As a 21-year old black male, this has been a challenging number of weeks. As the stats rolled in, it became apparent that my community was bearing a disproportionate blow. I had to take a step back and examine my own situation - and not for obvious reasons. For all intents and purposes, my circumstances have been quite the opposite. While many in my community in the Lower East Side have been on the frontlines as nurses and essential workers, I have been able to work remotely. When my university moved to a distance learning model this spring, I faced no concerns over technology and internet access. As my graduating friends agonized over lost job offers, I took some courage in my consecutive years of intern experience and robust network as I looked ahead toward what is certain to be a wildly competitive and volatile job market when I graduate in December of 2020. Though I could take pride in the position I’m in, instead candidly it has brought with it a level of guilt. Why and how is my experience so glaringly different from what is being experienced by so many? Apart from having a mom with sky high standards, and a clever way of always getting you to meet them, I think it’s the optimal mix of two things: access and networking.
It is often taken for granted that everyone has the same set of information about the world when in fact, many college grads, in general, feel uncertain or entirely lost about how to turn their degrees into fulfilling first jobs and careers. Networking is the key to learning more about the paths you want to take; diving deeper into areas that sound fascinating, while being driven forward by the areas less fitting than we’d initially hypothesized. It is the means by which I have been able to go from initially majoring in media studies to ultimately majoring in economics. However, there is another piece crucial to seeing success: access. Access is the critical piece in realized mobility and is the work of partnerships like PENCIL and DTCC. This is where networking meets opportunity. In this space, the individual can communicate their skills and personality to someone who can either offer or refer someone to an opportunity.
This is the caveat: if you’re an individual from a low-income community, on average, it is likely that you do not have the robust familial or social network that often facilitates this access in higher-income communities. For folks who come from where I come from, the undeniable polarity in lived experiences makes networking an impersonal and even dehumanizing concept that can induce a lot of anxiety. This leaves communities even worse off the in face of very real social and systemic hurdles in education and in the workplace. Organizations like PENCIL tackle these challenges head on by partnering with firms like DTCC who introduce students of my background to the corporate world early on. It came with challenges but those have all been outpaced by the benefits I’ve realized from my affiliation with PENCIL and my time at DTCC.
My PENCIL journey began back in 2015 as a Fellow in the latter half of my junior year of high school. At the time I was coming to understand myself as solely a creative and DTCC seemed like an imperfect “match” for me. My understanding for the term financial services didn’t surpass that which I needed to maintain my Chase high school checking account and the terms “clearance and settlement” seemed extremely left field in the context of securities. This was the context for my interview with John Dalrymple, CFO Chief of Staff. I had studied just about every site I could find to break down clearance and settlement into layman’s terms and I was at least partially ready to answer the tough questions. Instead, John and I talked about my interests; spending our time together to highlight the things that I’d enjoy doing. I spent that summer and the duration of my senior year drafting CFO comms and updating policies and procedures; I got to use the writing skills I had come to take great pride in. In the process of reviewing Treasury and Financial planning P&P, financial services became less foreign and this led me to take a business course my freshman year of college. It has been at several points of uncertainty that my access to professionals – with technical and career knowledge - served as the bumper to ricochet me toward the winning chute. It was what ultimately facilitated my ability to transition from CFO to interning with MarComm in the Solutions organization where I’m on the Media Production team. Simultaneously, through networking and availing myself to new info, I ultimately swapped my film major for economics and have cultivated an interest in the data space.
At DTCC I gained a space to learn more about myself; my likes, dislikes, and newly found in-betweens that I otherwise would never have explored. I feel confident in my ability to take ownership of my professional life. Other non-profits that DTCC partners with and sponsors, such as Girls Who Code and Year Up, are more examples of ways the firm is intentionally making space for underrepresented groups; enabling us to gain a point of access. I don’t take these experiences and the advocacy of Susan Cosgrove and the PENCIL team here at DTCC for granted. We gain a space to grow and refine the skill of networking, to conceptualize a very foreign reality, and in doing so to have full confidence in our ability to one day claim a seat at the table of our choosing.
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