This Ambitious Upstart Has Been Emailing Me Since High School

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Four years ago I spoke at a high school program for budding business people. Every few weeks since that day, I’d get an email from one of the students, Darryn Lee.

Darryn told me about the colleges he was accepted to, the special programs he was involved with, and his summer jobs. Consistently, for four years, he would check in and see what I was up to. I’ve never seen anyone be that consistent.

He was an incredible student, who kept building his network and it paid off; he recently got his dream job. So I invited him here to tell how he made such good use of his time in school so we can all learn from him.

Darryn Lee

Darryn Lee

Darryn Lee is from Compton, CA and a graduate from Temple University. He is currently a Portfolio Analytics Analyst at BlackRock in their NYC office.



Full Interview Transcript

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Here’s your program.

Andrew: Hey everyone, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m founder of, home of the ambitious upstart. I usually interview entrepreneurs about how they built their successful companies and try to dissect what they did right and bring it to you, but today I’ve got kind of a different interview.

Four years ago, I spoke at a high school program for budding business people. It was back in Los Angeles, and every few weeks since that day I got an e-mail from one of the students, I mean, consistently, every few weeks from one student for four years. He let me know about the colleges he was accepted to. He told me about the special programs he was involved with, the summer jobs, et cetera, and he kept checking in to see what I was up to.

I’ve never seen anyone be that consistent, and I know I’m not the only one that he does that with. He is an incredible student or was, actually, until recently who just kept building his network consistently, and he paid off. He recently got his dream job. I invited him here to do an interview about how he made such good use of his time in school so we can all learn from him.

Darryn, welcome to Mixergy and thanks for doing the interview.

Darryn: Thank you, Andrew, for the opportunity.

Andrew: Where are you going to be working? What’s this dream job that I just hinted at?

Darryn: I’m going to be working at Black Rock, yes, Black Rock. Black Rock is the world’s largest asset manager with about 3.65 trillion in assets under management and about nine and a half trillion in assets if they add advisory and risk management services on, so close to 14, 15 trillion dollars that they oversee.

Andrew: The world’s largest asset management.

Darryn: Yes, the world’s largest asset management company, and I will specifically be working at Corporate Analytics Group out of their headquarters in New York City.

Andrew: All right. I want to find out what you did in school and talk about some of the tactics and some of the approaches you had to connecting with people. I think the best way to lead into this is with the story of how you met with Black Rock. How did you meet the people there? Do you remember that day?

Darryn: Yes, I remember it quite well. Summer of 2009 I was interning in New York City with AIG Investments doing some hedge fund to fund work there. The girl I was dating at the moment said, “Hey, Black Rock is having a meeting or having an actual event at their headquarters. I know you’re interested in investment management. You should go check it out.” So, I said, OK, cool. I came to work suit and tie, everyone’s looking at me like why are you dressed suit and tie? It’s a business casual environment. I said, “Hey, I have an event I have to go to.”

I went to the Black Rock headquarters uninvited and unregistered, and I said, “Hey, my name is Darryn Lee. I’m going to be a junior at Temple University. I’m interning now at AIG Investments. Please let me in.” They talked it over for a little bit and they said, “OK, we’ll let you in.” They let me in, you know, great speakers. They had a managing director there, a nationally renowned MD at Black Rock, Obie McKenzie was there, a lot of individuals, a lot of people from real estate, from Portfolio Analytics, from Portfolio Management, so I’m getting business cards from everyone, and I’m making sure I’m writing three things on the back of those cards so I can follow up with them in a timely fashion.

I followed up with them, networked with them the next few months, and then the HR Director hits me up and he says, “Darryn, in September I’m going to be at Penn. You should come by and talk to me. I’m, OK, cool. I take off the whole day of class at Temple, go to Penn and say, “Hey, I’m not in the Wharton School. I go to Temple University, but I want to go to this conference.” They said, “OK, cool.” They let me in, and I’m meeting people from Credit Suisse, from Goldman Sachs, from all these bullish [??] institutions, including the individuals that I’ve been connecting with from Black Rock. I met a couple more people at Black Rock, too, and talked to them.

It really sunk into me at that point because the HR Director told me. He said, “Darryn, we’ve been in contact for a few months now, and I really admire what you’ve been doing. The day that you came to that event, there were people from Harvard. There were people from Stanford with 3.8, 3.9 GPAs that I denied. I told them they can’t come to this event, but they all knew where the event was, and you were the only one that showed up.”

That right there put in my mind, I need to keep this up. I kept it up after that event, and the day before I left for my study abroad in Madrid, they gave me a super day. A super day is four interviews 30 minutes a piece back to back. I stay up ’til 3:00 a.m. studying for this interview, making sure I’m ready, go to New York, and it was just like rapid fire. I’m just sitting there, and I’m just taking it. I’m just going at it.

I even joked with the guy a little bit. He asked me, “What’s our assets under management?” And I mistakenly said, “Three and a half billion”. He was like, three and a half billion? I said, “Oh, trillion, sorry for the disrespect”, you know, little things like that. He started laughing and stuff like that, so I built respect and a good rapport and made sure I followed up after the interview.

I’m in Madrid. They e-mail me a month later saying, hey, I got the job. Everything is going well. I accept it, come back from Madrid in May, begin an internship in June, busted my butt for ten weeks, got the offer August 31st, signed it, and I’ve been a Black Rock employee since September of 2010, and I will begin August 15th of this year.

Andrew: To be full-time there.

Darryn: Full-time, yes.

Andrew: All right. I want to come back in a moment about how you prepped because the fact that you knew how much money they had under management and all the other questions, the way you were prepared for it, you prepared long ago that way. We’ll talk about that and also I want to talk about how you ended up at AIG because I think that’s interesting.

There’s one thing I want to touch on right away which is the back of the business card. You said you went in there and you didn’t just go in there and say, “Golly, this is incredible, all these speakers”. You went and you talked to as many people as you said you could. You got their business cards, and you did something on the back. Tell me about that part of your process.

Darryn: Well, to me I think that’s very important because I meet a lot of people at networking events who are colleagues I’m going to never commence with. I get these business cards, and they’re all like, oh, damn, I want to e-mail these people, but I forgot what we said. I forgot what we talked about. I was talking to everybody there.

My thing is you write three things on the back of the business card, three significant things from our conversation. They could be talking to you about a meeting that they had-I don’t know-with Ben Bernanke or something that they’ve done in their personal life, how they really enjoy cycling and how they’ve been obsessed with watching the Tour de France. And that’s something that’s significant to them. You want to make sure you write those significant things on the back of the card.

When you follow up with them within 24 hours, you say, “Hey, I enjoyed our conversation. I hope everything is well with you. I enjoyed listening to you about A, B, and C. This is the impact it had on me. I look forward to remaining in touch with you. Take care,” something simple like that.

They’ll send you a very general e-mail back because they’re busy about great meeting you, have a good time, stay hungry, stay ambitious, quick words of encouragement. And then, make sure and keep in touch. That’s where it ends for a lot of people, but what’s important is that you need to be persistent. You need to maintain a line of communication.

Andrew: All right. And, again, I’m going to come back to more details on how you get your e-mails. How do you do your e-mails because I think there’s some cleverness to the way you send them out, and it encourages people to keep reading your e-mail and doesn’t make them feel like… Actually, I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Before I continue with your story, last time I saw you was in Los Angeles. I invited you out for a drink. I forget at what place.

Darryn: This place in Santa Monica, right?

Andrew: Sorry?

Darryn: It was a place in Santa Monica.

Andrew: It was a place in Santa Monica, a beautiful place.

Darryn: Yes.

Andrew: Great food. You felt really out of place there from what I remember. First of all, I remember you were this little thin guy, even just a couple years ago.

Darryn: Yeah.

Andrew: You looked like this little skinny teenager, and now you look like an adult. And the other thing was I remember you didn’t drink, and I didn’t know at the time anyone that didn’t drink. You were under age so, of course, they wouldn’t serve you, and you went straight for the burger, the safe food. And then, when it was time to go home, I think you said you were going to take… I drove you home, but before I offered to drive you home, you said you were going to take a bus home. Were you really going to take a bus in Los Angeles all the way back to-I don’t know-where you were, where you lived?

Darryn: Yeah, I live in Long Beach.

Andrew: Long Beach. You were going to take a bus home to Long Beach. That’s pretty common for you?

Darryn: Um, yes. Well, I’ve never owned a car in my entire life. I’m originally from the inner city, and just having a car was not economically feasible for my family, but my very first internship at a hedge fund freshman year, I would say I was commuting two and a half hours each way from Long Beach to West L.A. I took a bus, a train, and then a bus to get to the job and then work eight hours and then did the same thing on the way back home. I did that for 12 weeks.

For me, it’s all about, I’m not going to use the excuse of not having a car as a handicap or a disability. I’m going to get the job done. I’m going to get that hedge fund, and I’m going to work. I’m like, I’m going to get to a meeting with you no matter what. I know the bus system pretty well in L.A. County, so to me it wasn’t a big deal.

Andrew: That’s incredible. Most people would have done it one time and said, “Hey, you know what, this job isn’t for me. I live too far. I’m out of luck. This stinks. Why me? Why can’t I have a car? Why can’t I have this? Why can’t I live closer to the great jobs? I’ll spend a few hours in a bus if I need to. I’ll transfer if I need to.

The year after I met you I went back to speak at that program again, and I said to everyone in the session, “You should take the business cards of everyone who comes in here and just follow up with them. I had this one guy last time I was in here who has just been following up with me every few weeks.” As soon as I said that, I didn’t remember your name at the time, everyone in the class said that’s got to be Darryn Lee.

I knew you weren’t just doing this stuff with me. I knew you were being that consistent, that you already had that reputation with them, that they would know. It’s got to be Darryn Lee.

I hinted earlier that this preparation started earlier. How about telling us the story of how in high school you ended up in Japan.

Darryn: OK. Well, my high school, they advertised the opportunity to go represent the City of Long Beach as a student ambassador. I felt like it was kind of God’s token to give to me at that moment because when you have to live in Long Beach and I did. I was only one of a few students at my school that actually lived in Long Beach.

I called the person up who was actually. They have contact e-mail or contact telephone. Called them up, and I said, “I have some preliminary questions. How can I best prepare for this interview? What are you guys looking for?” They said, “We’re looking for a person who has a working fundamental knowledge of the City of Long Beach to best represent our city to the political figures within Yokishita, Japan.” I said, OK.

I spent five hours researching Long Beach, researching the ports, one of the largest ports in the world and seeing how much money comes through these ports on an annual and monthly basis. How was the security? What are the logistics? How does everything work? I made sure I retained all that information.

Once I did the interview, there were about ten people here at a round table, right, waiting to interview me. We got to about the fourth or fifth person. They said, “We don’t have any more questions.” They said, “You’ve answered all of our questions. That’s good. Have a nice day.

I’m like, the first thing in my mind, oh my gosh, I said too much too fast. I’m not going to get the opportunity, but they called me a week later and they said, “Hey, we want to give you the opportunity. We feel that no one else was able to convey as much knowledge about the City of Long Beach as you did.”

So, myself along with another girl from the Long Beach Unified School District and a teacher from the same district went to Yokishita, Japan for three weeks, all expense paid, stayed with two different host families with two different socio economic backgrounds which was very good for me and had a great time over there. I really enjoyed it and definitely plan on going back.

Andrew: What do you mean? What did you see that was different at the different socio economic background families? You said that it was good for you.

Darryn: Well, a lot of people know that Japan is very expensive. It’s a very expensive country to live in. I said the first family was a middle class family. The mother really had a smaller job. The son who stayed there went to university, so he was learning English. We had to share a room, things like that, a very small two story house. And we’re there, very traditional Japanese style home, and I enjoyed that feeling.

But when I got the second family, the father was a dentist, the mother was an accountant. They both spoke English. They had this big three story house with a home entertainment center, so the son and me were the same age at that time. We were watching Star Wars, like all the episodes, single day. We talked about Dragon Ball Z, Adama. It was very big out there, and one they fed me meat a lot.

Meat in Japan is very expensive because they have to import it all, so with the earlier family I had a lot of fish and a lot of rice, a lot of seafood. We didn’t have too much meat, but this family, we had a little bit more meat. It had sukiyaki sauce on it which is amazing, and it was a drastically different event. I had my own room, which was a good size.

They had elevators in the apartment, in the actual house, and his office was downstairs. He basically owned this three or four floor building with his dentist office down on the first level and the house all the way up.

Andrew: What does it do for you when you’re in a house like that?

Darryn: Well for me, I’m just very thankful of being in a position like that. I feel that in all my travels I’ve been placed with host families that were very warm, very caring and really looked out for me, especially in a situation like that where these people are very grateful for what they have, and they’re trying to share that with you. With Japanese custom, it’s just very open, very warm, very welcoming, and that’s just something that I take advantage of in a good way and try to learn from it, especially I have very humble beginnings and I’m just appreciative to be in Japan, let alone…

Andrew: What do you mean humble beginnings? What’s your background like?

Darryn: Well, I was raised in the inner city of Compton, California, single mother household. I remember in elementary school I had to wake up at 3:00-4:00 a.m. to get to the babysitter’s house because my mother had to get to the job, to get to work by 8:00 or 9:00. She worked two jobs, so I rarely saw her throughout the day. We saw her early in the morning and late at night.

Very; very interesting. I went through a lot of tough times, I would say. We definitely ate chicken three to five times a week because that was the cheapest meat my mother could afford. We had fish every Friday because I was raised Catholic at the beginning, and then we converted when I was 10. But very traditional, I mean, my mother was more so like a father at that point in time. I only saw my father once, and that was when I was six years old, and it was for 30 minutes. I still remember that day like it was yesterday, but my mother was very, very aggressive when I was growing up. She conveyed a very masculine identity, and later she told me that she thought she had to be the father and the mother. And she started…

Andrew: How would she do that? How did she convey a masculine force in the house?

Darryn: Strict discipline.

Andrew: Like what? Can you give an example?

Darryn: Yes, spankings, spankings.

Andrew: Spankings for what?

Darryn: For everything. I had a lot of anger management issues.

Andrew: You, really?

Darryn: Yes, yes. I was one of those school kids that was on the path to destruction, and so I was actually going to a juvenile detention center. This was in high school. I was getting suspended. I almost got expelled. I was getting into some fights. I had a lot of pent up anger that I didn’t know how to channel. I had a lot of anger about my socio economic status. I had anger at the fact that I didn’t have a father in my life. It was hard for me to cope with.

When we moved to Long Beach in sixth grade, I started seeing individuals at my middle school that were tougher than I was, so it kind of calmed me down. It was a point of life in sixth grade I was just like, I don’t want to do this anymore. I figured I’m tired of eating chicken all the time. I’m tired of just not having money to do things that I want. I need to do something that’s going to get me out of this impoverished state, out of this working class state.

That’s when I really said I need to focus. I did really well in middle school. I was actually president of the school, 3.7 GPA, all these phenomenal things and stuff. Middle school was a really significant turning point in life, when I said, “Let me learn how to channel this anger.” I honestly wasn’t really able to get the anger under control until probably like points throughout high school, in mid high school, later in high school. So, it was really tough for me, but I had a mother there and yeah.

Andrew: You know what though? This attitude of following up, of having the confidence to even come up to me and ask me for a business card and you must have done that with other people, too, of staying in touch with them, of e-mailing them, of having a direction for your life. That’s got to come from some influence. Where does that come from? Where did it come from for you?

Darryn: Well, I know you may not believe this, but growing up, I would say in my early high school years, I was very shy.

Andrew: I believe it.

Darryn: Really? OK. I was a very, very shy person, but as I started growing and as I started gaining more confidence in myself, through my mother, through my step-father, my step-brother, they really taught me how to have more confidence in myself and just be really outspoken. My friends are very, very outgoing individuals, a lot of them are. It was just that influence of them being there. My aunt is one of the only people in my family to actually go to college, and she really, really instilled that in me and along with my great-uncle as well.

Andrew: Were you also reading? Did they have business backgrounds and were giving you these… No, were you reading business books and getting this kind of advice? This the kind of stuff, the way that I see you maintain contact with people feels very much like something that Harvey McKay might teach. It feels very much like something that Dale Carnegie might teach its students. It doesn’t seem to come out of nowhere or did it for you, or did it come from your family? Where does it come from specifically?

Darryn: Well, in terms of reading, in terms of gaining more knowledge, that came from my aunt. Every Christmas she said, “Pick one thing and two books that you want,” and she always instilled that in me. In terms of actually following up, that’s something that I learned, I would say, in tenth grade when I actually realized that I wanted to go into business, and I’m talking to people.

People are just like, if you want to make it in this world, if you want to have corporate fame, if you want to have opulences, if that’s what you want to attain, you have to be a go getter. You have to have a go getting mentality. When I learned that in tenth grade, I said, “Well, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right, and I’m going to go for this.”

I have a very ambitious agenda in terms of what I want to accomplish by the time I’m 30, 40, 50, 60 years old, and I’m not going to get to that just by having this lackadaisical mentality. That’s one thing that I learned at that point in time is I have to go ahead and be a go getter. That’s where it really came from.

Andrew: What about this, actually let’s go beyond business for a little bit. What did you do this past summer?

Darryn: This past, oh, this current summer?

Andrew: Yeah, I guess we’re still in summer, right? Didn’t you just come back from a trip?

Darryn: Yes, I actually got back about two weeks ago.

Andrew: What was the trip about?

Darryn: I was in Lima Peru for three weeks on a humanitarian mission. It was my second humanitarian mission that I’ve done abroad. The first one was in Costa Rica in March, but I was in Peru in Lima, and Monday, Wednesday, Friday I worked at a mentally ill institution called San Medus [sp] in the San Miguel District of Lima. That was a very tough one. I’ve always an interest in working with children and individuals who suffer from mental and physical disabilities, especially autism, and that was really sparked by me watching “Lorenzo’s Oil” several years back which was a really good movie about autism.

Andrew: OK.

Darryn: I worked with them for three days. It was very different than the volunteer experiences I’ve encountered before. Tuesday and Thursday we traveled out to the area called Pachacuti which is actually about an hour out of Lima. It’s poverty to another level. It’s something that I would probably compare to like the favelas in Rio de Janeiro in terms of the actual layout and shacks, shanty shacks on top of shacks on top of shacks. And everything closed it and density beyond proportion.

That was very significant for me. We taught English on Tuesdays, and we taught physical education on Thursdays and just little things like with their one bathroom being broken, in terms of all the toilets being stopped up and it’s just a bunch of fecal backup, and the smell is just permeating throughout the entire area. It’s not even an actual physical campus. It’s a perimeter set up of shacks and everything. It’s like thousands of students in there. To me, that was very phenomenal. It was harsh.

Andrew: Why did you want to do that? Why not say, “Hey, I’m about to work for one of the richest people and the richest organizations in the country. If I continue with the way that I have been since I was in high school for the next ten years, I’m going to be one of the richest people. At that point I donate a little bit of money, help somebody else go there and take care of all of these issues while I live in this nice house and manage it all from a distance or earn more money so I can help even more people?”

Why go on this humanitarian mission now? Why set yourself up for this kind of work in the future even?

Darryn: Well, with me I’m always big about giving back. It’s really a core component to my life, and my mother really instilled it in me when I was younger, never forget where you come from, never forget your roots. I feel that for me to get to this point there’s been a lot of individuals that have had a profound impact on me and that helped me in the correct way, and I want to do the same. There’s a lot of issues out there in the world, and I feel that by me coming from humble beginnings and God blessing me to put me in this position where I can be on a path to attain a significant amount of wealth, I need to give back.

At that time, yes, I will give backing a monetary form, but at this time I think time is important, especially when I have the time. So, I go out there and I raise money for my volunteer trips, and I go there and I give time because five minutes with a kid can go a lot further than ten dollars.

That’s how I look at it at this point in time, and as I get older and as I gain more money, I want to give back money and time, and I’ll eventually start an Afro [sp] foundation where I can actually hire people to go out and carry out my vision in terms of helping people throughout the world.

Andrew: You mentioned that a lot of people have helped you.

Darryn: Yes.

Andrew: You have mentors?

Darryn: Yes, I have a significant amount of mentors actually.

Andrew: Who are some of the mentors?

Darryn: I would say my very first mentor is this guy named Alex Rubalcava. He owns his own hedge fund called Rubalcava Capital Management, and he sits on the board of this scholarship organization where I was introduced to him, South Central Scholars. It’s one of the scholarship organizations that I participate in, in terms of actually receiving funds to go to school.

He was really the first one that introduced to me the concept of financial market analysis, the buy side and the sell side because I just had his perception investment banking was the way to go because that’s what everybody’s been telling me. He said, “No it’s not, investment banking sucks, and this is what you should look into.” He really, really cultivated that, really helped me and really kind of molded me into an individual where, OK, this is what I need to learn. This is what I need to read. This is how I need to act.”

Andrew: He’s a busy man. How do you get him to be your mentor? I want the audience to understand and I want myself to know, too, how do you get great mentors. How did he specifically become your mentor? What did you do?

Darryn: He is very busy, and he’s the type of person where if you e-mail him he’ll respond, maybe four days later or something like that. But it’s still the fact that he does respond. I’ll talk to him a lot on the weekends. The ten minutes that I may have with him are like ten profound minutes, where I send him a paper, he’s ripping that paper to shreds and he’s saying, OK, this is what’s wrong with the paper.

Andrew: You sent him your college papers?

Darryn: Yes, college papers.

Andrew: And he will look over your college papers and rip them to shreds and let you know what you could have done differently.

Darryn: Yeah, well he’ll read through it quickly, and then he’ll send it back to me and he’ll say, “Darryn, you know, this is b-s. You know, you can do better.” And I’m OK, I’m sorry. I’ll refocus. I’ll send it back to him, and everything is good, and he reads through it.

Andrew: How do you get him to help you with your homework essentially? Most people would say, “Hey, it would be great, but you know what, the guy is too busy. I don’t have any significant going on. Maybe, when I’m a big successful person, then I reach out to a guy like him, and he’ll want to help me and have something in it.” Take me back to the day that you reached out to him and said, “Hey, can you please be my mentor?”

Darryn: Well, OK. This was freshman year. I got into the program, and I said, “Hey, I’m interested in business.” They asked him. He was on the board and they said, “Hey, how about you help this guy?” He helped me, and I made a good impression on him within the first two years.

Andrew: How?

Darryn: In terms of actually getting my work done, getting good grades, interning at the company that he hooked me up with. And actually the managing partner saying, “Hey, this guy’s a phenomenal kid. He’s going places” in terms of actually obtaining scholarships and doing well in school.

After sophomore year he was like, he didn’t keep up with me as much. He would call me every now and then and say, “Darryn, you’re doing what you need to do. I don’t need to tell you anything. You know what you have to do now. I’m just calling to check in. How’s everything going?”

Last time we talked was, maybe about a month ago or something, before I left for Peru. He was like, “We haven’t talked a lot, but I know you’re doing what you need to do.” I’m glad I’ve been able to instill that trust in him where he’s like, OK, Darryn has a high level of understanding of what he needs to do, and he’s going to do it. If he needs anything, he’ll reach out to me.

Andrew: Going back, you were introduced through this organization to him, and they said he’s the guy who’s going to help you.

Darryn: Yeah.

Andrew: Often, that kind of stuff goes nowhere for people. It’s a leg up. It makes it easier to ask for a mentor. It makes it easier to get help, but for many people it goes nowhere. How do you make it early on worth his while to take an interest in you, and what are the mechanics of starting that relationship?

Darryn: I would say when I first got into this interest of business I was driven by fame and money. I would say that was the one thing that really drove me. That wasn’t my reason for getting into the industry, but I say, hey, I’m in it, and I might as well attain that because that’s what everyone wants to do. I also had this thing of being… I see these networkers on TV, and I see these people, these CEOs, and I’m like, their Rolodex must be extremely long.

Along the way if I’m going to have an extremely long Rolodex, I need to maintain these relationships with these individuals. I need to seek out their knowledge because all of them collectively are going to mold me into a person that’s going to be great. That’s how I look at it because they have experience. They have a wealth of knowledge, and I can only learn from them. I’ve been put in these positions where people are in my life, and they’re trying to affect me in a positive way.

So, having that understanding, I’m like, OK, let me keep in contact with them, let me do this, let me do that. And also within an organization, I’m saying maybe looking back on an organization is really not going to progress the organization if I just let this relationship falter.

Andrew: I see. So, it’s the little things that you do to keep the relationship going, and then whenever there’s an opportunity like a job or an internship and they introduce you to someone who helps you get that job or internship, you do great work there so that it reflects well on the person who introduced you. And it makes them want to help you even further and I see.

I hinted earlier that there’s something about the way that you reach out to people. Let’s talk about that now. What’s going through your head as you’re writing an e-mail to someone? What are you thinking is going through their head, and how do you reassure them that this is an e-mail that they’ll want to continue getting?

Darryn: OK. Well, the thing is why e-mail people? I want to make sure that it’s something significant, something that’s gone on in my life, such as me becoming commencement speaker or me actually going out and journeying on this humanitarian trip and actually trying to help others. That’s something that I want to make sure I convey to whoever I’m e-mailing.

Also, I think it’s very important to check in with them. It’s also very important to see how they’re doing, what’s new in their lives, and you find out a lot of phenomenal things. You find out about people getting married, people engaged, people left their job because they hated it. You find out all these wonderful things and little things like that, like those subtle things that you learn.

Those intangibles that you develop with these individuals really develop a lot of rapport and develop trust. And then, after a while when you’re showing that you have a vested interest in them and it’s not just OK, you are helping me because you’re in your position, and I’m trying to get to where you’re at. These people want to help you. These people want to contribute to you going on humanitarian trips. These people want to put you in contact with people that are going to advance you in a specific professional path that you’re trying to go through.

You develop things like that, and you develop great friends in the process.

Andrew: One of the things that people feel when an e-mail comes in is, oh, now I’ve got to respond to this. Now I’ve got to deal with that. How do you deal with that issue? How do you anticipate? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Darryn: In terms of people…

Andrew: You know what? I should just say it because you and I did a pre-interview, and I’ve got a bunch of notes here. And I’m trying to lead you through some of the ideas that we talked about, and you might have mentioned casually.

The idea of sending an e-mail to someone and making sure that they know the burden’s on you, the sender not on them, the recipient. You’re not sending an e-mail where they have to act on it. You’re not sending an e-mail where they have to respond. You’re not sending an e-mail where they have work to do. You’re not sending them another to do. You’re just saying, “Hey, this is what I’m up to” and checking in to see where they are.

You’ve always been very good… First of all, those e-mails are reassuring, and second you’ve always been really good about knowing details, like when I got married, knowing that I married Olivia, knowing that we moved to Argentina, knowing little things. How do you keep up with that? What do you have, some kind of CRM? Do you have some kind of application that you use to store all this data, and you’re diligent about taking all the inbound e-mail and put it in there, or do you do something different? What do you do?

Darryn: At the very beginning, I would say back in like tenth grade, eleventh grade I used Microsoft Access.

Andrew: OK.

Darryn: I used Access to keep everything in line, but actually as I’ve gotten better at it and as I’ve gotten better at memory things, I can just go through my phone now, my Blackberry, and I can see, OK, Andrew Warner. Things pop into my head when I see your name, Argentina, you’re being married to Olivia, things like that. Or I’m scrolling down and I’m saying, oh OK, this individual, and if things pop into my head, that’s just how it is.

I think that I might go back to the Microsoft Access template. I think it was very, very, very useful at that point in time, but as I started growing and changing for some reason I didn’t use Access anymore, and I felt that the Blackberry would suffice.

Andrew: How do you make sure everyone gets an e-mail? First of all, does everyone get an e-mail from you, everyone in the Blackberry?

Darryn: Yes, I say all with the exception of friends which I talk to on a daily basis or something like that, but even friends that have graduated one or two years ago I make sure I e-mail and make sure I find out how they’re doing or I’ll send them a quick text, things like that. If I feel like I have a texting rapport with the person when I’m going through the phone, I’ll just shoot them a quick text right then and there.

Andrew: And it’s just as simple as adding everyone you meet to your Blackberry and then whenever something big happens you’re reaching out to them individually and sending an e-mail.

Darryn: Exactly.

Andrew: And it is individual, right? You’re not mass mailing us.

Darryn: No, no, no. It’s all individual.

Andrew: So, you have hundreds of people in your address book, I imagine by now? You’ve been doing this, at least four years.

Darryn: Yes.

Andrew: How long does it take you when you get invited to give a commencement speech? How long does it take you to send out those e-mails?

Darryn: I’d say with a commencement speech, I sent those e-mails out within a week.

Andrew: How many hours of e-mailing is that?

Darryn: I would say, maybe two hours, maybe.

Andrew: Two hours of e-mailing, e-mailing how many people?

Darryn: Yeah. I don’t know. Let’s say, the ones that I’m actively keeping contact with, it has to be around 100, 60 to 100, I would say, with the relationships that I’ve built across an array of industries, people from all different backgrounds, from Major League Baseball to entrepreneurial to whatever.

Andrew: It’s mostly the top people then who you’re e-mailing.

Darryn: It’s all people.

Andrew: All people.

Darryn: Analysts, anyone that I’ve met.

Andrew: Wouldn’t you have known a couple of hundred people by now if it’s everyone who you’re meeting, pretty much?

Darryn: Yeah, I would have, but it seems like the people I’ve e-mailed, a lot of them have changed jobs, and they gave me their work e-mails. All I have are a few personal e-mails, so they change jobs and I get these bounce backs, and they haven’t notified me of anything because some of them I just have e-mails. Some of them, I don’t have telephone numbers and those individuals that I’ve also e-mailed and just don’t respond as well.

Andrew: I see. Some people just fall out, you fall out of touch with, but the ones who you’re in touch with personally, roughly 80 to 100 or so, and they’re the ones that are getting e-mails. You send them an e-mail with a quick update.

I’ll tell you. If all you did was I got a commencement speech, things are going great for me, and then there was no follow-up e-mail in the future, it would seem a little showy, and it would seem substanceless. But because it’s so consistent, I mean like… I don’t know how frequently. There’s no system to it. I’ve been looking at it to see. Does he have an alert that says it’s been four weeks, send an e-mail? No?

Darryn: No.

Andrew: Nothing like that. It’s just whenever. Because it’s so consistent, we’re kind of following along with the success story. This guy, who was in high school, who is part of the Reardon Program where I met him or part of some other program where someone else met you, who is moving a little bit further and a little bit further still. And you’re just kind of watching and rooting for the person and hearing what’s going on, and then every once in a while staying in touch.

Do people always respond? I think I respond to every two or three e-mails. Do people always respond?

Darryn: I would say a vast majority of people really do respond. They always respond. It’s been sad because sometimes there’s people that I’ve been in contact with, and they never respond, and these bounce back e-mails change. I’ve lost several contacts that way over the years.

The people that I have maintained contact with are pretty phenomenal people, and they’re always thinking about me, specifically like my mentor who I told you about, the hedge fund guy. He calls me up and he says, “Are you in L.A.?” I was in Philadelphia at the time, but he said, “I’m going to this event with a bunch of hedge fund managers tomorrow, some of the biggest hitters in L.A., and I would love to bring you along.” Missed opportunities like that. I’ve had several of those where it’s like…

Andrew: He flies you out?

Darryn: No, he didn’t fly me out.

Andrew: He just says it would have been great. Sorry you’re not there. Next time.

Darryn: Exactly. So, opportunities like that over the years, I’ve had several of those and you figure per event, that’s like three to five contacts missed.

Andrew: Gotcha.

Darryn: Little bits like that add up which is why the base isn’t as large as it should be.

Andrew: All right. How about another mentor? I know you’ve got multiple mentors, or how about this? Give us some advice for getting mentors and then staying in touch with them so that it’s a productive relationship, not just some kind of pen pal.

Darryn: OK. I think with mentors, I run it the way that I usually run kids that I’m mentoring now. I actually had a conversation with him the other day, a kid that I’m mentoring at Haverford University. I told him from the beginning, I said that I’m going to run this the way my mentors ran it with me, and I told him, look I’m here for you as a resource. I’m here for you to check in, for you to bounce ideas off of, if you want to know something about the industry.

Do you want to know something about specific professional development programs? I can assist you with that, but it’s really on you. It’s really on you to reach out to me. I’m about to get really busy right now with work and stuff, and so it’s really up to you to make sure you cultivate this relationship and maintain contact. That’s how I was kind of raised in the mentorship game. It’s just really like, if you want something you will let me know.

Andrew: I see.

Darryn: You will reach out, and that’s the mentality that I’ve had. I’ve been really, really proactive at time of actually letting these people know that I need assistance with something or that I would like their opinion about certain things.

Andrew: I see. Audacity; that’s what it is, one of the things that you believe in. I’m looking at my notes here and that I scribbled in our pre-interview. You say that you believe in audacity. I think most people would have seen this too audacious. If someone offers to help, yeah, he’s just being nice. I’m not going to take advantage of it. I’ll just say thank you and move on, and maybe in the future we can work together. You say no, not only do I have to take advantage of that opportunity because it’s presented to me, the guy wants to help, but also I’m going to make other opportunities that I can use.

Like, for example, since you’ve worked at Black Rock, how has your audacity expressed itself, this belief that people need to be audacious?

Darryn: It really came out in the internship. I went through this professional development program called Management Leadership for Tomorrow. They always promoted the concept of FILO, first in last out. As an intern, not being scared to talk to people. Whenever you’re in a group setting and you raise your hand to ask a question, you say your name and you say your group.

It’s funny because I always did that. I always said Darryn Lee, TAG [sp]. No other intern ever did that when we were talking to these executives, and to me it’s phenomenal that they never did that. But things like, I’m sitting at my desk, and I get my work done, and I’m taking in more work, and I’m still getting it done. And I’m looking in the directory, and I’m like, OK, this person is in portfolio management. Eventually, I want to get to portfolio management, or eventually I want to get to institutional sales in London.

So, I’m on the directory and I’m e-mailing these people. I’m saying, “Can we meet for coffee? There’s a Starbucks on the first floor in the building. We can go down there and meet up for coffee.” You go down there. You find out about these people’s lives. You find out a significant amount.

Andrew: You just go through the directory at work. You’re finding people whose jobs you’d like to have one day, whose work you admire, who you want to get to know, whatever your criteria is, and you’re just pinging them with an e-mail and saying there’s a coffee shop downstairs. Let’s go and get coffee.

Darryn: It’s phrased a little bit more eloquent than that, but yeah, it’s definitely along the lines even analysts in my group. I’m saying, “Hey, I’m looking to get into this. Who should I talk to?” And they said, “Oh OK, you should reach out. You know this guy? He’s a really cool guy, really laid back, really candid. He’d definitely let you in on some good things.”

That’s what I’ve been doing, and there’s people all along the hierarchy where there’s directors, where there’s executives at Black Rock, whether it’s VPs or whether it’s analysts and associates and just really being bold about that. At Black Rock alone I have been able to build 10 to 20 individuals outside of my group. So, now going into orientation on August 15th, by being an intern I already know these people. They already know my name, and I already have rapport. Now, I can just expand from there on out.

Andrew: You know what? I worked at Bear Stearns when I was in college, and I remember that people prided themselves on being tough. On Wall Street people pride themselves on being so rude that stories of phones being flung at interns are rampant. Everyone is proud of the guy that does that. It’s just part of the process.

In an environment like that on Wall Street where people are busy and they don’t feel like they have to be nice, why, not why, how do you get someone to take time out of their busy day for a guy who is not going to do anything for them and for a guy who demands something from them, information, knowledge, time? How do you get them to say yes?

Darryn: It’s difficult, man. I’m actually going through that right now. We’re trying to set up a call with a V.P. in London that I really, really want to talk to, and it’s like, he’s really busy. He’s doing this, he’s doing that. He’s traveling and stuff like that, but I just keep e-mailing him. I just keep e-mailing him. Someone told me once a couple of years back, he said, “People are [??]. You have to haggle them.

I think I understand New York so much more. I understand New York a lot better than I did before my first summer interning in New York. It’s like, New York, everyone wants to be in New York. Everyone wants to set up a meeting with certain people in New York. Everyone wants to be in the social scene and the professional scene, to be a socialite. That’s what they wanted, right?

New York doesn’t give that to you. You have to take it. You have to go for it. You have to get it yourself. Same with meeting up with these individuals. I’m going to keep e-mailing executives at Goldman or executives at Black Rock as long as they keep responding. They must be interested in something, but it’s the fact that I want to get five minutes of your time. I will go from Philly to New York, spend $20 on a bus ticket to go up there and meet with you for five minutes and then come right back to Philadelphia.

Andrew: And then, if you get the five minutes, what are you going to talk with them about? How do you make it so memorable that it builds a relationship and doesn’t become one of those, hey, some crazy kid came over and spent five minutes with me because he’s so determined. Way to go, kid. The future is great. How do you build a relationship?

Darryn: I think it’s really coming at them, and you’re saying, “Hey, this is where I stand. This is where I’m trying to go, and as a [??] you will benefit me a great deal.” I think, making sure the person can impact myself and conveying that to them will seem like they’re not wasting their time.

Andrew: I see. Because you’re young and early in your career, you think and you’re finding that people want to help you out. You just want to communicate with them. This is where I am going. I could use some help. If you want to help out someone who’s willing to work hard, I’m here to accept as much help and give you as much to be proud of as possible. That’s the offer that you’re essentially making?

Darryn: Exactly. And it can be with people that I don’t know, like right now I’m drafting my third letter to Kenneth Chenault. He’s someone I really admire. This guy is, obviously, chairman and CEO of American Express, but I sent him a letter a couple of years ago, “Hey, I look up to you”, stuff like that. These are four of the reasons. He has a V.P. of Community Affairs at American Express respond and say, “Hey, we like your letter. Here are some articles on leadership”, things along those lines.

And now, I’m trying to maintain a contact with him. I’m trying to maintain a line of communication while I’m like, “Hey, I want to meet up with you. I’m going to be working in New York at Black Rock, and I’m pretty sure American Express is in some way or form a client of Black Rock. I’m like, “This is what I want to do. I want to meet with you, even if it’s for five minutes.”

He’s probably one of the most busy people on Wall Street, but I just want to meet with him five minutes because in those five minutes I’m pretty sure he can affect my life in such a way that I’d never imagine.

Andrew: How does a contact like that affected your life? Give me some examples of how your life has been impacted by people who you connected with or who helped you out, people who you met through this kind of process?

Darryn: I would say really, most recently after graduation. When I was e-mailing everybody, I was asking for words of encouragement or any assistance that they can impart on me in terms of actually helping me out. How do I successfully manage, successfully navigate this transition from college to the actual professional world, especially in a city like New York?

Just hearing the responses from everybody that responded, it was phenomenal. Everybody has completely different ideas in terms of how do you do it, in terms of when is… I asking, how do you manage your work life and your social life, things like that.

Some are saying, you have to make sure you set time around this. Some are saying, oh, it doesn’t matter because you’re going to be working so much, and you have to build around work, things like that. The responses that I got from people I have good rapport with are not just two sentence responses, do this, do that and have a good life. These people are actually taking time out of their busy day, and they’ve written paragraphs in terms of how they feel I can actually manage this transition.

Some are saying, call me at the office. I got this one when I got back from Peru, and we will have a full conversation in terms of what we look for at our company in terms of new analysts and, maybe you can take those characteristics and transplant that to your job at Black Rock.

Andrew: All right. That’s a great example. I’m looking at my notes here, and I’m trying to figure out where to go next. I promised people we’d get back to AIG. How did you end up working at AIG?

Darryn: OK. I’m in a business honors program. I was in the business honors program at Temple University when I attended Temple. Our list server they sent us an e-mail saying, “Hey, there’s opportunity at AIG. Call the AIG Scholarship for Success Program. You apply for the program. You get a full tuition reimbursement scholarship for the duration of your time at college, four years max. It’s a mandated internship with them in the summer.”

Like I said, I really prepared for that. I had to have a phone interview actually because I couldn’t fly to New York City from L.A. This was when I was still interning in Los Angeles at the Ashland [sp]. So, right before I had to get on that early bus to get out to L.A., I’m talking to the guy and we’re having a phone interview right there.

With phone interviews, I like to dress up full suit.

Andrew: Even though you’re on the phone?

Darryn: Yeah, even on the phone.

Andrew: Why?

Darryn: Because it gets me in the mind set, OK, I’m taking care of business. That’s just what I enjoy doing. That’s what I like to do. It’s worked for me thus far, and I hope it continues to work for me. A very conservative style suit…

Andrew: OK. You were on the phone with him?

Darryn: I was on the phone with him. Things went well. He asked me a couple of questions, and the thing was we really built something that went beyond an interview and questions he was asking. I brought up some things in terms of making sure I stay up-to-date on the news or growing up in the inner city, and he was on the phone. He said, you know what, “I remember when I was younger. My dad made my brother and me stay abreast of the news every day” or things like that.

So, really most of the interview became just an actual conversation about each other’s backgrounds as opposed to OK, are you worthy enough for this scholarship? They determined that I was worthy with grades and internship experience. Obviously, AIG was going down the crapper with all of their credit [??] and they were really becoming insolvent, and that was becoming an issue on Wall Street.

Like I said, I had this scholarship. They were going to take care of a significant portion of money for me and an internship. I’m staying up at 11:00 p.m. at night watching CNN. I’m hoping, praying to God that the government bails out AIG. I remember that day like it was yesterday. They bailed them out. I was happy, but now the issue was if they were going through an extreme amount of restructuring. So, they only had these underwriting positions and things like that on the insurance side. I said, “Thank you for the opportunity, but I don’t want to do insurance.” So, I was able to network my way into…

I had to work hard, three rounds of interviews, going to the office in the rain, things like that and was able to get on the hedge fund to fund side. I met some great people and did about an eight to ten week internship there and learned a lot and built some contacts that I still keep in contact with.

Andrew: You got a full tuition from AIG, didn’t you or was it just a line?

Darryn: The way it worked was really weird. They called it a full tuition reimbursement scholarship. Basically, it’s like paid. You take the loans out from Citi or whatever bank, and you pay for your tuition. And then, you send them a transcript of the receipt or whatever. You send it to AIG. It says, you took out $10,000 in loans. So, I’m going to send Temple $10,000, but the thing is with Temple, Temple keeps it on their books. They don’t send it to the bank, so with Temple it’s like, OK, we’ll just reduce your next semester or next year’s tuition by $10,000 because of the scholarship. At the end of the day, I’m still on the hook for $10,000 with Citi.

It was kind of like, AIG, sneaky AIG, they kind of worked their way around it.

Andrew: Interesting.

Darryn: I mean, if it was really a full tuition scholarship, they would have sent the money straight to Citi and cleared the loans or something along those lines. Still, it kind of reduced the loans I had to take out, that coupled with other scholarships, so it was still good. It was still good, but AIG, they kind of worked it.

Andrew: I never heard of such a thing. When I heard it was a full tuition scholarship, I assumed full tuition was paid for.

Darryn: Exactly. You’re right. Exactly.

Andrew: All right. Let’s see what else we have here. How much debt do you have now that you’ve graduated?

Darryn: I would say, with college debt, maybe around 60.

Andrew: 60.

Darryn: Yeah, 60.

Andrew: Oh, wow. And you got a lot of scholarships, too.

Darryn: Yeah, yeah. It was pretty interesting but around 60.

Andrew: When do you think you will be able to pay it off, considering the career trajectory?

Darryn: Four years.

Andrew: Four years.

Darryn: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m looking at my notes here. Is there a reason why when we talked about audacity and we talked about the people you called, I’m sorry, the people you e-mailed, was there a reason why you didn’t also mention the top people at Black Rock, that you e-mailed them and you got through to them?

Is that something you want to keep private, the people at Black Rock who you got to speak with this way?

Darryn: No, no, no.

Andrew: OK.

Darryn: I definitely e-mailed a lot of the top executives at Black Rock.

Andrew: And they were willing to say yes and sit down with you and have a conversation and help you.

Darryn: Yes, yes. They definitely wanted to say yes. [??] was one of the CEOs of the Global Client Group, and she was very, very candid in terms of how she felt about how she was able to manage her work life and her social life. It was very phenomenal speaking with her. She had a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience. It was just a great time sitting down talking with her, and those are the type of things that I yearn for, to have a conversation and meet with these people who have so much knowledge.

Andrew: What about the CEO? Is Laurence Fink getting e-mails from you on a regular basis?

Darryn: No, I haven’t built up the courage.

Andrew: Not yet. When I was in college, I worked at Bear Stearns, and I admired the hell out of Ace Greenberg. This was a guy who really built up Bear Stearns, who was devastated when the company went under. I made a phone call to him, I think, or I sent him an e-mail, and I said, “I’ve been studying you. I’m a big admirer. I’ve been working for your company. Can I come by and say hello?” And I was surprised that he said, “Yeah, come on by.”

Actually, many times I just tried to get in the office to go see him, and I forget what it was that I did, but it was just… I know what, he said yes. So, I waited for him to come out. I figured on his way to the car I can say hello to him. Anyway, security saw me there a few times and actually wanted to figure out what was gong on with me and wanted to have me removed from the building.

That’s when I finally said, “I’m just going to walk over to where he works.” He didn’t have an office of his own. He was right on the trading floor. I went and I sat next to him, and I couldn’t believe how accessible he was. That’s the big message that I left with, that people are really accessible if you just reach out to them. I guess you know that as much as anyone else.

Darryn: Yeah. Exactly.

Andrew: Let’s see what else we’ve got here. Persistence and consistency, those are the big lessons that I’m taking from your experience here. How about one last piece of advice for someone who’s listening to us right now who’s in the position you were, say, maybe five years ago or four years ago when you and I met?

Darryn: Let’s see, there’s persistence. There’s consistency. And I think you also have to maintain a sense of humility. I think a lot of times and it’s something I’ve struggled with it a few times, is that you’re meeting all these people, things are going well, you’re meeting these big individuals, these bigwigs and they’re all right in their industry, and your head starts getting big. You’re just like, OK, I don’t need anybody else. These people will take care of everything. No one at my age here at Temple has a network like me, things like that.

That’s when you begin to falter. That’s when you actually begin to lose that hunger, to lose that drive. The relationships that you have, you stop cultivating those relationships, and you stop building new relationships. I think, maintain a sense of humility. You keep reminding yourself that I got to this point, which is very far from where I started when I was young. But the thing is I still have a long ways to go to be able to make a significant impact on those that were in my community when I was younger. That really gets me.

Andrew: That’s a great place to leave it. I’m going to urge people who are listening to… I always say this. They shouldn’t just watch these interviews. They should say hello to the person who does them. They should build a relationship with them, the way that you build relationships with such great people. But I’m especially urging people to do it with you and especially if they’re earlier in their careers. They should just reach out and say hello and do what you did, which is short e-mails, no burden on the recipient.

If people want to contact you, do you feel comfortable giving your e-mail address here?

Darryn: Yes, yes, I do.

Andrew: What is it?

Darryn: It’s Darryn D-A-R-R-Y-N Lee L-E-E

Andrew: All right. Darryn Lee. Thanks for doing the interview.

Darryn: Thank you.

Andrew: Thank you all for watching.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.