How I got on Wall Street

"Be very careful of the cosmetics business Jill, they are a bunch of cut throats”.  Words to live by?  No.

My response was have you forgotten I spent the last 10 years on a trading floor?  Business is business.  And tough business is tough business.  This blog is about the road from Wall Street to skin care – how I got to Wall Street is a pretty good insight into who I am.....wall street

I have a liberal arts degree with a major in English; my math/science requirements were filled with Micro-Biology, Chemistry and Organic Chemistry.  I had zero accounting, economics or finance classes.  My first job was in the Commodity Financing Division.

I was competing against all of the business school kids.  A friend bought me the Wall Street Journal and I literally memorized it for the two weeks prior to my interview.  When I got to NY I remember they asked me random questions and I would say well if you’re referring to gold then X but if you’re referring to oil then Y and if it’s coffee, well we all know what’s going on in coffee....then Z.  Yes I did get a little cocky and looking back that was a very risky move.

Read more: A Day in the Life of Jill on Wall Street

At the end of the day I was called into the Head of the Commodity Finance Division’s office.  I remember this as clearly as though it was yesterday.  It was a huge corner office with the desk at the far end of the room.  I was afraid to even walk past the doorway. The head of the group was a woman – and to this day a woman running a division on the street is rare – she not only had to ask me to come in but she then had to ask me to sit (I literally stood there frozen in fear).  Then she spoke.... “It occurs to us that you may have memorized the commodity markets...is that true?”  I was 21 years old and wracking my brain to see if I could have possibly broken a law or done something wrong before I answered.  Yes I did.  “And may I ask why you did that?”  Because there are 20 kids out there with business degrees sitting in the hallway and you need a reason to hire an English major. Thankfully I was hired.

Read more: Finding Your True Passion

I was put through a rigorous one year training program where I was taught accounting, corporate finance, risk assessment, and economics etc – by NYU and Columbia professors as well as executives at the Bank.  Every Friday there was a 5 hour exam.  If you got a 75 or worse you failed.  If you failed twice you were fired. No exceptions.  The last two weeks were called desks...it’s because you basically slept at your desk.  You were given a company name; you were required to do a full written analysis of the company; spread 5 years of historical financials; do 5 years of financial projections and have a strategy on where the company should go – i.e. product expansion or Merger and Acquisition options.  It was absolute hell.  I graduated with less people than we started with but to this day I still use what I learned back then.

Read more: Starting a Company is like Falling in Love

Wall Street requires an enormous amount of guts and hard work as well as being smart – as does an entrepreneur.


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