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See, you had a lot of moments / That didn’t last forever / Now you in this corner tryna put it together / How to love, how to love

If I could describe my first year in banking as a relationship, I would say it was like dating a crazy, beautiful girl. You go into it knowing that you’ll have to buckle up, that it’s not sustainable, and potentially bad for you. At the same time, I needed something like that in my life at that point, something to get immersed in, something to give you experiences that you wouldn’t get anywhere else, and something that you just have to experience at least once in your life. And at the end of the day year, I will have learned something – if not the actual skills they wanted to teach me, at least the traits of I want from my next relationship job.

So as I embark on my no-sleep tour of 5 cities in 9 days soon, I’m finishing my end-of-first-year-in-banking-review by writing about finding a positive result come from a negative. Seeing what specifically bothers me about the banking culture has helped me figure out what is important in my next job.

What I’ve figured out is that it is almost not as important what we do, as how we do it. Namely, I don’t want to be someone’s bitch anymore. I’d like responsibility – but not in the way of, ‘I’m giving you responsibility, so if you fuck up, it’s all on you.” I like being given leeway to change the administrative aspects of our jobs but would like it to translate over to actual work products too. Structure is interesting – ideally, I’d like a bit more structure where it matters (overall firm vision) but less structure where it doesn’t matter as much (less micro-managing details).

So when people ask me, PE or VC or HF or something else, I don’t have a strict preference as long as I go somewhere where my creativity isn’t stifled and there’s more to a work product than whether it fits “what we’ve always done.”

Basically, just give me a beginning plus an end and I’ll figure out the middle parts on my own. The problem with the deadline-driven culture of banking is that the middle parts gets micromanaged more than the beginning and the ends.

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The other thing I’ve learned from banking is how the soft skills fit in. The irony is that while liberal arts kids go to banking to learn finance and other “quantitative” skills, Wharton kids come out of banking having picked a lot more non-finance skills.

Whereas those kids’ advantages coming into work arose from walking through the crucible of technical questions, the more sustainable advantage come from knowing that there is more to finance than getting the balance sheet to balance (yes, there are strategic issues for m&a that isn’t explained away by “accretion”) and also having more time to devote to the soft skills since the hard skills are more or less conquered.

Being able to work with different personalities and within the constraints of a evolving, yet ever-domineering culture is an acquired skill in itself. Fortunately, stumbling into an extremely weird and hard-to-replicate situation here has prepared me well for whatever else comes at my next job.