From Welfare to Wall Street Millionaire
By Jenny Q. Ta, CEO, VCNetwork.Co
The struggles in my life have made me the extremely resilient person I am today. I had to overcome many obstacles to become the successful entrepreneur and leader I’ve become. The adversity I faced early in life could’ve stopped me or made me give up – but instead I chose to face the challenges life threw me head on and fight back.
My mother, brother and I escaped from Vietnam during the Vietnam War when I was only five years old and lived at a refugee camp for three years before coming to the United States. I thought all my troubles would be over once I arrived in the U.S., but I was wrong. We lived on welfare and wore clothes from the Salvation Army. My father was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, so I was never able to meet him. My mother wanted us to have the best childhood possible and she’d often take my brother and I to Toys R Us to play with toys for hours without buying them.
I was determined to create a better life for not only myself, but my mother, as well. When I was a child, I promised her that I would graduate college before getting married or pregnant. I achieved my goal and graduated college in only three and half years. The day I handed my mother my diploma was the proudest day of my young life. Not only did I reach my goal, but I was one step closer to achieving the successful life I dreamed of. Here are five ways I was able to achieve my goals:
<strong>1. Find a Mentor</strong>
When I was 21, I moved from the small town of Fresno to Silicon Valley to pursue my career on Wall Street. In my first job, I met my mentor, a senior broker at Shearson Lehman Brothers. It was the early 90s and it was unusual to see a young, hungry female broker – but my mentor believed in me and coached me to reach my goals. I wanted the big corner office, the senior broker title and that paycheck! His words of advice were meaningful and they had the power to influence my career and help me reach those goals.
When you’re looking for a mentor, you should find someone you not only clique with, but also someone you see as a mirror of yourself. If you don’t see a mirror image of yourself in your mentor – you should rethink it. You don’t want to have conflicting ideals, values or beliefs.
<strong>2. Never Take “No” as an Answer</strong>
To get where I am today, I worked hard and never took “no” as an answer. Working on Wall Street as a female is tough! You hear the word “no” from both women and men – but you have to keep pushing. By the time I was 27 I had become a millionaire. I was so proud of my progress. Growing up on welfare, it seemed impossible to achieve the success I had at such a young age.
<strong>3. Don’t Stop </strong>
I achieved huge success at a young age, but I didn’t stop there. In 1999, I founded my first company, Vantage Investments. With my vision, I was able to grow the company to over $250 million in assets in just a few years. After a successful exit, I went back to school to receive my MBA. After graduation, I started my second company, Titan Securities, which was acquired in 2005. I was living my dreams!
In order to reach this dreams, I had to keep going. After founding my first company, I could’ve lived off my earnings and had a great life. But I couldn’t stop. In order to be a successful female CEO and entrepreneur, you can’t give up – keep striving for the next big thing.
<strong>4. Harness Your Inner Strength</strong>
Working in a highly aggressive, male-dominant industry for almost 20 years, gave me the strength and determination I needed for the leadership roles I’d begin to undertake. My continuous strength has allowed me to get where I am today. It’s important to look within yourself and build yourself up when feeling down. I’ve been through my share of struggles, which could’ve beat me down – instead I turned my pain into strength and worked that much harder.
<strong>5. Break out of the Mold</strong>
I believe the best thing about being a female entrepreneur is being different. I grew up in a predominantly male industry and being “that woman” allowed me stand out. Although not all industries are like Wall Street, you should always strive to be unique. Female entrepreneurs tend to be intimidated easily. I think as a woman our biggest weakness is to make ourselves out as looking weak or petty. A female entrepreneur should be strong and proud – we’re making a difference in the world. We’re striving for our goals, we’re changing the mold and breaking the glass ceiling.