How WashU's Fade Oluokun Transformed His Finance Interest Into Preparation That Helped Him Build A Career
Where did your interest in finance come from?
I love to read, and I found out that I had access to the Wall Street Journal for free in school. So, I signed up to have it delivered everyday to my apartment. I read as much of it as I could to keep up with developments throughout world. I found the business and finance section the most interesting, so I made sure to read that portion first. Around the same time, I started learning the basics of corporate finance through coursework and choosing electives focused on mergers & acquisitions and investing. I thought a career in finance would give me an opportunity to develop decision making skills using financial data as well as implement strategy. I’m still learning and try to take every opportunity to educate myself and improve as I progress.
How did you spend your summers to balance your career preparation with staying in shape for Football?
The first couple summers I had a few odd jobs and spent most of my time hanging out with friends and completing our team’s summer workout program. A couple times a week, a few guys who were also in town for the summer would run routes and do one-on-one drills in the evenings. After my Junior year, I spent my summer interning at a local bank in their wealth management division. It was a great experience as I saw practical applications of a lot of the concepts I learned in school. After I finished at the bank, I headed to campus and got my workouts and conditioning in. It was important to me to not fall behind, so from time to time that meant coming in on Saturdays or running on Sundays to keep up if I missed a day during the week.
Given your interest in Finance and your internship experience, what was the actual transition like?
Finance is a very broad field and there are a lot of roles within the industry, so pinpointing my current role was more like process of elimination over time. I would say the overall transition is exciting. The accountability factor and being responsible for your work/work product wasn’t really anything new to me. I think it’s something you carry forward from sports. You’re accountable to your teammates, coaches, and yourself. If you make a mistake, you must own it and work through the consequences. The ability to develop consistency isn’t a new concept either. As a student-athlete, you go to practice every day and have longer hours than the average student. You know how to commit and put in extra time. It all carries over to your profession.
Outside of work, the growing pains aren’t easy; becoming more professional, added responsibilities, etc. I think learning to be more independent in college prepared me, but it’s part of growing up. I have additional unstructured free time as an adult, and it is very different. I have a lot more control over my activities with much less oversight than I did in college.
Describe your first job. What was your day-to-day like?
My first position was in a business advisory services division of an accounting firm. My day-to-day was a bit more predictable as the work was project based and scheduled out weeks to months in advance. As an entry-level team member, my responsibilities were to complete parts of corporate advisory projects that my manager assigned. As I grew there, I was able to take on entire projects with minimal supervision, juggle multiple projects at once and complete detailed reviews of my peer’s work.
How does it relate to your current role now? What do you like most about being an Analyst at BW Forsyth?
At BW Forsyth, I have the opportunity to be part of a group that allows me to combine and develop a skillset consisting of strategy, corporate finance, and investing rolled into one. Throwing myself into that and committing to getting the most out of every opportunity I’ve been given has been great. Each day is incredibly challenging. No day is the same and there’s a lot of variability in my daily task list. We set long term goals and objectives that we keep in mind at a high level but try to break them down into a series of smaller objectives that will help us get there. Sometimes I come in with a plan but often, a short-term project will take priority. It’s important to stay on your toes and be able to react quickly.
Is there a time where the athlete mindset set you apart or helped you through a challenge?
I consistently receive feedback/recommendations on how to improve the analyses and investment memos I put together. Even if I think something is close to perfect, there’s always an area for improvement. I think all athletes know the feeling of giving maximum effort and still having room to improve. Instead of feeling down or defeated, I think I’ve been prepared to gather myself and take on new challenges.
Now that you’re a few years removed from playing, how do you feel sports prepared you to handle the transition and succeed in your job?
I’ve developed a lot of grit and the willingness to sacrifice for long-term success over short-term results. There are no shortcuts and you can always tell who came prepared. Performance tends to reflect preparation so I’m trying to carry the same work ethic from sports to my work.
Were you prepared to no longer be an athlete?
To a certain degree everyone wants to keep playing. I grew up playing a lot of sports and it’s ingrained in my identity. I learned a lot about myself through sports and I loved working with a group of guys who had a common goal. It was very hard to give it up. But I feel like I came to terms with it. Football season ends in the Fall/Winter so then I had 6 months of “freedom” before I graduated to strategize and plan my next steps. I was very lucky to be at such a great school that prepared me for whatever I wanted to do.
Was there anything that you weren’t prepared for when you entered your job?
Getting used to a lot of the formalities you find across workplaces was a bit of an adjustment along with following the direction of someone that you may not see daily.
What was the biggest lesson you learned during your time as a student-athlete?
One of the most important things for me playing at WashU was the sense of community I got from the team. When you get there late in the summer, you’re the only people on campus and all your time is spent with your teammates before any other student arrives to start class. I learned how to be there for others and to support people who need extra help. The freshman class is brand new so it’s just time to bond with your friends and form a type of family away from home. I’m from St. Louis so I can’t say I felt too out of place, but I found it really nice to be able to form that before anybody else was on campus. We learned a lot about each other in summer camp and it was pretty awesome to be a part of. It’s nice to have those connections forever.
What was the greatest challenge you faced as an athlete at Wash U?
Finding time to explore everything I was interested in and to make sure I could do them successfully. Participating in collegiate athletics and being a captain of the team was more than enough, but I also joined a business fraternity, was on the board of two student groups, and represented the team to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Along with an academic load, I felt I had a lot of balls in the air at times. Fortunately, I had great coaches and advisors who gave me plenty of encouragement and always told me what I needed to hear to guide me through tougher times throughout my collegiate career.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?
I would tell myself to relax and enjoy my time a bit more. In sports you can be so focused and put a lot of pressure on yourself or teammates to perform at a level you know you can reach. You have to realize that everybody wants the same thing. Relax and have fun. Take lessons from the ups and the downs so that you build on them in the future.
Finish this sentence: My biggest strength as a leader is…
Being able to accept a perspective different from my own.