Hard Work Beats Talent - Always!
The genesis of my career in finance.
Courtesy of Udonna Obi - Debt Syndicate Associate
Like most 18-year-olds going to university, I was unsure as to what exactly I wanted to do after my education. As such, I decided to study engineering at University College London (UCL) because it would open up a variety of career paths for myself. In saying that, I knew early on that working as an engineer wasn’t going to be one of the ones I took. The reason being that it didn’t give me the global view that I wanted for my career. The focus on a single project from 9 am to 5 pm almost without an eye for whatever else is happening in the world was too narrow a scope for me.
What I love about finance is the fact that it’s the exact opposite - you’re meant to have this sort of global view where anything from a tweet to a political coup will have a daily impact on the work that you do. I wanted that exposure to markets because I love the fact that anything could move them, and it allows me to utilise the mathematical skills that I acquired in engineering.
Without a background in finance, one could say my path to where I am was harder than most, but many firms train their graduates effectively to ensure that they’re not at a loss for long. In the year prior to starting my internship, I would often watch financial news for thirty minutes daily to understand how and why markets move.
Even more than I realised, those thirty minutes massively broadened my understanding of fixed income, from simplifying the concept of a bond to much more complicated elements of debt financing. For example, I remember receiving a call from an HR person in a bank that I had just done an assessment centre with. During that call, she mentioned how much my ‘economics’ degree had clearly helped me have a firm grasp of financial markets. After spending a few seconds questioning them on whether they had called the wrong person, they stated that my market knowledge resembled someone who studied this. The truth is I did, but I did so through my own time and research, from half an hour a day to lengths of my weekend as a student. Not only is that an easy win for someone looking to work in finance, but it’s a way for you to know whether you’re truly excited about the industry you say you want to work in.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t also pay tribute to organisations such as Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), who provided enormous guidance throughout my entire interview process. I also cherish very much the time spent by fellow UCL alumni, working in finance at the time, to share key advice and knowledge that helped me on my journey.
The funny thing is whilst applying for internships, it seemed to me that all the complicated aspects of finance including the terms were quite possibly designed to confuse people. However, if you understand the mechanics behind those terms, it’s actually a simple process. The internships helped me find that out, and whilst there I knew I had to ask lots of questions. I quickly recognised that senior employees love to hear those questions because it showed me to be inquisitive, willing to learn and not afraid coming out of my comfort zone.
The people you spend your daily work life with are the ones who teach you the most about your job. Plus, many of them would have been interns not that long ago and so can relate to your growth process more than anyone else. With respect to personal branding, I found me learning most of that from senior employees. They tend to have been around the longest and, therefore, have a really good understanding of firm culture. They also offer key expertise about mentorship, networking and career advice because of the wealth of experience that they carry. As a professional, you can’t just be too tunnel-visioned on your day-to-day without understanding exactly where your career is heading.
Becoming more rounded personally and professionally is something that I want to work towards moving forward. I never want to stop learning and pushing boundaries because, in the end, hard work beats talent – ALWAYS!
Udonna Obi - Debt Syndicate Associate