Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Follow Your Passion ... really ...

I have heard the phrase "follow your passion" too many times since arriving at the GSB. So it was refreshing to hear a recent GSB grad (currently working at a hedge fund but who seemed like an especially likable and low-key guy) admit to me at a recent networking event, that really the reason we all work so hard is for the money. I am deathly afraid of not making money. I'm not thrilled about it but it's the truth. Growing up poor gave me the confidence to know that I could survive on little but the resolution that I never wanted to have to. And I find it a bit insincere to pretend like this is not a major consideration for us MBA folk. Yes, money doesn't make you happy, but no money can certainly make you unhappy. Let's at least be honest about ourselves.

I think most of us get this and most of us, lucky enough to have choices, strive to find a happy balance. But in practice it feels so hard to know where that balance lies. And when to make major changes and when to stick with small incremental changes.

But I am really struggling (again) with the question of whether I want to do IM in any fashion. I attended two very good student group conferences last week: the investment management/hedge fund conference and the entrepreneurship/venture capital conference. The first was really great but the second reminded me (unfortunately) that what I really want to do in life (if money were no object) would be to start and run my own venture of some shape or form. I like investment management because I don't have to commit to any one industry or business plan and I get to learn about businesses in all shapes and forms. IM allows you to live vicariously through other entrepreneurs. But I'm not sure that I can be happy with vicarious living in the long-run. Or that I can really ever be happy working for someone else.

I have always had a reason/excuse why it wasn't the right time to start my own business: I was too young, the economy was in the dumps, I had more to learn, I couldn't figure out my ideal business plan, etc, etc. But right now the idea of putting together a stock pitch fills me with dread, while putting together a business plan sounds really really fun ... and maybe this is my clue that I may be on the wrong path. Maybe I'm done preparing and just need to jump.

It's so scary to think about emerging with a ridiculously expensive MBA with no big salary, a baby and a husband who wants to dump his career in commercial art and return to his fine art roots. But am I really going for IM because for money and the security or because it's my true passion in life? As corny as it sounds, what is my passion? I don't know if it's covering aerospace stocks, or high yield, or finding good short ideas. But I also don't entirely know if it's doing a start-up and dealing with all the uncertainty and mundane headaches of business ownership.

I love investment management for many reasons but maybe not enough reasons. And yet, maybe getting some post MBA experience at a large firm, putting together some savings to cushion my family from the unknown, is good enough. I have put so much into preparing for this career, to walk away from it right now is especially scary. Maybe I will find that portfolio management, rather than just analysis is really fantastically fulfilling. Maybe I will find the lean, results oriented world of a hedge fund to be a great fit.

So I'm trying to keep straddling both worlds still. Trying to pull together stock pitches, interview for internships during the year with buy-side firms, prepare for winter recruiting, with an eye towards doing the New Venture Challenge next spring. Oh boy. This will be fun!


Anonymous said...

Like with anything in life, at first it is enjoyable but in the long run it comes down to what its return is for you ... money, status, job, etc

I myself don't know if I want to stay in IM. I believe its overhyped and the people b-schoolers tend to lookup are not the vast majority you in the end have to deal with.

The grass is always greener, but be sure that grass is what you like :)

Vijay said...

I have a similar dilemma back here in India and would like to think that there are middle-paths that you can walk and get the best of both running a business and having enough money.

Don't know the scene there, but boutique i-banks here that do early and growth stage VC/PE/M&A deals are interesting that way. I work for a small firm of 10 ppl and we're riding the bull-run here. The size of the firm gives me the leeway to run the business independently as well.

Anonymous said...

If it makes you feel better, I'm on the exact opposite side of the fence. I'm putting in all my time into NVC and corporate strategy recruiting and wondering if IM might not have been a good choice too.

The grass is always greener on the other side methinks.