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This is what happened to me. I want to warn everyone else.

My investment banking mentor was a sociopath

I'm a student in my final year at university and I want to warn other students about a bad encounter I had with a managing director at a leading Wall Street bank in New York who volunteered to be my mentor.

I am a diversity candidate and I met her at a diversity event in my first year. Although she's well over a decade older than me and incredibly successful in her banking career, while I'm just a student trying to get in, we got on incredibly well.  This was pre-COVID, and she'd stand close behind me and lean over my shoulder to look at my screen while I worked. There was a connection: we both come from non-banking backgrounds and have both had to work hard for what we want. She said she'd mentor me and help me in my career.

We started meeting on a bi-weekly basis, sometimes in person and sometimes on Zoom. She'd give me advice about everything, from my appearance to my posture. She advised me how to talk, what to wear, what to eat, what to read and what to watch. She said that she could change me for the better. I loved the attention, and she appeared to love giving it to me.

I gave her my phone number, and we messaged on WhatsApp. She viewed all my statuses, and would send me heart emojis at the end of her communications.

When it came to applying for internships she wanted me to join her team. I wasn't sure: she's an MD in the front office, but I wasn't completely sold on her area of the bank - I think it relies too much on personality over ability and is open to automation. Despite my doubts, I let her persuade me. I applied for and got the job, and spent last summer on a virtual internship in her division working out of the office in NYC. She messaged me throughout and said she hoped I'd join her team. 

I still wasn't sure though. Eventually, I explained to HR that I just wasn't convinced it was the right area for me. She immediately found this out. She called me shouted at me, telling me that I wanted to work in her division but didn't understand it yet. I tried to explain that I didn't but that I hoped we could still be friends, but she then cut me off entirely. HR did the same: they stopped responding to my emails, even though I'd hoped to be introduced to a different division. She told HR that I was some kind of stalker, and they then emailed me and asked me never to contact her again. The diversity organization I worked with was also contacted, and cut me off too. But I had done nothing wrong: she had asked to be my mentor and had actively set the tone of our relationship. 

Clearly, I don't contact her anymore, but the entire experience has been very stressful and confusing.  I still want to work in banking, but not if it contains other people like this. I feel like I was manipulated by someone who pretended to have my best interests at heart but actually just wanted a vulnerable student to control and dominate. Has anyone else had this kind of experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Oba Shadare is a pseudonym 

Photo by Andrey Zvyagintsev on Unsplash

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AUTHOROba Shadare Insider Comment
  • Ri
    Richard Hayes
    22 December 2020

    I must say I was first shocked by the story but then even more shocked by the answers you got from most of the community. It’s ok to be advised an warned on a professional basis and I do think the advises you’ve been provides about Banking are true and actually really good as most interns need to learn this by hard but, once again, I am incredibly astonished none has cheered for your gut feeling. If you felt it wasn’t the right place or choice, very likely it wasn’t. Feel proud of yourself for listening and hearing your gut feelings, they are your allies! And this won’t be the first time you’ll experience such irrational behaviour from people but I can assure that the quality of your decisions will impact in the same way your future. Congratulations, your decision was of such quality. Learn to listen and understand yourself and keep on learning from new experiences so you can later advice others! Best wishes for 2021

  • C-
    24 November 2020

    Sound like a messy breakup. In my personal opinion diversity should be grounded in equal opportunity not preferential opportunity.

  • An
    23 November 2020

    You were immature to handle this situation - The MD in as much as she comes across as overbearing (all MDs are!), went out of her way; she was over invested in you - you don't come across as Front Office material (like you mention). You didn't deserve to be the job that'd have been offered. It was a good ending - you don't know how to deal with personalities and the MD erred in spotting a talent she thought was Front Office material - it is the most plausible ending. Everything in banking is a bitter experience. So take one and move on. No sympathies for you.

  • An
    23 November 2020

    A log of this is the fault of HR.

    You should certainly not have been asked 'never to contact her again'. She should have been asked to stop shunning you. If it helps, get in touch with her and explain how you felt.

  • Ja
    23 November 2020

    This post is such perfect bait to start a shit storm about diversity hiring it almost feels intentional.

    If it's true, this was handled completely the wrong way. You are a new grad, you have no credentials, no experience, no clients, no book, no income, NOTHING. You may have an Ivy League degree to your name, but so does everyone you are competing against.

    I also work at a major Wall Street bank, albeit in the back office. This was your chance to get some experience and prove yourself, the transfer would come later naturally as you built connections within the business and gained experience. HR doesn't make relationships for you, you make them off the back of impressive and consistent work. If you don't know this I'm not sure anyone can help you.

    I feel like an old man complaining about "kids these days" but I legitimately worry. This post demonstrates two key points: young adults don't know how to communicate directly, likely due to a purely digital social existence, and our institutions are teaching them to avoid any direct confrontation and instead involve an authority figure to mediate any uncomfortable discussions.

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