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Trading Careers – and Places

Mike Persak leaves Chicago and finds a new ‘comfort zone’

Mike Persak
Business Strategy and Digital Marketing Intern, Start Me Up (Careers)

Vanderbilt MBA 2019

After seven years as a financial trader, Mike Persak found that his career provided less satisfaction than he wanted. But he also found it difficult to get recognized by recruiters — “due to a skill set,” he says, “that wasn’t necessarily transferrable.”

So Mike decided not only to pursue an MBA but, as someone who had lived in Chicago his entire life, to move beyond his geographic comfort zone to a city that was completely new to him.

Even though he doesn’t like country music, he found Nashville highly appealing: “great food, better weather than Chicago, lots of great nightlife spots, just a lot to do. And the hot chicken is as good as advertised.”

Mike found Owen’s small class size appealing, too, for reasons that related to his decision to obtain an MBA in the first place. “Trading was an isolated job,” he explains, “and I was turning into a bit of a hermit. With just 170 students, I have opportunities to build more meaningful relationships with others. I believe that I’ve gotten to know more about other people than I otherwise could if I had gone to a bigger school.

“[The small class size] also has provided me with opportunities to work with others. In a team setting, I am now a lot better at understanding my strengths and weaknesses and recognizing those of others. I’ve come a long way in functioning as a better teammate and engaging with other people. That type of skill set will be invaluable when I graduate, both on a personal and professional level.”

Getting out of his comfort zone has enabled Mike to meet people from other parts of the country (and the world) — and to realize how comfortable he could be in a once-unfamiliar place. “Although our backgrounds are different, the school has provided us with a great opportunity to form really strong bonds,” he says. “One year in, I consider Owen as a home away from home, and a family away from family.”

Fun Fact: When he was nine years old, Mike recorded a hole-in-one on a golf course.

“In a team setting, I am now a lot better at understanding my strengths and weaknesses.”