Pathways to Success Ep. 1: Ricardo Rosales

We all know how stressful planning your future can get; sometimes you just have no clue what to do. And that’s ok. As personal and customary as your future is for you, sometimes, it is nice to hear a different perspective. A different viewpoint. A different story.

Admit Guru hears you loud and clear: presenting Pathways to Success. Pathways to Success is a FREE brand-new live-webinar series by Admit Guru where Program Management Intern Nisha Shastry will be interviewing figures from various different fields to give you guys an insight into how these guys made it. We’ll be discussing their journey from high school to where they are now, including high school navigation, college admission, and post-grad life. Live participants will also have a chance to ask our guests their own questions as well.

Our first episode occurred on February 4th, featuring Admit Guru co-founder, former Equities Trader, and current Stanford MBA student, Ricardo Rosales. We discussed his journey from being a normal high school student living in San Antonio, TX to a successful individual on Wall Street:

So I’m going to go through the basics of high school: what extra kind of extracurriculars did you do? How did you spend your time?

I was really involved in music things. So, for example, I was in choir, I was also part of sort of a band at one point and I also started a small recording company, where I had individuals come over to a small recording studio that I built in my house and recorded music with them. I wasn’t too involved in a lot of the activities at school outside of those things, however.

Areally big part of high school, obviously, is the standardized testing, as in SATs ACTs things like that, so how did you kind of go about that?

That was one of the things where I wish I had a better plan than I did at the time; everybody told me that I had to prepare for them, and obviously, they were going to be needed for school; therefore, it was definitely was something that weighed heavily on me in terms of planning for the future. I probably didn’t spend enough time as I needed to, but I used the Internet to figure out what were some good ways to study. After that, I took the test once, and I got a pretty good score for my school, and it seemed in line with some of the scores that folks were getting at the colleges that I was targeting. Thinking back on it now, I really wish I had somebody to hold my hand a little bit more- to try to think more about planning and push me to achieve my full potential because I do think I could have potentially gone to a much better school for undergrad. I recognize now, going to Stanford, how many opportunities a school like this opens for you, so I would have loved to have had that experience in undergrad as well.

You touched a little bit on the schools that you were targeting; how did you tackle the college application process because that’s a very big, complicated, messy kind of journey that you have to go through?

For me, when I was first applying to schools, my main purpose was around trying to find a school that was really good in terms of music. There were the local area schools that I knew about from just my band director, which was the University of North Texas, and then I also knew I had to have some reach schools to shoot for. In my case, they were Berklee College of Music and NYU — which I ended up going to. Additionally, I did apply to the local UTSI at my local college — just as a backup.

So that’s really interesting actually that you’re in finance right now, but you did not focus on that in college you actually went into music. So, did you end up transitioning to something in finance at that point somewhere in the middle of college?

I had an experience when I was in New York, where I met somebody who had what my dream job was at the time. The experience that I had with them made me realize that music, for me, was a passion, but it was something that I didn’t really want to do commercially. I wanted to do it for creative purposes, and I realized that in order to have that dream job be my profession, I would have to mix my creativity with the commercial aspect of it]; that just didn’t seem right to me, personally. So, I took a step back and started thinking about different paths that I could go down. That is when I decided to switch my major and ended up studying math. It was kind of on a whim: I think I googled what major gives you the most options in the future, and that’s where math came up. I had always been good at math in school, although, after a while, I realized that math in college is not the same as math in high school, but nonetheless, I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed that as a major.

When I started thinking about all the applications that I can do post-graduation, I was lucky enough to get involved with a club on campus called The Investment Society- that was an investment club. With them, I learned a lot about financial markets and how people were applying the interesting stuff that I was learning in my math classes to financial markets and all that/ I also had some internships along the way that helped me test out the hypothesis of whether or not it was going to be a good career for me.

I know that you had the opportunity to work in a professional setting during college. Like how did you get those opportunities? Did you need any background experience? Tell me a little bit about the internships that you did.

I was trying to find ways to fill that idle time. I had always been trying to be involved as much as I could while I was in college through various types of activities on campus, but I learned (I think, some professor told me some time and I took it to heart) is that the most defining experiences that you’re going to have in college are the experiences that you have outside the classroom. What that meant for me was looking for opportunities to learn the way that people in the real world are solving problems: the investment club was the main way that I made contact with people outside of school.

I think if you present yourself to individuals, especially to a group of people that you have common interests with, as a person that has high curiosity, high willingness to learn, and some amount of communication skills (or a skill set that you can seemingly add value to an organization), those opportunities almost come to you to some extent, as well. The first internship that I got was at a wealth management firm; that was an opportunity presented to me by a student who had done an internship there the summer prior. One that I had to work a little bit harder for was when I did some research when I was in college: I got that research opportunity as an undergrad, honestly, by knocking on classroom doors, sending emails, and visiting with people. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a professor’s office and he, at the time, was looking for a research assistant for some for a grant that he had just gotten.

Create opportunities for yourself by either going out hitting the ground, running, and knocking on doors- physically or digitally.

So tell me a little bit about where you are now.

Right now, after spending four years on Wall Street, I decided that I wanted to take a bit of a step back and apply the skill set I’ve built so far to another industry. I realized that I have a decent amount of knowledge on machine learning, and using it to solve difficult problems; I did that in finance and now I’m trying to find and see if there are interesting ways to apply those technologies to different types of problems. I ended up coming to Stanford to do my MBA in order to figure out what the next good step is. Obviously, this is a type of school that creates a ton of amazing opportunities, and I was fortunate enough to meet my co-founder of Admit Guru. We launched this business, and we’re super excited to do exactly that: to apply these cool technologies to solve problems for, an interesting new space, and I think that is really neat of it.

Note: this post covered a small portion of the episode. For more specialized questions, exclusive information, and personal advice, please attend our live sessions.

Which career/field would you like to be covered next?

— Nisha Shastry, Program Management Intern

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