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IBM - The Second Epiphany

I decide to quit IBM and move to "Wall Street" over the course of just one dinner.

You're taking a new job in a different industry! 

It was probably sometime late in 1992 or early 1993 when I was having dinner with some friends, and one of them had a wife who was working as a portfolio manager at a well-known asset management firm in NYC.

I just wrapped up a year in sales at IBM, closing several significant deals that resulted in multiple awards and recognition. It also put me at the very tip-top of possible earnings for my level. If memory serves, I'd say it was around $115K.

These deals included a vast network upgrade, the migration of an entire division at a bank from DEC hardware to IBM, and a massive sale of IBM "Office," which displaced many other systems from DEC and Wang. Each one of these took about two years from qualifying to close.

[I also had just completed an MBA in Finance at Stern/NYU at night and was very active in the stock market. It wasn't unusual then for my investment business classmates to call me with questions about technology companies.]

What the worst rep at Morgan Stanley makes WHAT?!?

At some point during the dinner, the PM complained about how terrible their new sales rep from Morgan Stanley was. She went on and on.

After a while, I couldn't resist and asked, "How much does a guy like that make?"

She hemmed and hawed and said he was new, inexperienced, and really at the bottom rung but then spit out a number; "about $350K."

Yowza! So I'm coming off my great year at IBM, recognized as one of the best, and pulled down $115K, and this schmuck at MS is making $350K?!

For ever more context, I think the CEO of IBM then was making about the same. (Not including stock and deferred compensation but still.)

It hit me right away - it's time! Soon after, I went in to sit with my IBM Branch Manager, Bill Levine and told him I was leaving. He had a lot of experience, and you usually would have heard all the counters, but I remember and appreciate his reaction, which was, "I can tell that you have your mind made up about this."

That's an epiphany for you.

I had so many great managers at IBM. On Wall Street, it is generally precisely the opposite, so what you get in $$$ comes at a price. Quality management and professional development are just one of them.