On Work: Lies that Society Made Me Believe

I spent one and a half month [last two weeks of April and the whole month of May] in a summer internship program with an investment firm. I was part of the “Business Development Team”, or simply the coolest team. [Yes, I call it the COOLEST team because it would be impossible to find the same group of people ever again with the same pool of talent and the same attitude.]

In my stay there, I made sure that I dive and immerse myself in the whole experience which in more detail means to see, to feel, to connect, to learn and to grow. I was definitely nervous the first day I entered the office as an intern. I knew I wasn’t prepared for the corporate set up (there are a lot of things I think I still need to learn)  and to be honest I was afraid of working (not that I didn’t want to work, I just fear the idea of a workplace in general).

Ultimately, I grew fond of the people I worked with. I developed a liking in the job that was laid to me. I felt inclined in the office. I suddenly had an affinity in everything about that investment firm.

Through an insider point of view, I was able to perceive the corporate world in a different angle. For so many years I blindly accepted the unsubstantiated account about people in suit and tie, regarding them as the stereotypical businessmen– greedy, selfish, grouchy and bossy. My experience proved society WRONG or maybe I was just intern so they treated me in a more special way than the employees.

There are some interesting things I was able to take note of and some realizations that came into me in the duration of my program.

Who said financial analysts are boring? I did corporate finance for the investment firm I worked for and part of it was working with the team of financial analysts. It is common knowledge that these people work with numbers and figures which I guess made outsiders think that they are walking geeks who couldn’t communicate through human language. Well, the “walking geeks” is true. However, the boring part doesn’t work for all of them.

The financial analysts I teamed up with are the funniest and funkiest friends I made. They do get serious when it comes to work, but they are just like you and me who love to goof and fool around. I don’t know if the world will believe me, but they are not as focused as planet earth deemed them to be. Paul and Grey couldn’t even stand an hour of not moving around the office– they always need somebody to bug. Reg, Sir RB (the director), Sir Tony (the managing partner) and Sir John (my mentor) also love to talk and share sensible and even random stories.

The day doesn’t end without laughter because of these guys. There is one thing common about them– all are financial analysts.

Workplace is like those in movies and novels, but not quite. In terms of the get up and fashion, Hollywood is able to portray the reality of it. I had to dress appropriately in smart corporate which is far from my casual wear of pants and shirt or shorts and tee because every single individual in the building was in their best. [I honestly felt like Jane in Jane by Design as I walked in my heels and cutesy fashion, picture perfect]

Unfortunately, in terms of the working environment I think the public had too much of Miranda Priestly and Louis Litt for a boss and a co-worker. In my reality, away from the reel, my bosses and co-workers welcomed me with open arms.

I never encountered a monster boss. All I had were kind and comical superiors who never acted as if they were above me. I am only 19 and I was JUST an intern, yet they treated me as an adult and as a friend. I was taken care of and treated as a true employee. I handled confidential tasks and serious work which not every intern can put their hands on.

Even though I wasn’t really part of the company, I had a voice and the team did listen to what I say. Moreover, in contrast to what people believe, businessmen are level headed. Not all of them recognize themselves as different from the common when in fact most of them truly are.

Also, not all firms follow the downward communication pattern. In my case it’s more of a flat one, I had the freedom to express whatever it was I wanted to say to my superiors. I had the liberty to approach the directors, the president and the managing partner whenever I had an opinion about a particular project or whenever I feel like chatting about random silly things. [Of course, I did take in mind the limitations. I made sure I never cross the line because they are my boss first before they are my friend]

Furthermore, the notion of a “stressful workplace” like that of a “Wall Street” movie was destroyed. Yes, there were times when people came rushing in and out of the office, talked loudly on the phone, negotiated with clients and what not. Yet, there was really no commotion such as those in the films. Of course there were few weird stories such as dealing with a Yakuza, a maniac client, etc. In fact, that office was the happiest workplace I’ve seen. The outgoing personality of the employees in that company cancels out the supposed stress that they’d be getting.

Deadlines are for losers. It wasn’t like school where the period of time one can work on a particular output is set by the professor. In my experience, I was never given a deadline aside from some projects that were urgently needed and had to be prioritized.

I can work at my own pace as long as I produce a quality work which was expected from me. My superiors might not be setting a deadline, however, as an intern I see to it that I get the job done as quickly as possible with much depth. The same was true with the employees, no deadlines.

I guess, because there was no pressure I was compelled to make my own time frame. It will be shameful if I couldn’t deliver when my co-workers are getting their jobs done. Of course I had to be responsible.

Without deadlines employees do not have to carry the pressure on their backs, I believe that when a worker is being pressed his/her tendency is to slack off. I think such system works because everyone is liable for his/her job. [Surprisingly it is effective!]

Liking can spring from hatred. I never thought of doing much finance in my training. But I knew that I couldn’t run away from it having management and economics as my majors.

When I landed a position in that firm I was honest to sir RB that I’m not really good at finance and I hated the way it was taught in class. I dreaded the financial analysis and modeling trainings as well as the due diligence because it involves a lot of finance work which I was not very fond of.

I was amazed how I appreciated the subject I hated when Sir John and Miss Ethel began mentoring me. I started to have a better grasp of it after seeing the practical side of the concepts discussed in the classroom. It was the first time I felt a connection with it and I was in awe. If I had them as my professors, maybe I wouldn’t have trouble in understanding the subject.

What is taught in school is useful. Society says that what is learned in the university is not really what one needs in the “real world”. In my opinion and based on firsthand experience, the wordy textbooks, the unrealistic theories, the far-fetched concepts and the impractical problems/cases ARE essential if one wants an edge in the workplace. All of the seemingly nonsensical stuff I learned in school makes sense.

I say, what is learned in the class room is “real” and has a practical application in the “real world”.

What I wrote here might not be true for everyone. But this is MY truth. And as I see it, society lies. It manipulates the world to believe in “factual details” that it had created based on norms and Hollywood films.

[I hope you’re not like me. I was fooled.]

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