It was February 2011, my fourth week in investment management. Early in the morning, I had a video conference call with the Hong Kong office to discuss a corporate restructuring engagement in Sri Lanka. Amidst many different points of view, I was able to actively contribute to the discussion after preparing for this call for over a week.
Later that day, I received a call from the Investment Banking division head, asking me if I would like to take the lead role in the engagement, which involved valuing the company and providing recommendations to shareholders regarding its financial viability. It was a tall order for someone like me who did not have much experience in capital markets, and therefore I humbly declined his request. After a few minutes, he came to see me and took me to a quick coffee chat. It was the most life-changing coffee chat I have ever had.
“Life is all about the risks we take, and you often regret the risks that you did not take. Sometimes you may fail, but taking risks is one of the best ways to make significant progress in your career. Think again about my request and let me know your final decision by tomorrow”. This was what my boss told me in our chat. I spent the next few hours assessing the pros and cons of the situation, and decided to accept the offer. I was temporarily transferred to the Investment Banking division that same evening.
The next three months were the most hectic months of my life. Managing client expectations and meeting deadlines was challenging, but I learned valuable lessons. I assembled a team of analysts, and we worked long hours and in collaboration with other divisions to prepare the final report. With the guidance and mentorship of my division head, I was able to submit the report to the Securities and Exchange Commission for approval just before the deadline.
The client was very pleased with the outcome and sent a letter of appreciation to the division head acknowledging my contribution to the project. In the subsequent months, I was permanently transferred to the Investment Banking division and received a promotion to an Associate role. Finally, I was selected out of more than 100 team members to represent the company in a weekly live financial education TV show on national television network sponsored by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In the next few years, I joined the World Bank Group, where I led financial engineering and structuring aspects of challenging and transformative infrastructure projects across multiple countries, and founded my own venture in polythene recycling to address a social issue in waste management.
I truly believe that the feedback I received in the 15-minute coffee chat I had in 2011 taught me a great deal about risk-taking and decision-making and has had a significant impact on my career. I am certain I would not have been where I am today in my professional career without it.