Following the Lehman Shock during the fall of 2008, I began job hunting and decided to pursue a career in finance whilst others avoided it. My motivation was quite simple; any business ultimately has something to do with money, so it would be a good start in a financial company to learn how money circulates in the real world. This was enough of a motivation for me to make a decision since I did not have any specific fields where I wanted to work, or any special talents that would lead me in another direction.
Now, I am a so-called salary man in a securities company/investment bank. I work for the Tokyo branch of a US financial conglomerate, where I deal in simple derivatives such as futures and options. As you may see in the news, when stock prices rise or drop sharply, you may hear on the news that “the Nikkei Average Index dropped sharply driven by FUTURES.” This is what I cover. As a global company, we provide not only Japanese products but also many other ones as well, covering major developed countries to emerging markets, including China, Brazil, Mexico, India, South Africa, Turkey, Thai, Malaysia, etc. My main job description is to execute orders for clients and update them on what is going on in the financial markets around the world, including both macro and micro situations. As I work at the very front line of financial markets, it is crucial to catch up and follow the most up-to-date information and headlines. These include a wide range of topics such as governor speeches, the Russia-Ukraine situation, weather conditions in Brazil, Indian national elections, corporate earnings and so on. However, this information itself is not as relevant to our clients as our views or thoughts on how it will influence their investments. With a diverse clientele list that includes mega-banks, asset managers, hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds, each client requires service that is customizable and flexible. Furthermore, given the global nature of the company, cooperation from your colleagues across the world is invaluable, as they share different backgrounds and values. For that reason, I have always appreciated my experience at SILS which has helped prepared me deal with various types of clients, multiple products and people with different values around me.
My school life in SILS, as I recall, was not that special. I was just one of those usual students out there, who did not join any club/circle activities. I had several part-time jobs, but did not partake in any internship opportunities during my job-hunting either. My English skill was just below average and it made me feel a little insecure among those returnee students. However, I have always felt that my school life was full of joy because of the wonderful friends I met and for the great chances that SILS provided. I was so fortunate to be there and it definitely led me to where I am standing now. Not to mention, I am confident that every single graduate from SILS would say “I am so happy to have met all my great friends with different backgrounds and values in SILS.” My school life was fulfilled by them.
The diversity of the students and their values at SILS was something I was always thankful for. I am proud to have spent 4 years in such a culturally rich environment. Studying abroad further allowed me to venture out from SILS and gave me a chance to broaden my horizon beyond the diversity already offered at SILS. I studied abroad for one year in a small university in rural California. Given that this was the United States, the institution also had an array of students from various diverse backgrounds. This was very exciting for me, but I find one incident especially memorable. My roommate at the time had landed an internship at the FBI. Now, as he was subject to a routine background check, FBI agents visited our campus, and even interviewed us as his roommates! Although I knew that internships were commonplace in the US, I remember being impressed at how seriously it was being taken. In terms of academics, I would have probably been able to study the same curriculum in Japan. Yet, studying amongst students from varying backgrounds and values was an eye-opening experience in itself. I credit my study abroad experience to giving me the confidence to pursue work in a foreign company. Although, it is the moments when I am able to reunite with my peers who are now scattered around the globe in pursuit of their dreams, that I am most thankful for the environment that SILS had to offer, as I am always surprised to witness how they have grown in the international playing field. These friends and peers are a priceless treasure to me, as I am constantly inspired and motivated by them.
In closing, I would like to quote the late Steve Jobs’ speech from a Stanford University’s graduation ceremony. As I work as a “salary- man”, I find myself sometimes asking the same questions that he asks. I also believe that the same questions are applicable regardless of the career one may choose. It is at times like these that I hope you will challenge yourselves with “something new”, and to further broaden your horizons.
‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do? Whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.’ – Steve Jobs
The ultimate goal is not to necessarily quit your job and begin something completely new. Meeting old friends and discussing “new topics”, visiting places you have never been to, having “new experiences” and making “new friends”, all of these things can change something. That change may not be immediately obvious. However, the rest of your life will certainly have changed because of it.