Sure, my family has moved / retired down in Florida, it was great to see them, and I have hometown friends in Hartford, Connecticut – but New york is where my heart belongs. As far back as I can remember, growing up in Connecticut, watching the movies, the “rebel” Yankees (yea, everyone in my family and most of my friends were Red Sox fans, I have to admit I’m a converted Yankees fan, I was a Red Sox fan till maybe 10 years old) just the New York hustle image. Frank Sinatra, Little Italy. If You canMake it In New York you can make it anywhere Well, I have to say, if you can make it in CHINA you can make it a heck of a lot further too. When I graduated high school in Connecticut, I was considering which university to go to. I was kinda pushed to study engineering (I really wanted to learn business, but the nuns in the catholic high school said its too easy for me) my dad was an engineer too…and it was the DOT COM boom, computer geeks were coming out of university making six digits – my dad kept on pushing me to go for computer degree. And talking to people, they said you can get the engineering degree for your resume, and then get an MBA to move into business after some technical experience and it would be the ultimate combination.
But I still wanted to go to NYC and do some business! So I was looking for tech schools in or around New York. Then my high school classmate, Mike Wasielewski, mentioned to me that his older brother was in college at Stevens Tech in Hoboken New Jersey which was right next to New York City. So I arranged a visit down there, and it was amazing! A small university (I kinda like smaller schools, more personable) and right on the Hudson overlooking Manhattan! I knew right away this was my place, and to get my engineering degree and do business in New York City!
I applied to MIT and WPI, as well as some local state schools and UCONN engineering. I didn’t get into MIT, I did get into WPI and UCONN engineering, but took the Stevens Tech over all, it just fit what I was looking for – it was a small school, technical that focused on gaining work experience (co-op program), and was right there next to Manhattan and many students were placed in New York positions after graduation. So to me, it was a no brainer and I signed up. I went only knowing my friend’s older brother, Joe, who was a few years older than me – but hey, I can do it – I was sent to a catholic high school not knowing anyone before I started, and I made lots of great friends there pretty quickly, why not do it again.
Of course no one can see “what if I had chosen another school” and see how their life turns out, but I am pretty certain this worked out for me. At first I was in the computer engineering program (even though I knew I didn’t like programming) because of MONEY, because everyone pushed me to do it saying that I would make the best salary out of college. SO FREAKING WHAT?!? Jeez, this was when I first started to realize there will always be people telling you what to do with their opinions, but you have to do what you have to do , because its your life. My friend and fraternity brother Josh Griffiths (who is still a great friend and has a successful Jiu Jitsu studio, letting me crash on his couch in NYC on my return) was working at a dot com startup kozmo.com and got me an interview in the co-op program. I worked in database programming, doing PL SQL triggers. Man I hated it, and I remember most of my programming department was Chinese and Indian people too – a couple of the indian guys thought I was hilarious with my current diet I was on during lunch breaks. Being in New York, I took the subway into World Trade center every morning and walked down wall street to the office on 80 broad street. During this 1999 – 2000 dot com boom, I was seeing parties on wall street every day. IPO mania, there were always free gifts on the street, new stock offerings, it was insane. So I started learning about it, reading about it. I took a tour of the NYSE stock exchange during a lunch with Bill Munley. It seemed awesome.
On top of that, there was always this cooler guy coming into my technical / programming department at Kozmo.com – he would speak to my manager, take notes, check out the progress, and leave after maybe 15 minutes. I can’t remember his name, but I remember talking to him once asking him what his job was. He kinda laughed saying he just walks between IT and business making reports and translating what the programmers said and reported it to the big shot business guys who couldn’t understand anything technical. I WANTED THAT JOB!
Later in sophomore year, my friend Xing Gao had transferred out of Stevens Tech into UPENN engineering. He had used the credit overload in first year of Stevens to accelerate his program at UPENN and was set to finish his bachelors in only 3 and a half years. He sent me the transfer documents and was helping me to complete the documents, but I decided to change my major to Engineering management at stevens, joined Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, become an Resident Assistant, get a part time job in work-study program, too many opportunities. Sure UPENN was a big-name school, but I also didn’t want to move to Pennsylvania!
Changing my major to Engineering Management, I also made good friends that helped me get summer internships. And I’m always a believer of work experience over education, which is why I picked Stevens and why I picked New York in the first place! During my second year summer I worked at AT&T in Staten Island NY doing quality control for their contractors.
Experience, experience, experience! Networking, networking, networking!
So I always did more then I could handle, joining every group, meeting every person I could meet, considering every opportunity out there. I got into Deutsche Bank my 3rd year summer in Jersey City, NJ – working in project management cost analysis of projects and departments. I watched the whole department I worked for get laid off. A nice guy sitting next to me most of the summer got called into the corner office to be laid off, because of the sensitive data in the bank, could only go to his desk, get his things and be escorted out by security – he took the time to shake my hand quickly though. And I learned how tough business is, and how quickly people can come and go. Just made me think seeing that whole department disappear while I worked there.
Being in the summer internship program, we would visit other offices – going into New York city, so badly I wanted to work right in Manhattan. I got an awesome review from my supervisor, and most of the HR staff enjoyed me I could feel. We had interviews at the end of the summer program to see if we would be offered a fulltime position (I know, we didn’t even go into our senior year of university yet). I remember going into the interviews for IT….man, I didn’t want to do IT, I wanted to work on wall street. To actually do the business, hustle on a trading floor. I was asked these IT questions, and I just wasn’t even interested. I kinda gave attitude telling one of the 3 I was interviewing with that I only wanted to get into IT so that I could get into the bank and move into trading or business. Obviously that didn’t go over well, and when I left the interview room my HR mentor asked me how it went, I told her what I said…and she thought I was crazy! She said I just have to focus on getting this job, that the economy is rough (yea, how long has the economy been bad, 10 years now?)