We tend to spend a lot of time mapping out what we’re going to “be one day”. What age we’ll get married, when we’ll have kids, when we’ll be a millionaire… if we’ll be a millionaire. Universities we want to go to and grades we’re trying to get. Fame we may or may not want to one day reach. I feel like I spent a lot of time when I was younger thinking about where I’ll be “when I was older”, then one day I was… “older”. I’ve had a colourful roster of potential career choices from the time I was a very little girl. Some stuck, many fell off the radar, some just moulded as time went on. Whilst I certainly am “older” now, I still do have very high hopes for what I still want to be “when I’m older”, or let’s say, when I’m even older.
1. A nurse
The first thing I ever wanted to be when I was older was a nurse. You’d probably think I came to this conclusion after realising I wanted to live a life spent absolutely dedicated to helping others. My mum is also a nurse – so perhaps that inspired me too. But how I came to the conclusion of wanting to be a nurse was actually very uninspiring. As most kids do, I had an obsession with wanting to “play adult” – be that having a plastic doll or my own shop in my bedroom. During one of my sessions where I would go through the Argos catalogue as if it was a book, I saw a nurse costume for kids. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and I decided right then and there that my destiny was clear to see – I needed to be a nurse.
2. A book author
The first thing I ever wanted to be when I was older that was actually driven by a skill I had was a writer. I’ve spoken about this many times before, but I started writing stories around age 5. I’d take some blank papers from our printer at home, fold them in half, and on the LHS draw a photo, accompanied by some text on the RHS. I think I might even still have some of these stories in a box at home… Eventually, my dad encouraged me to start writing my stories on the computer, and very quickly, 15 page stories turned into 150 page, 45k word stories by the time I was a teenager. I loved it. My ideas were never JK Rowling level – I mean, I was a kid – but I’d typically write about a protagonist, who closely resembled me or who I wanted to be, and her goings on at school. When I was really young, it was focussed around family and friends, as I got a bit older, I started writing boy troubles into my stories too, as you do. When I was super young, I could type up a 15 page story in one day, but as I got older, my stories became a lot more meticulously planned and would take months to finish. I would share my stories with my teachers, friends and I’d eventually share them on my website too. My parents believed in me so much, I remember my mum once telling me that when I turned 18 they’d try and get me published. It felt like my destiny was written in the stars.
The last story I ever wrote was in 2010 – a whole 10 years ago! I think there are a few reasons why I stopped… life got busier, my focuses shifted elsewhere (I think I was doing my GCSEs around the time), and as I got older, I expected more from myself. Writing about a girl who fell out with her friend over something totally unrealistic wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in anymore, but whilst I knew what I didn’t want to do, I didn’t have any ideas for what I did want to write about. I told myself for years I would get back into it, then I sort of accepted that maybe it just wasn’t happening anymore. When I started writing proper articles on this blog – I thought, hmm… maybe I did still end up being a writer in a sense, but just not in a way I expected.
I have been thinking about it recently, and I do have an itch to just sit down and write a novel again. But I know that (i) I need time and (ii) I need to truly dedicate myself to it, oh and (iii) I need an idea. I’m not ruling it out, because a younger me would be very disappointed to know that this dream is something I’d discarded. So perhaps you will see a Kemi Akin novel on the shelves of a bookstore one day…
3. An actress
Who doesn’t want to be famous growing up? It feels like every boy wanted to be a football player, and every girl wanted to be a singer. These days – I’m hearing the kids want to be YouTubers.
For me – I wanted to be an actress. I don’t know what it was that initially tickled my interest in acting, but for years and years and years, I was totally obsessed with it. I joined a muscle theatre class and would do stage shows twice a year, every year for maybe 3-4 years. I even took drama as a GCSE. I’d download scripts online for episodes of Friends, and read/act along whilst the show was playing. I’d learn all the words to a That’s So Raven or Hannah Montana episode or High School Music movie, and when the actors acted – I was right there beside them… acting it out, only, I was doing it from my bedroom.
I truly enjoyed it. There was a day I watched HSM 2 on repeat for the entire day, and whilst my brothers thought I was crazy, I was too embarrassed to tell them that I was “acting along” to the show, just picking a new character every time.
I would spend a lot of time reading up on the stories behind some UK child actors or actresses that had “made it” – some I remember reading into a lot were Emma Watson (Harry Potter), Georgie Henley (Narnia) and Jemma Mckenzie-Brown (HSM 3). I had even picked myself out what I hoped would one day be my future agent. I even attempted to take my own head shots on my Sony Ericsson phone… they were cute though.
Then GCSE Drama happened. I just… didn’t do well in it. I literally came out of my final assessment and my grade wasn’t good. I remember being about to sign up to an acting class the weekend of my GCSE results, and after I got my grade in Drama, I decided ya know what – I’m not good at this. Maybe that was me “giving up on my dream”, or maybe it was just me realising that acting wasn’t for me. I don’t really regret not going into acting now that I’m older, I genuinely do not feel as though it was a good fit for me. But I still feel warm to remember how much fun I had reading all those scripts in my room, and even today if I ever meet anyone that wants to talk about the acting industry, and the landscape for black British actors/actresses specifically, it’s still a conversation I can find myself totally engulfed in.
4. Journalist or working in marketing
Eventually A Levels came knocking around, and everybody started asking me what I wanted to do at university and what I wanted to do with my life. I absolutely hated thinking about the future back then because the truth was that I didn’t really know. I knew what I was doing currently – which at that time was blogging and webdesign – and I knew I enjoyed that. I also knew how to get good grades – so I could put my head down and focus on that. But to have to think about an actual job? For adults? The very idea made me shudder. I came to the table with two quick answers for my parents when they started poking around for an answer; one was journalism – I figured hey, I’m good at writing and those guys write so why not? The other was marketing – I did some work experience at the firm my dad works at and sat with the guys that manage and design the website, and when I asked them what they did, they said marketing. So I thought – cool, that’s that! Eeeeasy. Anyway, these were two rough ideas to say the least that didn’t end up sticking.
5. Full time blogger
Now we fast forward a few years and I’m in university: I’ve had this blog now for a number of years, I’m updating it less because I’m busy and distracted, and one day I find myself at an event about entrepreneurship. I don’t even know how I ended up there, as I’d never thought about entrepreneurship that seriously before, other than using it to explain how I’ll one day get to millionaire status, but what I did learn from the event is that – this internet thing? Wow – there is money to be made!
That is actually when I first stepped up my blog – improved the layout, got myself a DSLR camera and started putting out better content; I treated it like a part time job in my final year. I was already earning from it, but of course with the increased effort I started earning more.
Where am I with this now? Well, I think I just replaced “full time” with “part time”. I still blog, and I still take it seriously. I know I need to actually blog more, but let’s not talk about that. I do know that when I do write, the feedback is good (and I’m so grateful for that), and on the social media side, I’m focussing more on my fitness page these days where I see a lot of potential (actually, just hit 4k yesterday!) But I don’t ever see myself doing blogging solely, I think I will always be doing something else alongside. I don’t know the form of that “something else”, but that’s how I am viewing things right now. Of course – life can take you anywhere.
6. Investment banking M&A, then DCM, then M&A, then Leverage Finance, then DCM…
People always ask me why I decided to go into investment banking – and the truth is that it wasn’t a very calculated move like it is for many. I already knew before going to LSE from my brother who also went to LSE what the career choices from there tend to be. When I started university, and everybody started whispering about spring weeks, I had a think and came to the conclusion that IBD and consulting sounded the most interesting to me. Soon after I came to that conclusion, a huge America IB was just about to close their spring week application, so I submitted one. I attended some open day events, and submitted another 2 or so apps, then the next thing I knew I had an interview at the American IB. Then I had the internship. After that I was fast tracked to interview for their summer 10-week internship. I was also part of two groups that help “BME” students get career opportunities (check out SEO and Rare!) I am very grateful because through SEO, I was fast tracked to also interview at another firm for their 10-week summer internship, and this is the summer internship I got, and I converted it into a job.
Basically – as you can see, once I poked the investment banking train, I got totally swept away on it and each step was quite fluid. I know I was very lucky to have had a smooth ride – but of course I also worked hard to do my apps, I prepared for the summer internship interview for months (constant prep is important), and I worked my butt off to convert it into a job. If you’re lucky and perform well on these internships, you can really just ride the train until the end if you stay on the ball. If you’re really hating the journey you can definitely get off and flag down the Law train, or the Strategy Consulting train, or the Big 4 train (or another train – if you’re brave enough to break the LSE status quo), but if you’re not minding the journey or even enjoying it, then why get off?
That is the story of how I got into investment banking. Step 2 was just finding the right team, and I got to where I am now just through speaking to people on different teams.
What do I want to be when I’m older now?
I’ll keep those cards very close to me for now. But what I can say is that, in the words of Trey Songz… I just wanna be successful.
Have a good week!