Chapter 1. Deciding on a Business Career

  • My Challenge: What to study?
  • My Choice: Study what make money fast
  • Vulnerability side of the story: Valuing what we did not have: Money

What do you want to do when you grow up? The most common question adults ask kids. As far as I could remember, my first answer was: I want to be a journalist. Ironic for the kid with the worst grades in french (my native language). Seriously, I failed every single French test. I was in the minus territory. Getting close to zero was an achievement. Surprisingly, this is not the reason I gave up that career path. I gave up because I saw journalists in life-threatening situations on TV when covering wars.

At 13 my Palladium shoes bought at the family footwear store were not cutting it. Everyone wanted more than what they had, including me. I was not feeling poor. Perhaps because all kids in my neighborhood did not have much. Still, I wanted more. I always loved nice things. One of my favorite cartoon on TV was “Beverly Hills Teens”. So when it was time to choose my high school path, it did not take me long. I was all about Business. Not like I could aim to be a good writer, I could have gone the STEM route. To this day, I like math and science. But nothing could beat my appetite for getting paid.

This was probably the first (of many times) I chose reason over emotion. I was wrong. I loved STEM. My friends were in STEM. Yet I prioritized short term gains over long term satisfaction. Even more ironic, I would have made more/faster Money through STEM (facepalm emoji). And I made that tradeoff again and again in my life. You may think it served me well. Indeed in many ways, it has. But it came at a high cost. I chose my business school in France based on ranking vs. opting for the best fit. I went into banking because it was the highest-paid internship I got, I went to London to work for that same bank, partially because it was a high pay industry in a high pay city. I moved into consulting because they were the only one who could match my banking salary. Side note, in 2004 I rejected a job offer from Amazon, wait for it, because they could not come close to my base salary… again, if I had accepted that job and did well at it, I would probably be retired by now thanks to the stocks they awarded to everyone! I could go on with many more examples because for close to 15 years this is how I navigated my professional life and probably my personal life. Reason over passion. I was wrong, but that is a tricky situation. Reason over passion works. It gets you where you want to be. I am where I wanted to be. But I feel like I paid the price with 15 years of doing things I was not passionate about, for people I did not really like to impress people who I don’t care about. Even worse, I see people my age, who followed their passions and got to the same place I am now. And they enjoyed most of the ride to get there… Ok, most of them are not Blacks. Most of them do not carry the baggage that comes with being a minority. Does that work only for white men? Surely white men have more room for error. Yet, that is no excuse for my decisions. The beautiful thing is that passion is contagious. Passion always creates a path. And most importantly, regardless of where you arrive, you will enjoy the ride.

2 Comments

  1. Hey Claude,

    I just found out about your blog, and the timing is perfect.
    Answering your questions would be:
    – My challenge: What to study among all my interests?
    – My choice: Study where will make you visible.
    – Vulnerability side of the story: underestimating the “downside” perception of being a Black woman.

    I came from a privileged background with a father “pushing” his kids towards STEM career, him being a hydraulic engineer. All his kids, but me. Somehow, I was given the permission to explore my multiple interests and to focus on finding my way. So, I went on getting a Bachelor’s in Law, graduating from the same business school than you, and now, I am on my way to become a nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner, having just graduated from nursing school.
    I chose our Business school because of their international program, but I chose a business school because it was the best way to be seen in our country, if you bypassed the STEM way.

    As a Black woman, I found it challenging to be seen in my corporate life. I was seen because I was usually the only one in my field, and probably because I stand tall with my height (1m80). But I wasn’t perceived the way I thought I should be. However, I realized 3 years ago that I was fooling myself as I was not fulfilled at all. I felt as if I was constantly justifying my presence, while I had way more to offer than some of my counterparts.
    So I decided to follow my inner passion. My upbringing led me to cherish the most special thing about me: my womanhood. So I’m in a mission to empower women as a health activist, and my life never felt so good.
    šŸ˜Š

    1. This is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing! So glad that you found your calling. And sure you will make an amazing impact in That field! Hopefully it does not matter too much that it took us longer to find our way. And most importantly I hope we remember to encourage people to fulfill their potential.

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