive, upbeat and listed some very specific examples of what I wanted in my future career. The reflection included this sentence, “My goal is to work with a great investor, who even more importantly is a wonderful teacher and mentor.” After reading my thoughts, one of my classmates – an individual who worked for large investment firms for several years before business school – told me that I was “naïve” and as a direct admit, I wasn’t aware of what the real world was like and that after I worked a few years, I’d realize just how unrealistic my personal reflection was.
I’m happy to say that I have found that wonderful teacher and mentor, and he couldn’t be a better boss. As Warren Buffett’s financial assistant, I am grateful every day for the opportunity to learn from him. If I’d taken the more traditional route, who knows where I might be, but there is a good chance I’d feel less than fulfilled working as an associate at a large financial firm. Following my instincts, taking the path less traveled, and leaning in before my career even began definitely paid off. I have several years before I hit my 10-year reunion, so who knows what the future may bring, but so far, my decision has worked out pretty well.