New Everything

26Aug12

In my professional and personal life, i would not categorize myself as outspoken person. However, i do place emphasis and passion in what i do. i try not to produce fluff and i never speak unless i have something of value to add to. i like to produce the wow-factor in all my projects/works. if it’s not quality content, i’d rather save it for later and develop it further before someone else sees it. this is why i believe that over the years, people genuinely respect the things i have to present or say, and therefore, respect me as a person or friend.

My professional career in finance did not provide room for me to excel in this way. I am blessed to be able to leave my private equity job last year and join my boyfriend’s start-up company with plenty of potential, and i am confident that i will excel in more ways than i was able to in banking/private equity.

I’ve resurrected this blog to document my life/lessons learned as i go through the journey of managing and working at a start-up.

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There have been numerous studies on the correlation between money and happiness over the last few decades.  However, a recent NYT article introduced this relationship by bringing forth the recent events that transpired in Sandra Bullock’s life.

“Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?”

First, let us all acknowledge that it didn’t seem like Sandra Bullock HAD a choice and had purposefully traded one thing for the other.  That being said, while I and most readers would agree that having a healthy and stable personal relationship brings far more happiness, I think our life choices sometimes cloud this simple conclusion.  In my own opinion, there’s a big difference between fragrantly sacrificing one over another and sacrificing one over another in order to better position yourself in the near future.

It’s been statistically proven that money does bring some degree of happiness.  However, the incremental boost in happiness significantly decreases after a certain threshold of annual income (lower than you think).  Once income covers the basic necessities, the incremental money would not dramatically improve one’s well-being.

Here are some new-found discoveries to provide some perspective:

– The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others

– The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting

– According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income

– According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year

There were a few interesting social consequences the article concluded as a result of our society’s continuous curiosity over the relationship between money and happiness.

The first and most important finding being that while economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, interpersonal relationships are much deeper and more important.

The second is that society places too much importance on money as a measure of happiness.  “In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones.”

I certainly do not disagree with both conclusions but as long as humans continue to practice math, numbers, not state of mind, are the only benchmark that is measurable.  (Note this last sentence was written by a finance professional…)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/opinion/30brooks.html

P.S.: I’d like to conduct a study to understand the correlation between good food and happiness.


When I look out my bedroom window, I no longer see the Hudson River and the Empire State Building.  Instead, I have a beautiful bay view behind the backdrop of a new skyline.  Welcome to Miami.

*******

During the game of roulette, we place our bets, the wheel spins, the ball lands in its slot and we see how we did, before we lay down our chips again for the next spin.  at the end of each spin, the number that the ball lands on is shown on a board, creating a string of numbers with no real meaning or pattern.  as rational human beings, we tend to look for the meaning  in everything (especially girls), even if the only explanation is chance.

in the case of classic behavioral psychology, there is no doubt that we write our own patterns in life.  but when something unexpected happens, I’d like to say that we usually do pretty well in adapting to the situation in our own ways……this random occurrence is added as another data point into our lives.

these random occurrences and opportunities are what make our lives so exciting.  when i spin the wheel, i have no idea what number the ball will land on but i can do more than just hope what the outcome may be.  when i eventually look back at the string of numbers on the board, the pattern is unbeknownst to everyone but myself.

With these odds, I’m putting all my chips on the table.

(i’ve had major writers block since….graduation, so i’d like to add that this post was inspired from jackcheng)


You think about its possibilities and you cant help but smile gleefully like every single time that catchy Ne-Yo song plays on the radio.

Sure it’s a reach – but what happened to that wonderful attitude of yours?  Just like that hopeful optimism you had when you applied to your “reach” school during those college application days. ….that maybe ….you just had a shot.

It is a stupid idea…but so was that time you and your friends went out and drank until your livers rotted.  To this day, none of your friends have ever forgotten that epic night or at least that morning after.

Maybe it’s too big of a monetary commitment…but it’s a “good investment,” just  like what you told yourself when you bought that Gucci bag or the Playstation 3.

Maybe it is too crazy and risky…but you were a little to quick to trust your life on a freakin’ bungee cord when you jumped off that platform, but you are still alive.  And good lord, you were also a little too quick to participate during that open mic night and sang that infamous Bon Jovi song…….in New York, but you didn’t mind.

It will make you feel proud – more proud than the time when you finished building that Lego set meant for 12+ year olds when you were only 7.

It will be a great moment in your life. Greater than that time you cursed at yourself for not having a camera to capture the memory. It will be more exciting than that awesome day you had and you were dying to get home and write a Xanga entry about it.

Because its payoff will be good.  It will be better than when you threw your cap up in the air on your graduation day.  It will feel better than Christmas morning…with snow and presents!  And it will be infinitely better than when you watched the Sixth Sense and got blown away by the ending.

There seems to nothing in this world that makes you happier than when you start thinking about it.  And it makes you smile.  It makes you feel like you have a reason to be alive.  And it is something you’ve been thinking about….for a long time…longer than the time you….well…actually there is no comparison.

Maybe it is time to go for it.   Replace that “it” with whatever that has been on your mind – that career change, that special crush, that hobby, that passion, that marathon….etc.  Maybe all you need is a little push.  Well here is my push.  Now go for it 🙂


i wouldn’t call myself a republican or a democrat.  one of the important issues at hand during this election was the economy.  Based solely on this topic, i did not support Obama’s views.

I don’t agree with Obama’s views on keeping jobs in America, when they can be replaced for cheaper elsewhere in the world.  I believe in free trade – i think free trade contributes to the growth of world economy and allow it to thrive and remain healthy.  i don’t agree with Obama’s views on taxing the rich to give to the poor.

Based on all these important views on the economy, I should undoubtedly support McCain, for my own financial benefit.  But I won’t.  I support Obama not for myself, but for my parents whom immigrated here by leaving high status jobs in Hong Kong to now work for hourly wages so I can get an education in America.  I support Obama, not for myself, but also for the future of the country.

Most media avoided the race question, the fact that people voted for Obama, not because he is black, but because of what he can do for the country.  I’m not gonna lie – a big part of me supported Obama BECAUSE he is black.  But i also supported Obama because of what he can do for the country…based on the fact that he is black.  He will undoubtedly do a lot for the country – in fact, he already has.  Today, i supported someone due to his racial differences, so that our future generations won’t have to.  Hear me out.

There were slaves in this country not too long ago.  In 2009, Obama will be the first black president.  Most people today cannot fathom the advances this country has made through the years.  Today, this was a big deal.  It was a huge change.  It was a great step forward.  Progress has been made.

In gradeschool, we read in history textbooks about how slavery was abolished, how Rosa sat in the front of the bus, how schools became desegregated, how Dr. MLK had a dream, etc.  Each of these moments were historic, but as Americans on this day and age, we cannot fathom how there could possibly be slavery to begin with, how schools and buses were segregated to begin with, etc.  And yet today, we think a first black president is truly a huge step forward.

Well, i have higher expectations for the country in the future – and i’m sure most americans do right this moment.  I want my kids and future generations to actually WONDER why it’s such a big deal that a president is not white.  I want future Americans to be so immune and overlook racial differentiations that they question why it took a few hundred years for there to be a first black president.  I want future Americans NOT be like me and simply support someone just because he/she has a different background, but actually support someone whom they believe can finally reach the goals and dreams that this country had been established for.  But today, I had to, so that we could be one step closer to acceptance.  Today, i had to, so that future generations won’t have to.

“This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.” – Barack Obama


Being a banker, i can’t go without a blog entry on some work antics.  if there was one story i could tell from my 2+ years of analyst life, it would definitely be the weekend of July 14, 2007.  that weekend was the epitome of the M&A/buyout boom, pre-credit crisis, the good & busy time of banking. 

Synopsis: The week of July 9, 2007 was a typical busy one for me – I was preparing to travel to Charlotte, NC for a plant tour/management presentation hosted by a company that our bank was mandated to underwrite an equity offering for.  On Wednesday 12pm, I was printing my flight check-in documents about to head to the airport when my staffer grabbed me and said “something came up.”  It sounded important.  My associate, VP and I gathered in our managing director’s office.  As it turns out, one of the clients that I had previously done work for (aka legacy client) had just gotten off the phone with my managing director indicating their interest in acquiring a $20 billion company, ASAP.  “this kinda of stuff happens about once in 10 years…this is….crazy,” says our MD.  (In retrospect, i can now list several deals that were done over a single weekend – ie: Bear Stearns/Merrill Lynch/etc.) The plan was to do all our diligence, valuation, obtain internal financing commitment, submit a bid to acquire the company, negotiate and sign merger documents all this coming weekend, before any news leak out to the public.  At the end of our discussion, our entire group had silently poured into the MD’s office to check out what the ruckus was all about….i can tell they were silently relieved they didn’t have to work on this.

Wednesday – Friday, July 11-13, 2007:

after bailing on my other project/flight, i got to work right away.  From wednesday – Friday, i set up a simple model and put together a crapload of industry overview for a prelim meeting with the head of risk and head of leveraged finance.  Note that this deal was happening prior to the credit crisis – this was the period when one of the directors of leveraged finance said “8 (times leverage) is the new 6 (times leverage)” for another project.  As expected, the risk head gave the deal a preliminary thumbs up. 

Friday was also the day my first year analyst bonus was wired to my bank account.  I was feeling good.  I attended a good friend’s birthday party that night knowing i had a busy weekend ahead.  I got home at 4am and attempted to get 3 hours of sleep before I needed to wake up for a 9am Saturday diligence/management presentation at the Skadden Arps midtown office.

Saturday, July 14, 2007:
7:30am: wake up, get ready for a full day of work (so I thought at the time)
8:15am: blackberry goes off – email from my associate: “emergency, Tom (MD who flew in from London) left his IBM laptop charger, can you please bring it? Don’t come to the meeting without it”
8:16am: initial panic, then send out mass email to my entire group asking for a charger
8:17am: realize everyone is probably still sleeping in on a saturday
8:18am: trusty summer associate replies to the email and says “he can borrow mine”
8:50am: ask driver to make a pitstop in order to meet up with summer associate downtown
8:51am: thank summer associate profusely…yep i’m definitely going to be late
9:05am: arrive in Midtown, rush upstairs lugging crapload of papers and my laptop
9:10am: walk into a packed room – there are at least 3 other banks, our client’s management, target management
9:11am: MD thanks me for charger, then i slyly try to find an empty seat in a packed conference room.  none available.  proceed to sit on top of AC by the window.
9:11-9:45am: try to pay attention to the management presentation…but don’t really recall actually anything.
9:45am: associate comes over and tells me to set up my laptop in an empty conference room and start setting up the combo model based on the financials given in the presentation.
9:46: slyly walk out of the packed conference room.  I find an emtpy little room next door and set up shop.
10am – 12pm: number crunch in excel
12pm-1pm: my banking team comes in. the team consists of 3 MDs, 1 director, 1 VP, 1 associate and me, the sole analyst.  top heavy much?  i grab lunch from the catering table outside and continue number crunching.  the team discusses while eating lunch.  i dont really pay much attention…i am too busy eating the free desserts.
1pm: everyone heads back into the big conference room to continue the due diligence session.  i continue to number crunch in excel. 
2pm: wish the company didn’t give so many inputs, what is the most efficient way to use their fuel prices, natural gas prices, production capacities, manufacturing plants to drive to their EBITDA?
3pm: i finish up my model….my numbers match the company’s….my 12+ tranches of debt are running through….everything is running smooth…so i think
4pm: leveraged finance sends me new debt assumptions, fock.  
4-6pm: re-do my 12+ tranches of debt in my model
6-7pm: meeting is over and oh it’s dinnertime already?  team comes into the room, client comes into the room.  big discussions about how to show our valuation materials. 2 of my MDs leave to go home, wishes us good luck.
8pm: client keeps barging into our room to “check in” on our valuation…hoping that we value the company at the price they are agreeing to pay. 
9pm: client barges in again and asks for a DCF of every contingent liability the target company has.  CFO stands directly behind me and stare at my screen while try to do this on the fly.
10pm: MD drafts up the valuation presentation for our 8am meeting with the client tomorrow. despite working all day so far…i have to admit i give props to my MD for drafting up some good materials to present to the client.
11pm: shit.  financing commitment committee is scheduled for sunday night.  i haven’t started on the memo yet.  the rest of my team leaves for home.   only associate and me are left in the Skadden office.

Sunday July 15, 2007
11-2am: i continue to put together the presentation materials for the 8am meeting.  associate checks and okays it.  end of my night? far from it.
2am: we take a taxi back to our office building downtown – where i can comfortably work from my desktop computer.  associate has been planning a wedding shower for her best friend all month – it is scheduled for tomorrow at noon at her apartment.  she is freaking out.  associate makes final checks to the presentation, then heads home.  i now have to prepare a financing commitment memo (scheduled for 8pm sunday) and also put together a couple sensitivity cases to my model: bank case and downside case. 
4am: get drunk dials from friends, texts that say “i’m in ktown, where are you??”, start feeling suicidal
2am-6am: how do i put together 2 sensitivity cases on the fly?  WAG (wild ass guesses).  trying to do 2 things at once, i also start writing in microsoft word the memo, which consists of a lot of copying & pasting from company filings and industry reports.
6am: one of the other advising banks emails me their model and asks if our bank case is similar to theirs.  it is.  i now have to also add this new case into my model for the memo as a reassurance for our commitment committee.
7am: whoa daylight, i walk outside my building and take a car back up to midtown to Skadden office.  the rest of the team has gotten their beauty sleep, MDs goes through my presentation and of course gives me comments.  don’t give me changes now…..there were enough changes that my associate and i are now side-by-side both armed with laptops with number crunching away. 
7:59am: Finalize presentation, save to memory card.  we walk next door back into the original big conference room where our client awaits us.
8:00am: set up my presentation on their laptop for the projection screen, then sit in the back of the room.  my eyes can’t stop closing.  my MD goes up to present.
8-9am: i keep dosing in and out of sleep during the meeting and i don’t give a crap if anyone/everyone sees me. 
9am: client thanks us for the great work.  they then go into meeting with the target company…my MDs join.  associate tells me she has to run home and prepare for friend’s wedding shower.  i am on my own for the next few hours as i still have to write the memo.
10am: client asks for more backups; my VP busts out his laptop and start doing IRR calculations from my model – i admire his sympathy for me lol.  i continue with my memo
11am: i tell VP that i can work a lot better if i go back to the office where i can use my laptop and more resources, he lets me.
11:10am: stumble outside and cab it downtown to the office
12-3pm: write my 50 page memo, drop in model outputs along with my 4 sensitivity cases. 
3pm: associate comes back from her wedding shower, thanks me for pulling through so far.  she checks my memo….no big changes, by this time…i am delirious. 
5pm: VP checks in, he’s still at the lawyers office, he okays the memo.  i send it out to the entire committee so they can read it before the 8pm meeting.  there’s a lot of follow-up analysis to do for the client. 
6pm: order dinner and finish 2 sandwiches. 
7:30pm: finish up client requests
8-8:30pm: commitment committee….it was rather short…financing and deal are approved.
8:30pm: take care home…………….pass the eff out.

the following monday consisted of merger agreement negotiations with my MDs, lawyers, companies, other banks, merger agreement was signed monday night.


george decided at once that we should walk across the Brooklyn Bridge after reading my first blog entry.  we decided to check out grimaldi’s pizza.  we arrived in front of grimaldi’s around 1pm on Sunday and was welcomed by a huge line.  we waited 30+ minutes on line and the verdict is….we’d do it all over again and again and again.   we shared a pepperoni and mushroom pie and it was simply orgasmic.

we were trying to figure out why the pizza tasted so good and why it stood out above every pizza we’ve ever had.  here are our hypotheses:

1) the crust was soft, chewy, perfectly cooked, not too thick/thin, NOT greasy, very addictive
2) the mozzarella is apparently made in-house: it tasted fresh and light, not too heavy
3) the sauce was subtle and simple but tasty; good sauce to cheese to crust ratio
4) the fresh basil gave it a refreshing taste…reminded us of the pesto pizzas from Cinque Terre
5) the toppings were not piled high (good thing for me, but not necessarily for most people); they allowed us to taste the actual pizza, yet also giving us a very satisfying flavor combo

we worked off our pizza by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan.  it was a crisp, cool and sunny autumn Sunday.  most new yorkers would agree that people who walk slowly/stop to take pictures should move to the side to avoid blocking the flow of traffic (or die!).  this rule should still apply for bridges lol.