“I’ve done a lot of things to make money, legit jobs and downright wrong things. I’m not a bad person, but I’ve done bad things to mostly bad people. I’m not a good person all the time, but I am overall. I think your desk is nice and the wood very handsome, but the top of your desk is a wreck and needs organizing.”
This is what I basically said verbatim to my future boss during my first interview with him, for a job I eventually got. It was for a global asset management firm that was based on the principle of behavioral psychology. I didn’t know exactly what this meant when I went to interview for the job. I didn’t even know if I actually wanted the job. It’s terrible. It was 2006 and I was in a very scary place in my life. My dad was long gone, and I was attempting to return to Wall Street after taking a hiatus to run some shady business, and it was a gamble that would determine my future. I’d had a bad run-in once with the wrong people and I’d spent a night in jail as a result. It was all supposed to be cleared and never to be heard of again but I just wasn’t sure.
Interviewing past the first round for a global bank means you have to pee and prove you’re not on this or that drug, and your background and criminal and credit checks are run too. Depending on your rank going into a firm, the number of people you have to come face-to-face with varies as does the stringency of all testing. When I went in for that interview, I’d stopped smoking weed so my pee would come up clean once I got to final rounds of the hiring process. And I crossed my fingers that nothing alarming would come up in my background check. It’s the first time I actually felt nervous about it in my professional career.
After having spent the better part of 2005 running on adrenaline in the underground sex business, I was worried as fuck come that day in 2006. Nobody knew what I did all of the time except me, because I basically led two different lives for a long while. Exhausting, right?
But I decided I’d change gears again, and test the banking waters. Could I score a doorway back in after a gap in my resume, and possible tainted background check? I sat there that morning of my interview and my hair was in a bun, which it never was unless I was interviewing for a finance job, and here was this boss-dude sitting in his big leather chair.
He asked me right off the bat, “Describe yourself in a nutshell and then tell me what you think about my desk.”
I thought, what?! This wasn’t an actual interview question was it?! Where was the question about my strengths and weaknesses and where I saw myself in five years and shit?! Oh. But it’s the firm based on behaviors so I treated it, yes, like Big Brother. I answered boss-dude’s question and hoped he wouldn’t be too offended that I basically called him messy.
I got the job and loved the firm right away for its investing philosophy that there is more to money than just value, but in its psychology. I got to watch people for a living and then teach the principals later. I really did love working for that firm during my days and some of my nights.
This is the same firm that laid me off in 2009, and although many of my once-fellow employees harbor ill-will about being cut during that time, I don’t. I did briefly and then I embraced it differently, and probably because I had no husband or child depending on me. I was so very single at the time. So I made my peace with being laid off with the masses, long ago. I used my time to travel through Europe and Asia and ultimately to the Dominican Republic where I met my husband. I used my time to finally return to school and graduate magna cum laude, and to learn at least 10 things at the end of it all.
Of all the interviews of all the jobs I’ve ever had, that one with J. Whitcup was one of the most fun and conversational ever.
Rice House does not compare to a global investment bank or Big Brother on the surface, but it does behind the scenes and I’m excited to draw on everything I’ve learned through the years to choose a student-apprentice for Rice House. The good, bad and the ugly of any business is the best and worst part of it all. Wish me luck in finding the right match!