Wall Street’s rising stars share the lessons they’ve learned from their biggest career mistakes

  • Insider selected 25 young professionals under 35 for its annual rising stars of Wall Street list.
  • We asked the up-and-comers to tell us their big mistakes and what they learned.
  • Here are some of the top takeaways.

Making mistakes is unpleasant, but they can teach you things you would not have learned otherwise.

We asked this year’s Wall Street rising stars to tell us about their biggest mistakes and what they learned from them. Some shared their rookie mistakes, such as slamming their laptop shut after forgetting to save their first big pitch deck or duplicating a trade, while others provided more reflective responses about how their early career mistakes influenced their paths.

They shared what they had discovered:

The statements below have been edited for length and clarity.

Improve your procedure

I was in sales-trading and receiving orders to send for execution within my first few months at Barclays. There was one instance where an error on the order caused it to be duplicated, and the desk imputed the incorrect amount, which was significant. It resulted in a significant loss in P&L for the desk.

I made what was most likely a rookie mistake. However, it made me realize how much help I had. At that point, I realized our manual process was failing us. As a result, we created an automated process to ensure that this does not happen again. Now, especially when it comes to automation and processes, issues are addressed quickly. It was a difficult time, but it prevented this from happening to anyone else, not just myself.

  • Luis Arteaga, 27 years old, vice president of Delta One sales at Barclays.

Not all advice is worthwhile.

I worked in client service for a few years early in my career, and a mentor, Karniol-Tambour, suggested I try trading for a while. It was the worst possible match for me. It was very analytical.

I was only two years in and I was already helping to run Bridgewater’s trading execution desk. You needed to know the intricacies of markets and be well-versed in them, as well as be extremely technically capable. I was just not prepared for that at that point in my career, so I went in and got completely destroyed and almost fired for it — all because I listened to someone I liked and respected.

Of course, she wasn’t doing anything malicious, but it was a good reminder that you have the most vested interest in your own career. You must conduct your own research to determine whether something makes sense or not, and you cannot simply take someone else’s word for it.

  • Bridgewater Associates’ global currency lead, David Trinh, 33.

Be quiet and listen

So, in college, I used to debate, and debate is all about persuading people. In debate, you have seven minutes to make your point. In real life, you never have enough time to make your point.

The most important thing is to listen well and to be concise. If I could give my first-year self one piece of advice, it would be to shut up and listen because you’ll learn more, make a lot more friends, and ultimately persuade more people by demonstrating that you truly acknowledge and listen to them.

  • Michael Dunn Goekjian, 28, is an Apollo Management principal in the financial institutions group.

Be patient

In general, getting caught up in executing and working too quickly.

Things can happen when you get excited, but it took me a long time to stop doing that and hone my process.

  • Tori Gilliland, a capital development and investor relations specialist at Point72, is 30 years old.

Relationships matter

My biggest blunder was losing a deal to a competitor because I didn’t get close enough to the selling shareholders personally. It taught me that no matter how hard you work or how much you can pay for a company, developing and nurturing human relationships can trump everything in the end.

Staying close to the management team and developing strong relationships, on the other hand, has led to some of my greatest successes, such as when I received that call from the SailPoint CEO asking if we’d partner with them to take the company private. It’s not every day that you get a call from the CEO of a publicly traded company asking you to take them private. It’s a unique phone call.

  • Thoma Bravo partner Andrew Almeida, 35

I’ve met a lot of bankers over the years, and one mistake I’ve seen is that they forget they’re in the trust business and must do what’s best for their clients.

Bankers can be driven by their own bottom line at times, which may put them at odds with their clients’ interests, potentially resulting in no transaction. Having witnessed this before, I’ve learned that it’s more important to invest in the relationship for the long term, to be honest, and not to look for a quick buck.

  • Moelis & Company managing director Nadim Laiwala, 35

Speak up

I tell interns and new analysts that my biggest mistake when I first started out was being afraid to ask questions.

Whether you have impostor syndrome or want to appear knowledgeable, I’ve discovered that asking good questions demonstrates more understanding than asking no questions.

  • Rachel Hunter-Goldman, 33, KKR’s real estate team director

Underestimation of the internship: It did end up putting me in the right position now, but everyone tells you to step out of your comfort zone, but once there, you kind of freeze up.

That was certainly my experience, and it altered my approach to my full-time job. I arrived more eager to speak up if I didn’t understand something. That is how you demonstrate that you are learning or intend to learn.

There are numerous ways to demonstrate that you have a brain without knowing everything. I went into the internship a little too academically, not speaking up if I didn’t know the right answer. Be willing to leave your comfort zone.

  • Kristen Powers, 31, Morgan Stanley executive director in charge of investment grade syndicate coverage for corporates in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

I believe that at the start of my career, I was less confident in my abilities and what I had learned, such as in a meeting where I knew the answer but didn’t necessarily express it. The more deals you do, the more comfortable you will become. I recently began speaking up more and realized that people value my opinion, and certain mentors have stated that they value my opinion. As a result, it gave me the confidence to speak up more in meetings.

  • Sarah Sigfusson, 34, vice president in Bank of America’s investment bank’s financial sponsors business.

When I first started as a quant, I focused on getting my work done perfectly but neglected communication with team members and my manager. Because I was afraid to ask questions and there was so much to learn every day, I would sometimes try to solve a problem on my own even if I got stuck, which slowed down the research process. If I were to start over, I would focus more on engaging team discussions and asking more questions.

This experience taught me that being open to asking questions and participating in team discussions can help you learn faster, better understand the subject, and build stronger relationships with your colleagues. It also emphasizes the importance of striking a balance between independent problem-solving and seeking guidance from others when necessary.

  • Shanta Wu, 31, Fidelity quant researcher

Take chances to save your work.

When I first started as an analyst at JPMorgan, my colleague Fred Michel, who is now at Evercore, suggested that I keep a mess-up journal: write down everything that didn’t work out, or if you messed something up, to crystallize what went wrong and what the solution was so you don’t do it again.

One common error is not taking enough risks and swinging for the fences. I believe it is simple enough to look at your job description in any given role and say, ‘I’m just going to do that and focus myopically on this whatever vertical or whatever the stated reason for my job is.’

Something from the messed-up journal: This is still fresh in my mind. I was asked to put together a slide deck for my first big presentation at JP Morgan. I was new to the industry; it was my first slide deck, five to seven pages long, full of analysis, and I went to send it to the vice president on the deal. I sent a slide deck and then shut down my computer. Because I hadn’t saved it on the local drive, none of the work product was saved. Always remember to save your work.

  • Neil Kamath, a vice president on TPG’s tech adjacencies team, is 28 years old.

It is acceptable to say “no”

I enjoy trying new things and taking on new challenges. When I moved from the public policy team to my COO role, I was eager to get started, and I quickly volunteered to manage several projects. During the transition period, however, I ended up trying to do two jobs at once, which left me feeling like I wasn’t able to do anything at the level of excellence I would have liked and that the firm requires.

I learned that sometimes saying no is in the best interests of the team (and me — no more late nights! ), and it allows me to be more effective while also giving junior talent more opportunities to grow — a win-win situation.

Rachel Barry, 31, is BlackRock’s COO of external affairs.


A successful career in finance necessitates hard work and dedication. Building and continuously investing in the infrastructure that supports me, on the other hand, is equally important. Balancing family, friends, sports, religion, and charity is a difficult task.

It’s energizing to remind myself to reevaluate how I spend my time on a regular basis. You will be able to pursue a demanding career that is personally fulfilling while minimizing the sacrifices made along the way if you seek out firms and bosses whose values align with yours and encourage this introspection.

  • Chris Dell’Amore, 34, principal at Blackstone Infrastructure Partners

Be adaptable

When I think back on the types of trades that would have worked 10 years ago when I first started in the industry, many of them no longer exist in the market today. I believe the market has become much more sophisticated and has changed significantly. We have to iterate and change how we do things, and I believe that has greatly aided our team’s process.

  • Peter Gylfe, 35, Millennium’s senior portfolio manager

Recognize the significance of a trend

Understanding how powerful a trend change can be. For example, you can see it right now with AI and how it could change the market. Don’t undervalue the potential impact. I used to do that, and now I appreciate it more. If you look at these seismic shifts and say “this is overpriced,” you may miss a significant shift in trend.

  • Ricky Mewani, 32, Citadel’s healthcare portfolio manager

My biggest errors have occurred when I underestimated the rate of commoditization of a new technology in comparison to the rate of innovation. The race between commoditization and innovation is a constant in technology, particularly hardware.

I made this mistake in 2017/2018 with the rise of organic LED technology in smartphones and attempting to invest in this new technology throughout the supply chain. To avoid repeating that mistake, I am now working hard to find companies that sell linchpin technology companies today; those that are truly mission critical to their customers’ success.

Dominic Rizzo, 30, is T’s technology portfolio manager. Price, Rowe

I was concerned about inflation a year too soon, and thus there was a cost to being defensive too soon. This taught me that not only does a viewpoint need to be correct, but the timing must also be right for your portfolio to succeed.

  • Pimco senior vice president Lillian Qian Lin, 34

Surround yourself with good people

The thing I’ve attributed to comes from the book “King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone.” The book discusses how Peter Peterson and Stephen Schwarzman founded Blackstone. But what they really talked about was hiring 10s — that is, hiring 10-of-10 people. They said, “I’ll get this direction, but you risk falling in love with 7s, 8s, or 9s for the sake of expediency.” However, hiring people should be the most intensive, time-consuming, and deliberate process you participate in.

JPMorgan is fortunate to have exceptional people across the board, but finding 10-out-of-10 people is extremely difficult. In my career, I’ve seen how it can completely transform an organization. You can still have a good outcome when you are focused on expediency. When you get it right, it can completely change the dynamic of the team. That, I believe, we have accomplished. That is without a doubt the most important career lesson. It’s the most common error to make, so I’ll keep that in mind.

  • Patrick McGoldrick, 32, is the managing partner of JPMorgan Asset Management’s growth equity business.

Maintain simplicity

Getting too involved in things and not managing time appropriately, but simply not prioritizing appropriately and wanting to get every single number right all the time, which if that makes it into the article and my team reads it, they will laugh their heads off because I still require every single number to be correct. But not seeing the forest for the trees and getting too bogged down in details that will not be important to the end audience.

I think I still make that mistake far too often, but once you’re a little more senior and have 27 tasks instead of seven, it’s critical to understand what’s important and what your client or audience is really trying to achieve. So I believe volumes have increased in the last few years, and spending four hours on every single analysis, trying to ensure that everything is perfect when no one is going to read past page four, seems like a waste of time. So, I promise, I’m working hard to improve.

  • Katya Brozyna, 33, managing director in Jefferies’ investment bank’s global industries unit

I believe it was a general tendency to complicate simple situations. I used to approach every problem in my career with an optimization mindset. I would propose alternatives that included a slew of bells and whistles that provided limited functional benefits but resulted in far more complex execution scenarios.

I’ve since learned to reverse that and apply simpler solutions to more complex situations. It is easier to control risks and unintended consequences by focusing on identifying the client’s primary objectives and addressing them with simple solutions. My clients are CEOs and CFOs who need to make sound decisions and then guide their organizations in carrying them out. They need a clear thesis for why a proposal makes sense so that they can explain it to others.

  • Michael Wilkinson, 35, director in Wells Fargo’s corporate and investment bank’s financial institutions business.

Finding your niche early on isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I considered changing desks early in my career to gain experience in rates derivatives, options, or other more volatile asset classes because they were receiving a lot of attention in the industry. But, in the end, I listened to my mentors and decided that it was more important to specialize in a product early in your career than to try out various products without gaining a true understanding. Many of the most successful rate traders have been doing it for 20 to 30 years and have a thorough understanding of the product.

When weighing breadth versus depth, I believe it is best to specialize early on and avoid going in with preconceived notions about how interesting or complex a product is. When you become highly specialized, you can add value to clients, develop strong market opinions, and gain the confidence to express them.

  • Yi Yi, 31, Citadel Securities senior US Treasury trader

There are no regrets.

Every piece has led me to where I am now, and I don’t think I regret anything.

I wouldn’t have been able to narrow in on credit and like the banking side if I hadn’t worked in sales and training, even if it wasn’t a good fit for me. Without Wells Fargo and that credit training, I would never have been able to enter the world of private credit, which was hardly an asset class 12 years ago. And I wouldn’t have been a good fit for Blue Owl if I hadn’t had that experience. And without my corporate experience, I believe I would have always been curious about the other side and what it was like to work within a company.

So I believe that each step has led me to where I am today, and I am grateful for all of the experiences along the way.

  • Luna McKeon, 35, Blue Owl Capital principal

I can’t answer the question, not because I didn’t make mistakes, but because — and this is going to sound corny — I believe it’s all a path.

I’m pleased with the end result. So my mistakes led me here, and everything that has been a mistake has always been a learning experience. I try not to dwell on my regrets.

  • Anne-Victoire Auriault, 35, partner and head of Goldman Sachs’ global program trading and Americas ETF businesses.

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