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Erin Summe - Sales Trader

An unconventional path

In thinking back on my career path, it has been anything but linear,
not quite conventional, and far from prescribed. I’ve found that in my
search for the elusive notion of a purpose, the most rewarding moves
have been those that have taken others, as well as myself, by
surprise.

After graduating from Georgetown University in 2008 in Economics I
joined prime brokerage (a group that services hedge funds) at Morgan
Stanley in New York. Soon after starting, my team found itself in the
vortex of the financial crisis, an ominous beginning to say the least!
While I loved the adrenaline of Wall Street and enjoyed the complexity
of the markets, after two years in the industry, I knew it was time to
make a change.

Making the decision to leave a stable job in the midst of the
recession was not an easy one, but after a few weeks of soul searching
(involving lots of yoga and wine) I decided to follow my instincts and
move to South Africa to volunteer in public health. Having previously
visited the country and fallen in love with the people I met and the
energy I felt, I knew it was a place where I could make a real
difference. I joined an NGO called Grassroot Soccer, a group that uses
sport to educate children about HIV in the highly impoverished and
racially segregated townships.

While I loved the beauty and spirit of Cape Town, after three years I
decided to make the move closer to home and enrolled at London
Business School in 2013. I realized, however, that choosing to study
again was the easy part. More challenging was deciding where to go
from there. How to find a job that is remotely as rewarding as the
first-hand fieldwork I had just experienced?

After entertaining jobs in every industry from media to social
entrepreneurship to impact consulting, I surprised myself by accepting
a role back at Morgan Stanley, trading equity derivatives. Although
jumping into a particularly esoteric niche of trading seemed daunting
to say the least, after eight months I’m enjoying the challenge and
using every opportunity to learn as much as I can. While I dread the
very early morning start, I feel personally balanced as I’m still able
to dedicate a lot of my time to Grassroot Soccer.

Through all my wide-ranging roles, the most important realization I
have come to is that there is no one job that will satisfy all of our
interests and needs – and it is a relief to stop looking! We often
feel pressure to figure out what it is want to do with our lives, but
for most people that will always be a work in process. As we as people
evolve, so will our goals and priorities. With this in mind, I find it
helpful to plan my career in two-year increments, and make time to
reassess my objectives, as opposed to drafting a master plan that I
hope will unfold over a lifetime.

It is now clear to me that what constitutes a good job is a role in
which you are 1) always learning 2) emotionally supported and 3) well
positioned for taking the next step. I found that if you embrace these
values, no matter how diverse one job varies from the next, you’ll
develop an expanding set of skills that will continue to prepare you
for ever more interesting opportunities. The trajectory of your career
path may not always be clearly defined, but if you enjoy the journey
along the way it doesn’t really matter, because in a sense you’ve
already arrived.
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