Chapter 6. From la Banlieue (the hood) to the City

  • My challenge: France was never great on the personal side. My internship confirmed that it may not be great on the professional side.
  • My choice: Accept a great opportunity in London and leave my family, friends, and girlfriend.
  • Vulnerability side of the story: Impostor syndrome. This was a great opportunity with several top applicants with a much better resume than mine. Was I accepted by mistake? Could I live up to the expectations?

I am applying to this awesome job in London, small chances that I get, but it would be amazing if I do. “The pay is amazing, and it is London.” I remember telling a friend on the train on my way to my internship in Paris. Let’s put this in perspective. At the time, just a shot at getting any job straight out of school was fantastic! Now we were talking a job in an international Bank, in London, UK, on an expat contract covering rent and the best private healthcare. In those days, I had no self-confidence. I tell you why:

  • First, I was still a kind of a hoodlum. Not full ghetto boy, but not very polished. It reminds me what my cousin told me once: “Your suit is nice, Timberlands may be ok, but you should not wear white sport socks.” Yes, people… white sport socks… 🙅🏾‍♂️🤦🏾‍♂️
  • Second, there was another applicant with a stellar CV. He had the whole package. Fancy business school, best known for the specialty the position was recruiting for in London, and he was a nice guy!
  • Third, this was a super well-paid job! At least twice what you would get paid in Paris. And it was a good job! The team was friendly, the hours were ok, the office was great! I mean… 

I got the job. I still do not know precisely how. I asked for feedback. Sounded like I was more natural and less stiff than mister perfect. Super happy that the boss was open-minded and saw past my rough edges… and maybe lucky that it was not an in-person interview :). 

I am shocked that not all 10 interns applied for that job. I think we were only 3 to apply in total. Looked like not many people were ready to move to a different country, even for a great opportunity. I get it. It was tough to move country at 22. Leaving your family, friends, and girlfriend. 

Even though I was coming back to Paris every single weekend, yup, you read right… I was back in Paris every single weekend! There was not a weekend I would stay in London. Even though being away was tough, I still believe it was the best thing that could happen to me. If you want to break the pattern, you need to change your whole environment

2 of my housemates in London were discussing. One farted openly during meals, and another one would leave her dirty underwear around the kitchen table. But as disgusting as my roommates were in London, it was great learnings to hang out with 3 graduates from Oxford University. At the Bank, it felt like everyone was loaded! The people I was playing volleyball with were showing to training in Jaguar. People were spending mad money in clubs on bottle service. I could have probably put down money for a house if it was not for the money I spent in clubs. I wasted mad money but learned a lot from that (surprisingly). First, it was a confidence booster. I went from being rejected to most clubs in Paris, dancing next Prince, or near the Prince of Monaco (his security details was crazy).  

Eventually, I got over my impostor syndrome in London. Mostly because I realized that money talked. Nobody seemed to care at the Bank about your race. It was the first time I saw senior leaders of Asian descent. It was the first time I saw people wearing a turban in the office, and so on. If you can bring money to the Bank, you could be green, they would not care. It was so refreshing. And it also happened that I was really good at my job! I was working hard, listening to my colleagues’ direction, and was trying to be helpful. That is all that mattered to them. Oh, and they loved my club stories :).