I was 20 years old and wearing my best suit. I woke up early so I could make the one-hour trip to Midtown Manhattan to begin my Wall Street internship orientation. The Sponsors for Educational Opportunity team planned an intense training. We learned Excel modeling, financial terms, and networking. The goal was to leave the summer with an employment offer in hand. I knew we would be joining investment banks as one of the few or only people of color on our teams. It wasn’t likely that we would be given a warm reception. Yet, I craved opportunity—a chance—and I inhaled the guidance shared throughout the experience to increase my likelihood of success.
The most powerful lesson I learned during this time was, “It’s not about me.” My internship opportunity was the direct result of the trailblazers who came before me—men and women of color who fought hard to create a path where there had been none. My task was to succeed that summer so that many more people who shared my background could have similar opportunities. This was too much pressure for any college student to carry. But I embraced the mission: lead by example, lift while you climb, and honor those who came before you. I learned about the power of the collective.
Now, 20 years later, I am reminded of the power of the collective once again.
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