May 29, 2020
Wall Street, March 2008
Meaghan Kimball (BMath ’06) shares her rocky start in finance, and offers support to alumni whose careers look different than they planned
Meaghan Kimball (BMath ’06) shares her rocky start in finance, and offers support to alumni whose careers look different than they plannedBy Meaghan Kimball Alumnus
My first day of work on Wall Street was Monday March 10, 2008.
Six days later, the investment bank that hired me, Bear Stearns, had collapsed and been acquired by JPMorgan in a fire sale for $2 per share. The Global Financial Crisis had begun.
At first, JPMorgan decided to honor the offers Bear had made to new graduates, so I spent several weeks telling anyone who would listen that I was a new graduate who had simply arrived early. As the GFC worsened, JPMorgan retracted offers for Bear’s new graduates, and I spent the next several weeks telling everyone to completely ignore what I had said previously.
Somewhat surprisingly, I received an offer to join JPMorgan post-merger. I was sent to six weeks of new hire training that summer. I was told my classroom performance and test scores would be shared with my new manager so I worked hard and learned a lot. I arrived on JPMorgan’s equity derivatives trading floor in September 2008 ready for my second shot (or so I thought). Within a month, Lehman Brothers had collapsed. By Thanksgiving, I had been laid off and had two months to find a new job before my United States work authorization expired. My first year on Wall Street had been a total disaster.
I felt extremely discouraged. After all my hard work, my dream job of working on a trading floor had been snatched away, before I even had an opportunity to prove myself.
How did I cope? First, I leaned on family and friends for emotional support. Second, I doggedly pursued every lead in my network that was even vaguely related to finance. I ended up getting a job as a junior investment banker. I took a pay cut and a title cut. I worked long hours doing unglamorous tasks like formatting PowerPoint slides. I also learned more about corporate finance and financial modeling than I ever would have on the trading floor. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was a good opportunity.
MEAGHAN KIMBALL, Alumnus
Your career trajectory may have been disrupted, but you can get it back on track. Your experiences at Waterloo have taught you valuable skills, resourcefulness and resilience.
Then, about six months later, I got call from the man who’d originally hired me at Bear Stearns. How would I like to come work for him again? There was a role on the trading floor at CIBC in Toronto and this time, he promised, the bank wouldn’t collapse during my first week. I accepted and it turned out third time was the charm! My five years with CIBC were incredibly rewarding.
Why am I sharing my story with you? First, I want my fellow Waterloo alumni, particularly recent graduates, to know that you are not alone if your career prospects have vanished due to circumstances beyond your control. Second, I want to offer some encouragement. Your career trajectory may have been disrupted, but you can get it back on track. Your experiences at Waterloo have taught you valuable skills, resourcefulness and resilience. Plus, there’s a global community of alumni who are here to support you. You can connect with us on LinkedIn, or through your local alumni chapter.
If you can, please volunteer to support your fellow Waterloo alumni. Become a mentor, reach out to young alumni in your network or join initiatives with your local alumni chapter.
I hope that I will soon be reading your stories about how you successfully navigated this challenging time.