Breaking into Finance
Beginning University for me was like a blank canvas. I had no idea what I wanted to do; I just knew what everyone else wanted to do and my strategy was to follow the pack. That strategy only really lasted until my second year where I had to rethink what I thought I wanted. It was in my second year where I took my first finance course and, in all honesty, I was not a fan. I found it confusing and difficult to follow to the point where I distinctly remember telling myself to cut my losses and focus on what I was good at. Looking back, I sometimes wonder how I got from never wanting to take another finance course to now where finance is a fulfilling and exciting career for me, and I always pinpoint it to joining the Student Investment Fund (SIF).
For those of you unfamiliar with SIF, it is essentially a student-run course that allows you to develop skills in equity valuation and portfolio management in a real-life setting. I joined SIF in my 2B term and my understanding of finance quickly evolved. SIF put things in a real-world context and that was especially important as I began to connect the concepts taught in class to the valuation work that we were doing in SIF. Since it was more of a student-run initiative and it involved a vigorous application process, I was constantly surrounded by smart and accomplished students that I looked up to. That kick-started my goal to work in every area of finance through my co-ops so I could make an educated decision on where exactly I wanted to be.
My Journey at Sales & Trading
The first thing I was itching to try was to work on the trading floor. Movies and TV shows had set a precedent for my expectations of working in trading and I was determined to see if it lived up to the hype. I spent a co-op term at Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, working on the trading floor and I found it every bit as exciting as I thought I would. It was a fast-paced, rewarding experience and I learned a lot about how the trading arm of a bank functions.
My Journey at Private Equity
As riveting as that experience was, I was acutely aware I only had two co-ops left to try other areas of finance. I decided to pivot to an investing role and I was adamant on getting some experience working in private equity. I spent my third co-op term at Novacap, a mid-market firm that was in the process of closing their first deal in their new fund which was a great time to join. I really enjoyed my time there and it narrowed down my interests, I realized I enjoyed being a part of a deal team that was closing transactions.
My Journey at Investment Banking
That discovery was instrumental in leading me to my final co-op in investment banking. I spent my summer at Barclays for a multitude of reasons. The first being that investment banking is a really solid training ground for new graduates. As an analyst, you’re exposed to some of the biggest moments for established companies and you’re taught to maintain a high quality of work. In addition, you’re consistently working with extremely bright and diligent people which consistently keeps you on your toes. I was fairly confident early on that I wanted to start my full-time career here and so when I was given a return offer, I jumped at it.
My Journey at Venture Capital
With a full-time offer in hand, I had seven months off to enjoy and I felt that I had explored everything except one career path. Venture capital and growth equity was something I had always wanted to do but being limited to a certain number of co-ops had made it difficult to squeeze in. I decided to take the four of the seven months to do a post-grad internship in VC, but I didn’t want to do it in Toronto. I thought if I’m really going to do VC then I want to do it where the most opportunity exists which is Silicon Valley. I ended up finding a job and moving to San Francisco in the beginning of 2022 which is something I’m still shocked I was able to pull off. Not only was I exposed to some of the coolest companies, but I was doing it in another country away from my support system.
Advice for Students
I came back to Toronto in May, started full-time at Barclays in July and have now been working for almost six months. When I think back to my years at Waterloo, I have a sense of gratitude for my professors and my peers, but also for the program itself. I can’t think of another school that would allow you to try so many things before graduation and the one piece of advice I have for all students is to try as many things as possible. As a student, you’re given a lot of leeway to learn and explore so taking advantage of that will only serve you in the future. This type of mentality helps you figure out your “why” which provides you concrete examples to speak to when you interview. I sometimes think we tend to look around us to see what other people want to do and try to emulate that, in fact I know that I did that in the beginning. It was only until I decided that I wanted to try different things that I realized I had to start thinking about what I really wanted and why I wanted it. I ended up having much better success because I was thinking critically for myself. So if you take anything from this, let it be to consciously and critically think about the kind of career you want to have.