Breaking into the business world
Fordham graduates don’t forget their roots, and Meet the Seniors Night, presented by the Alternative Investments Club, offered the chance for six alumni working in a wide range of fields to discuss the industry trends and life lessons they’ve learned as they’ve navigated their careers in alternative investments.
They shared stories of successes and setbacks, of lessons hard-learned and insights and opportunities they never knew to expect, but the advice they shared in Hughes Hall on February 6 also applies to all young people set to enter today’s complex business world.
Make every connection work
Three weeks before graduation from the Gabelli School, Philip Belardi, Gabelli BS ’14, vice president of aviation finance at Marathon Asset Management, was searching for a full-time position.
When I began my career in aircraft leasing, I was working on a very intricate deal that was a joint venture on the acquisition of over 15 aircraft. The deal didn’t go through. But I set up a relationship with the person I was working with. When I was looking for a job two or three years later, I was knocking on his door, and they took a shot on me when they started to raise the next fund for aircraft leasing.
Make every connection that you have in the industry work. Don’t take advantage of people, but be yourself, showing that you have a good work ethic, that you’re smart and intelligent, and that you provide a good product. At the end of the day, being the person that you are will pay off dividends.
Build genuine relationships
Christianna Wymbs, Gabelli BS ’16, an analyst on Citi’s hedge fund research and management team, took every opportunity she had to get internships in New York City as a Gabelli student.
Apply to as many jobs as you can, and go on as many interviews as you can. It’s a numbers game.
When I went on my interview with Citi, I thought I was meeting with one person, and it turns out to be a meeting with the managing director and all these other important people. One person liked golf, and I happened to be a caddy for five years. We talked about that, and then he asked what my favorite hedge fund strategies were, and I said, “Well, based on my background I would say longshore equity, merger arbitrage, and global macro.”
He said, “The last person said definitely not global macro,” but I added, “Well, in the financial crisis, that was the only strategy that performed marginally well.” He said, “OK, I don’t need to ask you any more questions.”
Approach with agility
Guthrie Garvin, FCRH ’99, managing director of JLL Capital Markets, interviewed at numerous real estate firms in New York as graduation approached and, somewhat to his surprise, ended up applying for a position at Massey Knakal.
It was the least-known of everywhere that I interviewed and the only opening they had was in the Bronx, but I said, “Listen, I’ll take anything you have.” During the time period of eight or nine interviews, something opened up in midtown in exactly the position I was looking for, working for one of the heads of the firm. If I had seen that original ad and thought that this doesn’t fit my exact criteria, I wouldn’t have met the whole firm, been in this interview process when the opening came up, and I wouldn’t have been taught by the head of the firm for the first four years of my career.
Put yourself out there and get in front of people. So many people seem to shy away from that part of the business—everything becomes email and moves faster, but there is no replacing asking someone to meet for a cup of coffee, whether it’s a Fordham grad or someone else you have a connection to. The rare person will say no, but most people can spare ten minutes.
Work late and work hard
Matthew Battle, Gabelli BS ’15, an associate in investor relations at The Carlyle Group, started interning at Carlyle the summer after his freshman year at Fordham.
I always feel like I’ve been at Carlyle forever because I started interning there the summer after my freshman year within the investor relations department. But once you get to that first job, it really is possible to make the transition to the front office or the deal team. I’ve seen a lot of people do it at Carlyle – it’s tough but it’s possible.
But once you get somewhere, how do you advance? There’s a joke about millennials that everyone wants to be an MD after three years. So, it’s pretty simple: Work harder than everyone else. Work later than everyone else. Get in before your boss, leave after them, and approach this all with a good attitude. It’s nothing more amazing than that. It just comes down to work ethic, and the alternative-investment world is super small, so everyone knows everyone—it’s just about getting out there and making a solid impression.
Hone your skills
As a student, Timothy Pezanko, Gabelli MBA ’10, associate director of technology at Lone Pine Capital, networked his way to an internship at Pfizer, working in a server room, which sparked his interest in IT.
Learning the skills that are part of the job are vital, so, for me, not knowing how to program at the time, I had to go out and learn how to do that, and I had to learn what different types of PCs were, and how various infrastructure worked. Learn as much as you can about the field that you want to be in and figure out how you can add value with those skills.
As far as your career advancement goes, you’re not going to start at the top. I’ve had a lot of 24-hour shifts where we ‘ve had to shut things down on a weekend because you can’t be down during Monday through Friday if we’re trading. It gets stressful, but you have to be ready for it. Get the skills, practice them, evolve, constantly adopt new things, and grow from there.
Build your network
Fortune Macri, Gabelli BS ’07, MBA ’08, a portfolio manager and financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, graduated in 2008 with a job lined up as an analyst at a venture capital company. When the markets collapsed later that year, the fund folded and he was left looking for a role while virtually every financial firm in New York was undergoing layoffs of hiring freezes.
I realized I needed to get out and get in front of people. I did a lot of cold emailing. I would look up Fordham alums at banks primarily and reach out saying I was a recent Fordham grad looking for guidance or looking for a phone call. I was overwhelmed by the response. I’d say maybe every three out of four would get back to me—75 percent—and we would set up meetings and phone calls. It created opportunities, and in early 2009 I ended up getting an offer from Morgan Stanley and another from a bond manager on the same day. I ended up going with Morgan Stanley.
I’ve been at Morgan Stanley for 10 years, with the same team I interviewed with on day one. Some of that was probably luck, some was probably hard work, but my advice for growing within a team or a firm would be try to identify good people, successful people, people that you may see some of yourself in, and align yourself with them, observe what they’re doing, and just work your tail off. If you can do that, and be extremely detail oriented, it’s just a matter of time before you distinguish yourself.
Save the date: The Alternative Investments Club will present “Women in Alternative Investment” on April 23 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the McNally Amphitheater.