From Rutgers to Wall Street

Photo: Desiree’ Kinney and Stew Webster pictured at the NYSE

by Desiree’ Kinney and Stew Webster

Desiree’ Kinney: What is the meaning behind a personal vision? When is its birth? When I graduated high school in the small brainy borough of Metuchen, New Jersey, I thought I would study accounting because I passed the classes with flying colors. Soon enough, I realized my wise English teacher was right. I was a writer, creative, expressive. I managed a regular column in the school newspaper on movie reviews and was a primary contributor to the poetry section. I would get pumped up from making something my own, being innovative, creating. That’s when I realized I had to pick a creative career path. So what were the options? Communications? No, I thought. I need something in business because well…that’s what my big brother did and who knows better! Side note: My brother is one of the most intelligent and confident individuals I know — it was wise to follow him. But soon, I also created a path for myself.

In high school, I was inducted into the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and graduated in the top 20%. Eventually, the decision was made. Five acceptances later, I went with Rutgers University and majored in Marketing. I was ready to conquer the world… At least so I thought!

I had three internships: a Fortune 500 investment firm, a Fortune 500 music firm, and a global telecommunications firm. In college, I was just as competitive as in high school, being inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, receiving a Hess Company Scholarship and consistently making the Dean’s List.

My first introduction to finance was at a Fortune 500 wealth management firm and I had an invaluable experience where I received my Series 7 and 66. I was on a luxurious campus, I had a supportive team, I received training. But I still wanted to see what else was out there in the world. I moved on to a large discount brokerage, a smaller CFP firm, and finally my current home… on Wall Street. This new role was negotiated. I presented a proposal and said point blank, “I cannot sit behind a desk. I want to help people.” And I did. I took on a role helping people find jobs, providing them a coach, and building relationships locally in the Tri-State, across New York and New Jersey.

I must now take a moment to not take credit for all of my success. My mother is my rock, my father is my wisdom, and my step-father is my entrepreneurial guide. My work team is tremendously supportive (and without naming each one, you each know who you are and your unique value). For every student reading this, find a mentor, whether it’s your family, friends, co-workers, supervisors — It truly makes a personal and professional impact.

And now begins the story of how I unexpectedly ran into my old colleague Stew Webster, fellow Rutgers alumni, at the NYSE one beautiful work day… But first, let’s share his story.

Stewart Webster: I discovered my passion for the financial markets at an early age, specifically during the dot-com era while in high school. Fortunately, my father took notice of my interest and began giving me daily issues of the Wall Street Journal so I could expand my financial knowledge. I decided to pursue formal business education during my freshman year in high school and I enrolled in the “Introduction to Business” course at Cherry Hill High School West. After scoring 100% on the first test of the semester, I immediately knew something was brewing. My high school was also affiliated with a program called DECA, which is a business competition program that prepares “emerging leaders and entrepreneurs to be college and career ready.” In 2004, I earned second place in New Jersey at the DECA state competition from presenting an e-commerce business plan. I then presented the plan at the national competition in Nashville, Tennessee. During my senior year, I earned first place in New Jersey, presenting an enhanced version of the business plan. I then became a finalist at DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, California. With these achievements I knew education and business could take me all over the states, and maybe even around the world one day.

After graduating high school, I enrolled in Rutgers University. Many of my high school friends claimed Rutgers to be “too big,” but this captured my attention. I knew if I could stand out at a big university, I could easily take on the world. I majored in Economics to deepen my understanding of how the subject affects businesses, governments and society. I coupled the Economics degree with Spanish and a minor in Portuguese, hoping this would give me a language advantage in business.

While attending Rutgers, I completed a summer internship at CIT Group in the mortgage lending division. I also held a part-time job for three years at a private wealth management practice that catered to high net worth individuals. Upon graduating from Rutgers, I thought I wanted to pursue a Masters in Economics and I became a Research Assistant in the Department of Economics, contributing health economics and outcomes research with a notable health economist.

I found out quickly that the academic side of economics was too slow for me and I needed to be in the private sector. In 2010, I was brought in by a financial data and analytics provider to work as a Research Associate in its Private Equity & Venture Capital department. Going on six years at the company, I now serve as Team Leader of the department.

I truly advise every student to pursue their dreams. Listen to your parents and family, choose your own destination and be relentless on the path to that destination. Don’t let discouraging words ruin your sight and feelings. There were plenty of times when people told me I would never make it to New York City and working on Wall Street was nearly impossible. Surround yourself with like-minded people and you will see them along your journey to success. Ain’t that right, Desiree?

Desiree’ Kinney: Yes, that’s right Stew! A supportive atmosphere of positivity can go a tremendous way in your long-term success and happiness.

The biggest words of advice to make it — whether it’s Wall Street or wherever you define as your “destiny” — is to form support networks of individuals that share the same motivation, drive and determination. Then seek out a mentor for coaching and guidance.

You can be the best version of yourself no matter where you came from, but first you must define it, take the appropriate steps to get there, and most importantly, take a leap of faith. If we can do it, so can you.

Desiree’ Kinney is a relationship director and agency recruiter with a Fortune 500 company. She can be reached at (732) 850-3644 or moc.l1593833296oa@ye1593833296nnikt1593833296eeris1593833296ed1593833296.

Stew Webster is a team leader and private equity analyst with a Fortune 500 company. He can be reached at (856) 287-6300 or moc.l1593833296iamg@1593833296retsb1593833296ewmtr1593833296awets1593833296.

This story was first posted in October 2015.

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