I felt stuck in banking, so I quit to start a $2 million tech company without any experience. Here's how I knew it was time to transition into something better.
- Daniel Fayle is a former banker and the cofounder of Chekkit.
- Fayle craved a more innovative and exciting environment.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Daniel Fayle, a 32-year-old former banker and cofounder of Chekkit. It's been edited for length and clarity.
I got into banking as more of a default choice — my dad was a banker for 30 years. When I was considering careers during college, I felt limited. The educational system doesn't actually educate you on the different jobs or options out there, and finance seemed like a good option at the time.
In my third year of college, I joined a major bank in 2013 as an intern analyst. After I graduated with a bachelor of business administration, I became a small business advisor there.
But even after school, I knew I didn't want to be a banker; I just felt stuck with no other options, and once I got into it, it felt hard to get out.
In the corporate world of banking, there's little room for new ideas or to think differently
As someone who has more of a natural entrepreneur mindset, I struggled with not being able to bring new ideas and processes to the table.
To succeed in your professional goals, you need to be prepared to take risks, innovate, and upset people around you — but that's the total opposite of the mantra of working for a big bank.
As an individual working for a big bank or corporation, it's not your job to disrupt or bring new ideas to the table. The focus there is to win. Working in a bank taught me to grind, but it didn't teach me to bring new ideas to the table and present them where I thought I could make bring changes to the organization.
It can be hard to push back and ask questions about why things are done the way they are done, but it should be done more. I see this as the best way to add value, and also help any company grow.
Your mindset instead is, how can I please my boss? How can I make my boss's life easier? The mantra revolves around the principle of "eating the frog for your boss."
So one of the greatest hacks to getting ahead in this career is to observe your boss, figure out what they don't like doing in their position, learn to do it, and take it off their plate.
This simple strategy can help you add great value, build momentum in your career, and get a raise and promotion quickly.
When you own a company, however, your focus is: how do I add value to customers as best as I can?Another thing that I always found distracting in the banking industry was how much office politics you had to spend time navigating. It's exhausting.
If you look at successful people or companies in tech, on the other hand, one thing they have in common is they operate with an "open to anyone's ideas" philosophy, regardless of title, to constantly improve. This gives people the satisfaction that they can have a big impact on the business and be proud of their contributions.
So even though I had no tech experience, I cofounded and bootstrapped a tech company in 2016 — and a year after leaving, started making $2 million in revenue a year.
Internally, I did struggle to leave my banking position. It took a while to realize that I could probably go do something else. It felt like there weren't many options or jobs that I could apply for.
But sitting around thinking about all the other jobs I wanted to do more was really the kicker — realizing I spent too much time wanting to be somewhere else consumes you.
Leaving the bank didn't make me nervous because I knew I had to take one shot at something I enjoyed — fail or not. I was more comfortable failing at that point in my life than working a job that I thought wasn't realizing my potential. The final straw was realizing that all successful people fail. We're taught that it's the opposite, that all successful people always make the right decisions or are always right.
Here's my advice on how to make a transition out of a career you don't love into something better:
Start a studied networking approach
Everyone recommends networking as an important step in a career change, but how you go about it is what makes the difference. What worked for me was making a list of other people who've been really successful networkers after first studying them by reading articles or listening to podcasts.
Brian Grazer is a great example, going from legal clerk at Warner Brothers to an Oscar-winning producer. A lot of his principles can be applied to getting any job or to get good at networking. He used the law office he worked at as a bridge to meet every expert in the movie and television business.
Grazer's approach to networking is genius and overlooked. His disclaimer was always, "I absolutely do not want a job. But could I please meet your boss?" Then people don't think you're networking, because you've explained that there isn't anything in it for you.
I took a similar approach when I wanted to change industries, cold emailing or calling anyone I thought I could learn from. I was always genuine about it and had a curiosity. That's how I met my business partners — a single cold email was life-changing.
Focus on self-education vs. conventional education
Invest in educating yourself — it will pay dividends in the long run. Back when I was in college, I wish I knew that college is more about networking than learning. That insight would've drastically changed the way I approached the experience.
Networking is one form of self-education that's worth investing in. And what's great about today's world is that many types of educational experiences are free — everything you want and need to learn you can learn with a laptop and Internet connection.
With this strategy in mind, if you think you're going to start a business, then college isn't needed, in my opinion. Graduating from college is an indication you've achieved some level of commitment, but certainly not an indication of your attitude, passion, curiosity, or ability to take initiative, which are all types of self-education that helped me significantly grow my business
It's relatively easy to start a business if you take this approach, as learning a skill set you enjoy has a high utility. If you get really good at designing websites, for example, all you need is to create your own, then offer to do free work in exchange for case studies or testimonials, and gather a few like-minded people to start a company.
If you can't start a business, then look for a business you'd be proud working for
Launching a business isn't for everyone, and even if you want to, you might not be able to afford to take the leap right now. If that's the case, look for a business that you'd feel good to work for — one that keeps you learning.
If you're into fitness, for example, maybe working remotely for iconic brands like Peloton or Nike might be something to strive for. If you really want to get into tech, look at some of the more progressive companies like Basecamp. They've been fully remote for over 20 years and one of the most successful software companies out there.
There's so much opportunity out there that people are unaware of, including remote opportunities that offer flexibility and perks that typically 9-to-5 corporate jobs don't offer. You can go to places like WeWorkRemotely to see all the cool opportunities out there.
Learn as much about sales as possible
Sales is everywhere in life, and I always say every job is a sales job. Persuading your children to eat their vegetables, asking your boss for a raise, selling your idea to the company — whatever it might be, sales is already a big part of your everyday life.
I found that if you get really good at sales and selling yourself, building trust and networking becomes a lot easier. Those relationships you build over time give your career the growth you truly want and can help you make the transition to a new industry.
Leaving my job at the bank was definitely worth it
It was hard to live with constant feelings of ambition to do something that I would be happy to wake up to, while working at a company I didn't feel passion for.
When you stay somewhere long enough, the comfort of staying, even if it's something you know you don't like, starts to outweigh the potential happiness you will feel and the risk you need to take to do so. While it felt like a massive step risk, in hindsight it was an easy one.
The only time you actually fail is if you don't get started in the first place. As the saying goes: Courage isn't the absence of fear, but action in spite of it.
If you left banking for another industry and would like to share your story, contact Jenna Gyimesi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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