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  • Writer's pictureSteve Wu

Why I Decided to Quit Investment Banking and Join a Startup

I was lucky  —  I graduated from UCLA and landed one of my dream jobs. I still remember the day I got my offer from Moelis, one of the top investment banks in the country, asking me to join as a full time analyst. It was one of the best days of my life and I literally couldn’t stop smiling for about a week. I was sold on the investment banking career path — challenging, steep learning curve, being the best of the best — and I worked my ass off to get the job. The hours upon hours of studying, mock interviews and informational coffees finally paid off and at 22 years old I had a six figure salary and seemingly endless opportunities. I started my first day at Moelis ready to take on the world.

10 months later I decided to quit my job, something I never imagined would happen in my two year stint as an analyst. So what happened and why did I quit a job I worked so incredibly hard to get?

I initially joined Moelis for the challenge, steep learning curve and prestigious career path. 10 months later the work was still challenging, I was still learning and people were hitting me up left and right asking for advice on how to break into Investment Banking. I just closed my third deal and our analyst class was a close-knit group. This was exactly where I wanted to be and yet I simply wasn’t happy. Looking back, I was unhappy mainly because I chose my job based on a career path that would set me up for success, and in doing so, I completely overlooked the importance of doing what I believed was great work.

Steve Jobs defines “great work” in this excerpt below:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

I quit my job at Moelis because I was searching for a feeling that I knew I would never be able to get if I stayed in Investment Banking. There’s no point in prolonging a job you don’t enjoy when you could be spending your time doing something you do. It’s a cliché, but life is too short to live any differently. After leaving Moelis, I decided to take a Product Manager position at Scopely, a venture backed mobile gaming startup. I’ve always had a strong interest in gaming and this provided me with an opportunity to get hands on with a product that I truly enjoy. Have I found what I absolutely love to do? Hard to say, but this is definitely a step in the right direction and I can’t wait for what’s coming next.

I challenge each and every one of you to discover what you enjoy and go after a career path that allows you to accomplish truly great work. Put less emphasis on what people tell you are “typical career paths”, the “most prestigious jobs” or “jobs that attract the best talent” and go after what makes you happy.

This is much easier said than done and will likely require extensive research, work experience, talking to peers, etc. but no amount of prestige or money will be able to replace the feeling you get when you work on something you love. Keep looking and don’t settle until you find what makes you happy. In the end, that’s all that really matters.


Things to think about when choosing the right company / career path:

  • People: Is this a great team of people you will love working with in the trenches?

  • Product: Is this a product-focused company that wants to build amazing experiences?

  • Passion: Do I feel passionate about this product to commit all my energy?

  • Potential: Is there the potential to create significant impact?

  • Position: Will this position leverage my expertise and open new opportunities?

I will only work for companies I admire, with people who inspire me and on endeavors that have a meaningful impact

Questions? Feel free to connect with me here:

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