Starting a job at a Wall Street bank or prestigious private-equity firm might look different this year, but it’s not to say what it takes to be successful at those institutions has changed fundamentally.
Getting in is one thing, but standing out in a sea of bright, competitive colleagues while learning about complex markets and products is another.
We asked this year’s rising stars of Wall Street to give us their best advice for people just starting out.
Take a look at some of the lessons and insights they’ve learned along the way.
Read our full list of the rising stars of Wall Street shaking up investing, trading, and dealmaking.
Alex Tingle of UBS: Play the long game.
For Alex Tingle, a New York-based director at UBS’s investment bank, a few pieces of critical career advice stick out to him.
He tells younger employees and people he mentors, “You’ve got to play the long game.”
It doesn’t mean each position has to be forever. But “even if you were coming into banking and don’t think this is what you want to do for the long term, you should be coming into work every single day asking yourself, ‘How is what I’m doing contributing to what I want to do long-term? How am I building that, and getting myself there?'”
He also feels strongly about remembering the importance of reputation — “Wall Street is incredibly people-driven” — and that it’s important to have fun along the way.
“Even though I don’t get excited about every single task that I do every single day of the week, I do try to approach my job from the standpoint of — I’m building something here, and I’m having a lot of fun along the way,” he said.
Alexis Rosenblum of BlackRock: Sit at the table.
The best piece of advice BlackRock’s Alexis Rosenblum ever received came from Barbara Novick, vice chairman and co-founder of the firm who formed its public policy group in 2009.
It was, “Sit at the table.”
“That was something that she pointed out, that sometimes women tend to be the ones who sit on the side, and don’t sit at the table — but that in order to demonstrate leadership, to be taken seriously as a leader, you have to sit at the table,” Rosenblum said. “She always would look around to her team and say ‘Get over here, you’re sitting at the table.'”
Rosenblum, now the firm’s first chief sustainability officer, joined the firm in 2010 and has spent most of her time with the firm on its public-policy team.
Alice Leng of Bank of America: Follow your heart.
“I would say, follow your heart. It’s very important,” Alice Leng, a machine-learning expert that helps give Bank of America’s global markets division an edge, said, adding that she found inspiration in the book “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.
Two lines from the book she called out as words to live by, reciting them from memory:
“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
Leng also emphasized the importance of living in the present, quoting “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran: “The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
Daniel Costanza of Citigroup: Try to learn something new every day.
Daniel Costanza cited a former boss and mentor of his at Goldman Sachs for his favorite piece of life advice: Never stop learning.
“Every day, try and accumulate a little bit more stuff that you know in your corner, and that will, over the long term, integrate into a really broad set of knowledge,” Costanza, the chief data scientist for Citigroup’s investment bank, explained.
He added that a recipe for life success is to find a pursuit you enjoy, and surround yourself with “good people” throughout the journey.
“Each day, try to fully accomplish things that build toward the broader goals,” he said, “and learn something along the way.”
Danielle Cooper of Annaly Capital Management: Make sure that you’re a champion to others as you climb.
Annaly Capital Management’s Danielle Cooper said that the best piece of advice she ever heard came from famous novelist Toni Morrison:
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
Cooper said that the quote reminds her of the mentors she’s had in the life that believed in her before she believed in herself. Now that she’s in a position of power as a director in Annaly’s corporate development and strategy group the quote reminds her to pass it on.
“First, you have to make sure that you have champions and cheerleaders, and then you have to make sure that you’re a champion to others when you climb,” Cooper said.
Jay Lipman and Doug of Ethic: Find aspirational characters and pay it forward.
Ethic president Jay Lipman said his best career advice boils down to one crucial act: find mentors who will inspire you. That may not be someone you have worked with directly, but someone who strikes you as an “aspirational character.”
“People that you believe have led the path that you would like to live, and then try to understand how they achieve that — that may be a mentorship or relationship that you have with that individual, where you can ask them and get that relationship,” or they could be through books and admiring great leaders from afar and learning about their lives, he said.
Doug Scott, the chief executive of Ethic, said he’s tried to instill a culture of “paying it forward” at the company, where employees have a sense of helping others as they take on big challenges within the investing community.
“I think that’s something that we did in the early innings of Ethic, and tried to continue that spirit throughout, because I think it does create that bond as well — beyond the sort of traditional business interactions with folks,” he said.
Lipman and Scott formed Ethic, a New York-based asset-management technology startup that builds values-based investment products for firms and financial advisers, in 2015.
Frederick Baba of Goldman Sachs: Strive for excellence instead of perfection, and own up to your failures.
“Think strategically,” said Frederick Baba, a managing director on Goldman Sachs’ systematic market making team. “Identify the big, important themes. Be sensitive to nuance without getting bogged down by trivial details.”
Character is also important, according to Baba, who has helped grow the SMM team into a standalone business with its own revenue line. “Strive to be calm, low neuroticism,” he said. “Strive for excellence instead of perfection, and own up to your failures. Challenge ideas, especially your own.”
Baba gained fame earlier this year when he wrote an email that went viral about his experience being Black in the wake of the Minneapolis police’s killing of George Floyd. He wrote it as a way to express to the people around him what he was feeling.
To some degree, he was following his own advice: “Be an effective communicator. It’s important to be as effective as you are ‘right,'” he said. “Many of the problems worth solving in the world are complex, and being able to communicate your ideas allows you to build coalitions around large-scale solutions.”
Jennifer Fo Cardillo of Fidelity: Build relationships with people you admire.
Fidelity small-cap fund manager Jennifer Fo Cardillo isn’t a big fan of the term “networking”; she prefers to think of connections more as building relationships and friendships.
“One thing that’s been really important throughout my career so far has been building relationships with people that I admire,” Fo Cardillo said, adding that as a mentor now herself, she recalls what it was like being more junior and taking her own mentor’s advice to heart.
“I was very fortunate to have an incredible female mentor who is just a total rock star,” she added. “She took me under her wing and has been there to sort of shepherd me along each step of my career.”
John Curtius of Tiger Global: Doing something you’re passionate about.
Leading tech investor John Curtius believes in doing something you’re passionate about. It makes work much easier and gives you staying power in a competitive space, he said.
Before he started his career in finance, he cofounded an investing club at Princeton called the Tiger Trust. After stints at Silver Lake and Elliott Management, Curtius joined Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global in 2017, roughly a decade after starting the Tiger Trust in college.
Kelly Wannop of The Blackstone Group: Don’t be scared to ask questions.
Private-equity executives have a reputation for thinking they’re the smartest people in the room. But Kelly Wannop believes that to find success in the industry, you need to first demonstrate curiosity and be willing to ask questions — even of senior executives who may be a lot more seasoned than you.
“Everyone brings a unique perspective to the table,” Wannop said. “I would encourage people to not be afraid.”
Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto of Credit Suisse: Make the most of the opportunities in front of you.
Accepting that not every job you hold is going to address every single one of your passions is key to career and life advancement, Lacey Vigmostad Giliberto said, if you can make the most of the opportunity in front of you.
“When I was starting my career, I was asking myself the really big questions,” Vigmostad Giliberto, vice president in syndicated loan sales at Credit Suisse, said.
“What am I going to do for the rest of my life? What is my true job passion? What is my long-term career going to be?”
But more important than getting bogged down in those questions is leaning into the experience and seeking guidance from the right group of people.
“It’s about finding the right place/home to start your career,” she said, “surrounded by the right people who are going to help you learn and challenge you.”
Lauren Goodwin of New York Life Investments: Make sure to balance out the information you’re taking in and always be yourself.
New York Life Investment economist Lauren Goodwin values taking in “slow reads” alongside the “quick reads” that so often prompt market moves, exercising different muscles that can translate into stronger decision-making about investments and other areas on the job.
“It’s really important to read books rather than only reading the news. Too often our industry is driven by flash data and market moves, and we make decisions based on incomplete information and hasty timelines,” she said.
Throughout her career, Goodwin has also placed a premium on someone’s authenticity in the traditionally staid financial-services business.
“It might sound trite, but I think that being yourself for many people is your superpower in an industry that is still working to broaden its vision and diversify,” she said.
Miles Toben of The Carlyle Group: Keep an eye out for opportunities.
The Carlyle Group’s Miles Toben has found that building relationships while identifying opportunities is key to success in the investing world.
He raised his hand a few years ago to help Carlyle’s credit unit build out its deal coverage with private-equity sponsors.
As Carlyle’s credit division has expanded over the past few years, his role leading its direct-lending group has become more important.
“What’s allowed me to progress my career at Carlyle has been a combination of being part of a growing business — with growth comes opportunity. And, I’d say, taking advantage of some of those opportunities that have been presented to me.”
Mir Subjally of Deutsche Bank: Be dynamic and flexible.
“The biggest thing is to make sure you work hard. But also to make sure you’re dynamic and flexible,” Deutsche Bank credit trader Mir Subjally said. “Things change quickly on Wall Street. You have to be really flexible and not too rigid on what you’re thinking and doing.”
He said that when he was still in college and pondering a career in finance, advice he heard frequently was that you have to have a ton of conviction and stand by it.
“That’s all true, but you don’t have to be stubborn about it. You also have to recognize that things can change really quickly and you have to be able to move with that as well.”
Paul Kamenski and Robert Lam of Man Group’s Man Numeric: Learn to code but also learn to be creative.
The two people leading quant efforts in the credit space at Man Group, the world’s largest publicly traded hedge-fund manager, are Paul Kamenski and Robert Lam.
Kamenski, who has been with Man Group since he graduated from graduate school, believes that programming is an “incredibly powerful tool.”
Data is important to every business, but being able to program and code is a gamechanger, he added. “Get as much programming experience as you can.”
As for Lam, his suggestion is to “rely heavily on creativity.” The further you go in your career, the more creative you’re going to have to be.
Lam, who has done stints at firms like Deutsche Bank and Apollo before joining Man, added: “There’s not always going to be a proven solution, and that’s part of the process — and part of the fun.”
Philip Dobrin, 34, Bridgewater Associates: Build an independent worldview.
Bridgewater’s Phil Dobrin believes that beating the market is really about “having views that are divergent from the consensus, and that are more right than wrong.”
Dobrin, a part of the strategist team that interfaces with the hedge fund manager’s large institutional clients, is all about forcing yourself to have an “independent worldview, and not get caught in groupthink.”
“You’re going to be wrong, and it’s going to be painful, and you’re going to be right occasionally, and you have to be humble,” he said.
Rachel Dwyer of Apollo Global Management: Pay attention and be ready to act.
Rachel Dwyer has had an active year on the trading desk in Apollo Global Management’s credit division. She’s found that you need to be flexible when it comes to being a trader at a top investment firm.
“In this seat, your job changes every day,” Dwyer said. “There are different headlines, different deals.”
Dwyer says you need to be able to pivot and adjust quickly.
“Always have your head on a swivel,” she said. “You have to have your ears open with everything. Pay attention to what everyone is saying. Form your own opinions.”
Rachel Murray of Moelis: The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
“What you put into it is what you get out of it,” Rachel Murray, a VP in Moelis’ recapitalization and restructuring group, said.
“The more exposure you get and the more responsibility you take on, the more you’ll learn. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for someone to hold your hand, dive in and take the opportunity to learn and grow along the way.”
Rayhaneh Sharif-Askary of Grayscale Investments: Take your time to do things properly.
While Grayscale Investments’ Rayhaneh Sharif-Askary has been fortunate to have had her fair share of mentors over the years, one person has given her the best advice: her mother.
Two tips were regularly shared throughout Sharif-Askary’s childhood.
“You should always take your time and do things properly in an organized fashion the first time, because it will save you time and the headache later,” she said.
“The other one is to understand the reasoning behind something. Always ask why. Why are you being asked to do something? What is the bigger picture?”
Shaan Tehal of Morgan Stanley: Put the same amount of passion into life and work.
Shaan Tehal’s best piece of advice for life is to avoid putting your personal life and career into silos. Instead, consider them with equal importance and see them as equal parts of your life — not separate, but complementary.
Tehal, vice president in global technology investment banking at Morgan Stanley, said: “If you care about your clients, you’re going to want to get the best outcome for them no matter what, break down doors for them. If you care about your colleagues you’re going to care about how they are and you’re going to see them as family.”
“If you care and you really get passionate about those things,” he said, “that will get the best results out of everyone.”
Sharo Atmeh of Alyeska Investment Group: Stay open to new ideas.
“Life doesn’t always throw you a perfect pitch,” said Sharo Atmeh, an analyst on M&A and special situations at Chicago hedge fund Alyeska Investment Group. Atmeh graduated from undergrad in 2007, and the world went through massive changes while he was in grad school.
“Keep a learning-and-growing mentality, and people will present opportunities to you to fit that mindset.”
Victor Perez of Wells Fargo: Remember you’re in the people business.
Wells Fargo’s Victor Perez said it’s important for people in finance not to lose sight of what makes the world, and the industry, go round: people.
“Don’t forget that this is a people business, and at the end of the day, the most important part is the people,” Perez said. “In finance people kind of think, ‘Oh, it’s always about making money … and yes, it’s a huge part of our business, making money, I won’t deny that.
“But the relationships are what lead to making money, and if you’re not building those relationships and nurturing those relationships, things are going to fall apart.”
Perez also encourages people to get involved in their communities and give back.
“For me, this has been through Veterans on Wall Street, Team Rubicon, Veterans Bridge Home, and Patriot’s Path,” he said.
Vlad Moshinsky of Miller Buckfire: Pay attention to what makes your superiors successful.
“The No. 1 piece of advice I’d give is to look at the senior partners of whatever firm you join. Take a look at what makes them successful, understand how they interact with clients, and how they go about working within a team dynamic,” Miller Buckfire’s Vlad Moshinsky, who has been involved in some of the US’s largest bankruptcies while with the firm, said.
He added: “My approach is to think about it as a career and not to think about it as a job. Even if you have other aspirations to go to another organization or industry, always think about it as a career. The things I do here will stay with me no matter where I go.”
Will Boeckman of Citadel Securities: Relationships are your biggest asset.
Will Boeckman, Citadel Securities’ US head of electronic sales for fixed-income assets, emphasized the importance of forming and preserving relationships. Relationships are everything, whether it’s a manager, a trader, one of your clients, he said.
“Those relationships are your biggest asset. Obviously skills and talents are important, but especially when you’re starting off and growing within the industry like I am, the contacts you make as an analyst at the junior level grow with you and become future industry leaders.”