How To Defer A Finance Job to Play Professional Soccer
Four adjectives to describe your Stanford student-athlete experience.
Humbling, inspiring, empowering, and fun.
I was constantly surrounded by people who were not only at the top of their game in sports, but also excelled in other areas of life. Student athletes played on multiple varsity teams, started companies, performed in bands, volunteered around the community, and took leadership positions in student government and Greek life. This was not only humbling, but also inspired me to constantly do more in other non-sports facets of life. Also, being a student-athlete at Stanford was fun! Yes it was hard work, but getting the privilege to fly around the field with my best friends everyday and consistently win games is an unbeatable feeling.
What did you do outside of soccer?
I became President of the the University’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee, wrote articles for an online tech publication, took classes at the Graduate Business School, coached young girls in the area, and organized volunteer events in the Palo Alto community.
Who would you say made the biggest impact on your Stanford experience?
Much of my everyday inspiration and drive came directly from teammates who I knew the best and trusted the most. From the first day of freshman pre-season, our upper-class-women set the standard for what relentless effort and full commitment looked like. That example inspired my mentality from that day on. It became a habit to arrive out on the field 20 minutes before practice, stay 30 minutes after practice, and rally a group for extra shooting reps on off days. All of which led to three Final Four appearances and winning a National Championship in 2011.
Being around that culture and impact, what were some of the lessons and takeaways that defined that experience?
Learning to lead with confidence was the biggest takeaway. Being able to balance what the coaches wanted, what the team needed, and what I believed best was something that was challenging, but that I learned to manage over time with the help of old teammates, my parents, and through my own circumstances.
After you graduated you went to play overseas. Can you talk us through your decision to play abroad instead of stay in the U.S?
After my senior season at Stanford, I knew I wasn’t ready to hang up my cleats quite yet; and that was the only moment I had to take advantage of the opportunity to play professionally. At the same time, I had the mindset that a professional career would need to be an all around experience. I knew I was no longer in the national team pool, which shifted my interest towards leagues outside of the US. This also seemed like the time in life to take a chance and live in a completely new place surrounded by different people and a unique culture. After talking to teams throughout Europe and Australia, I decided that FC Lugano in Switzerland was the team for me!
How was your experience playing professionally in Switzerland for FC Lugano?
I arrived in Lugano being the only American and English speaker on a team of predominantly Swiss and Italian girls. Lugano is a town situated on the breathtaking Lake Lugano, in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, located about an hour north of Milan at the southern tip of the country. The team and coaching staff were super welcoming, but speaking throughout the day was sparse and the copious time alone could be isolating. For the first six months of the season I lived with a 60 year old Swiss man (who spoke zero English) and for the second half, with two teammates, an Italian girl and an Albanian girl (who also spoke zero English). Overtime I picked up enough Italian to communicate on the field, fully understand practices, and joke in the locker room with teammates. Despite my lack of language skills, I was chosen as team captain half way through the season; I’m assuming due to my commitment and work ethic, not necessarily my on field communication! It was the team’s first year in the top division of the Swiss Women’s Professional League (LNA) and we finished the season in 3rd place overall.
You had a job lined up at Wells Fargo before you went to go play abroad. Were your prepared to go start your working career after playing a year abroad or did you consider sticking to soccer for a bit longer?
I accepted a job in Sales and Trading at Wells Fargo in September of my senior year. When I decided that I wanted to play professionally after my senior season, I had a conversation with Wells and was lucky enough to have incredible managers who let me defer the job for a year and supported my request to start work the summer after my year playing abroad.
Going into my season at Lugano with a job secured put me in a special position to occupy free time with novels, journaling, day hikes, museums, cappuccinos, lake swims, podcasts, ski trips, and travel adventures. Needless to say, playing and living in Switzerland was an experience worth extending for a few more years in life. However, I knew that Wells Fargo was only going to hold my seat for one year. This was a job I was excited about pursuing and a group on the trading floor that was coveted by analysts to join. It also didn’t help that there isn’t much money to be made in the business of women’s soccer. I was earning enough to live, but every spare Swiss Franc went straight to booking the next trip on my list. After a year of playing, I made the decision to leave Lugano and return to the US to start my job as an analyst on the Wells Fargo Municipal Trading Team in Charlotte, NC.
Before you got the offer during your senior year, how did you prepare for a career in finance?
Despite the short Stanford summers filled with fitness and training, with classes ending mid-June and pre-season beginning end of July, my parents always emphasized the importance of maximizing this free time with some sort of work experience. Although I never had an official internship at a big bank, I did get to work a summer at UBS in Investment Management and a summer at First Republic Bank in Wealth Management. Those two experiences allowed me to get a taste of finance and further explore career opportunities in the field. After dozens of on-campus informational sessions, office visits, and conversations with teammates’ parents, alumni, and professors, I learned that the Sales and Trading industry craved student athletes because of our natural competitive spirit and relentless drive; this seemed like a place I wanted to be.
After playing professionally, did you have a tough time transitioning to work life at Wells Fargo?
After coming off life as a Stanford student-athlete and a dream year at FC Lugano, the working world was an absolute shock to the system. Never had I ever been in a situation in which I was sitting inside for 12+ hours a day. My natural lifestyle is being out and about at any moment possible. Working a full time job on a trading floor is the exact opposite.
How did you adjust and create your desired lifestyle?
While settling into this new lifestyle, I slowly recognized the aspects of life that I needed daily in order to keep me happy:
working out or moving outside
quality friend time
alternative non-work activities.
This typically meant waking up at 4:45am to workout, being in the office by 6:30am, staying until 6:30/7pm, and then planning dinner/breweries/concerts/pickup sports games with friends at night. Days were long but challenging, fulfilling, and fun. I also moved to Charlotte knowing zero people, so not only was the job and city new, but all friends were new as well!
In addition to all the fun stuff, I established the Stanford Women’s Soccer Alumni network with an ex-teammate, Rachel Quon. Currently we strive to plan bi-yearly alumni games, provide a database of alumni background details and contact info, and plan events around the country in order to leverage our natural connection to fellow Stanford women. When I arrived in Charlotte I was inspired by the Soccer Alumni Network success and decided to establish a similar club for Stanford Alumni living in the Charlotte area. After gaining a bit of traction I decided to found, charter, and lead the Stanford Alumni Club of Charlotte. We hosted speaker events, volunteer opportunities, networking sessions, and happy hours, and although I no longer live in Charlotte the club is still thriving today.
After a few months of playing in various recreational leagues, I also decided to get a bit more competitive and try a bunch of different types of races: trail running, marathons, Spartan races, triathlons. Over the past 2 years I’ve become more serious about run road races and competed in Olympic distance triathlons. I’ve placed in most, won a few and qualified for USA age group nationals in the Olympic distance triathlon last year. I’m also racing a Half-Ironman this summer so will see how it goes!
Are there any skills from your soccer days that have translated to your work at Wells Fargo? What do you like most about your work?
My non-stop energy and positive attitude that felt natural everyday when arriving at the field for practice have also carried over into the office. The ability to keep yourself and your team in good spirits while staying productive is fundamental to pushing through a long workday. Head-down work pays off, but doing it with a smile and keeping everyone feeling optimistic about what is being accomplished becomes noticed.
In terms of what I like, it’s a competitive environment in which you have to confidently speak up and have an opinion in order to succeed. The days are long, but the learning curve is steep, so for me the amount of time put in has paid off in terms of the skills and market knowledge I’ve gained.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?
Make connections with athlete-alumni and use those connections to leverage your experience as a student-athlete in the working world. Employers LOVE the natural work ethic, drive, competitive spirit and passion student athletes possess. Use this to your advantage.
Also, search the nooks of campus. Explore it all. Get involved. Go to free sporting events, concerts, lectures, guest speakers. It’s easy to get bogged down with practice and class, and it’s hard to stray outside of the comfortable routine. I don’t think I fully realized how special of a place college campuses are until I was no longer there.
Finish this sentence: My biggest strength as a leader is…
Doing everything in my power to elevate those around me. I hope that inspires others to do the same.
What’s a fact about you that we wouldn’t be able to google?
I’ll give you three. I’m a member of a 3-person book club, waterskiing is my happy place, and I played drum set in a jazz band in high school.