*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.
Q and A with Kidron, Baltimore County, Maryland
“I was born in a very modest household, the daughter of a Financial Planner and a Phlebotomist (chemistry nerd). In many ways, I reflect characteristics of my parents, but I am very much like my father. I have always been told that I am “very bright,” but it wasn’t until I entered the world of finance that I felt I had finally found my place. I worked long hours…for less-than-ideal pay, applied myself to learn as much as I could, and over the years, I finally began to progress up the corporate ladder.”
Q: Tell us about your younger years.
A: I grew up in a small town in Pikesville, Maryland. I was scrawny, spunky, had a knack for making up bad jokes (that I thought were great), and I was good with my hands. According to my mom, I spent a good deal of time “taking things apart” when I was younger, but also often putting them back together. The kids in the neighborhood also considered me a sort of “connoisseur” of the monkey bars, and a master of broken bicycle chains. My mom interpreted these inclinations as signs of a future “Mechanical Engineer.”
Q: What was high school like for you?
A: To put things eloquently, I struggled like everyone else. I was pretty awkward, didn’t fit in any particular social circles, and didn’t seem to have a natural gift for any of my classes. With the exception of two subjects: honors pre-calculus and a technology glass, I was pretty status- quo. I would not really characterize myself as a “math-kid” either. I loved algebra, and other studies, to which I could attribute logical flow akin to building Legos. Otherwise, high school was a time I would never assign as “pleasant”.
Q: What was the next step for you after high school?
A: My first “Big-Girl” job was working at as a Digital Life Sales specialist at age 17 for a big-name electronics store (shout out to my mom for encouraging me to apply for that job). Believe it or not, I’ve always had a “knack”, or natural proclivity, towards computer technology—as long as I can remember.
As shy as I was, I actually ended up being quite the strong salesperson. I knew hardware, software, operating systems, and cell phones like the back of my hand. I knew the products, I was charming, and I recommended practical solutions without over-selling. I was willing to teach the customers to help them make an educated decision about their purchase. I began to thrive, and before long I was promoted to “team lead,” in a full-time employment capacity.
This was also the time in my life when I was supposed to be in college. I graduated high school (barely) on time, and enrolled at a private liberal arts school, with the intention of becoming an Interior designer. I thought I could make a decent living on interior decoration, and I had enough demonstrable math skills to comply with the calculation-aspects of the job.
However, once I got to school, it wasn’t long before I started to realize I wasn’t that great at being an artist; and that making a comfortable living would probably require an advanced degree, and years before the salary was commiserate with my experience. I also started to advance more and more in my baby-career as a salesperson. I enjoyed it, seemed to have grasped some form of popularity never previously experienced, and I did well for a kid out of high school.
It wasn’t long before I was promoted at work, and the allure of obtaining that Bachelor’s Degree in Arts faded away; during the same time, footing the tuition bill for that full-time private education became something my parents couldn’t afford. I became disinterested enough to drop out.
Q: Do you believe dropping out of college was the best decision for you?
A: I would not necessarily say that I “regret” dropping out of school then, but returning to continue my education further on in life certainly has not been any easier than when I was a relatively careless 19-year old. Thankfully, the skillsets that I had acquired and developed working as a salesperson had universal application in the finance world. In the fall, I was recruited to start my first professional position, working an accounts receivable role for a company in the Baltimore area. I still didn’t have a degree, but I was good with numbers, excellent with spreadsheets, and learned financial concepts easily. Working for this company helped me develop critical thinking and analysis skills, that were unsatisfied by the collections-oriented position. I spent about 18 months with that company before I moved on to other opportunities.
I knew that tenure and consistency is important for advancement in the world of finance. I sacrificed for these positions. I worked long hours… for less-than-ideal pay, applied myself to learn as much as I could, and over the years, I finally began to progress up the corporate ladder.
There is an invisible line between the “associate” and “analyst” experience leveled position (which generally required a Bachelor’s Degree of some sort) that was rapidly approaching, and I it knew would be challenging to cross. In order to move beyond billing and collections, I had to be able to prove I had the skills required to be an analyst. I knew that would be difficult without a 4-year degree, but I also learned that sometimes, those 3-day long training sessions for Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint skills carried weight in the eyes of managers and employers—because experience is also valuable. I signed up for company-sponsored, industry-approved classes, I did IT hardware and software certifications through our employer’s online training center as often as I could; and I kept a running list of everything I did. I also amassed a number of training hours that qualified for “Continuing Professional Education” credits, which is a huge plus. No matter how long I worked at any contact position, I made sure I had some form of evidence to show what skills I learned and what I achieved. I also learned on the job, sitting behind computer monitors. I learned to identify, explain, and resolve account variances. I read lengthy sales agreements, servicing agreements, tax publications, and experience in multiple aspects of the finance industry. I learned how to implement short term and long-term solutions through the use of process automation.
I also taught myself how to program, predominantly in Visual Basic for Application. It’s a scripting language that’s often used to display data or calculate data and automate processes or routine tasks. That was one of the skills I learned over the years, and programming was an effective tool I could use to gain a deeper understanding of the finance world. It was also a fun way to build things.
Eventually, I went back to school. I decided to change routes a little from my original Arts-direction, to pursuing an Accounting Major.
School is still an ongoing struggle for me, but I am happy to say that I am finally about to obtain my first Degree in Business Accounting (Certificate), have surpassed the Analyst experience level, and have become an intermediate-level Developer/Programmer/Financial Modeler in the finance industry. I am also enrolled in another University to resume my path to my Bachelor’s Degree, with a Master’s Certificate in Data Analysis on the side.
I landed my dream job as an “Engineer” like my mom thought I would be, except I build financial models for structured finance deals on a digital platform.
Q: What do you want others to take from your story?
A: I’ve realized that in my life, for me to overcome what holds me back, and to be happy, I have to let some things rest in the shadows. If they don’t contribute to the betterment of myself and/ or humanity, they probably aren’t worth holding onto. I decided I had to push forward for what I wanted (and deserved) if I had to be the Little Engineer who Coded.
Work hard and persevere.
Kidron & My Lilianas would love to hear from you! Comment below!