Siddharth Gupta is currently a Private Equity Associate at FFL Partners, a private equity firm based out of San Fransisco. California that specializes in investments in the $50-$200 million range, meaning Gupta works with and learns about some of the biggest companies in the world. If any one of us were to look at Gupta’s resume, he would seem like a no-brainer employee for the firm. However, getting to his current position wasn’t as easy as might would think it would be for a person who graduated high school as a Presidential Scholar before going on to earn honors at Standford University.
In fact, Gupta says that he actually had a very hard time breaking into finance. That’s why he has started Samaaj, a website and online community developed with the goal of promoting inclusion within the usually tightknit finance industry by creating a step-by-step guide alongside his cofounder Suman Padhi, a Private Equity Associate at Shamrock Capital.
Why did you start Samaaj?
grew up in Fargo. North Dakota. There isn’t a whole lot of finance in North Dakota for big companies. People who go into that industry are usually from very specific parts of the country like Conneticut. or New York or Los Angeles. Usually, those people also have parents who are already working at those types of companies. I had a really hard time breaking into that industry when I was in college because I was from North Dakota. maybe because I’m not white and maybe because nobody that I was connected to was in the industry.
It’s a great industry to work in. You get to invest and learn about some of the biggest companies in the world and get to work with some of the smartest people in up and coming industries. With Samaaj. I wanted to make it easier for anyone to break into the industry, whether they come from Fargo, North Dakota, a different country or an Ivy League school wanted to make it easier for everyone to break in by learning the things you have to do to break in. I had a hard time and I didn’t want other people to have a hard time.
In what ways did you have a hard time?
The very first time I interviewed for a position. I was told that the interview would be very casual, so I wore jeans and a t-shirt. However, it turns out that even the “casual interviews in finance are very formal. You have to wear the full suit and tie and be on your best behavior.
Next, I handed the guy my resume, which was three pages long. He immediately ripped off the last two pages and threw them away. Apparently, when interviewing for a finance position, you want your resume to be a very succinct onepage document. I had to really learn these ins and outs.
Did you learn the information on the Samaaj website in school?
It’s mostly stuff that you wouldn’t find in a textbook. For example, you may be asked in an internship interview how you value a company; they don’t teach you that in school. Our website helps people answer those types of questions.
We also cover things like common trick questions that you might get asked.
We cover how to dress, how to make a resume, how to network, how to answer qualitative questions, how to answer quantitative questions, how to interview and how to follow up.
Despite your difficulties, I know you are super accomplished academically. In high school, you were a Presidential Scholar. You graduated from Stanford with honors. Will this website help a student
from a smaller local school around here who really wants to break in?
It’ll definitely help them. It for sure is harder for someone who didn’t go to an Ivy League school to break into the industry. That is just a fact. However, what people really like at these firms are people with drive and motivation and that can prove that they’re smart
As long as your foot is in the door. nothing else matters.
You talk very clearly about what the motivation was for starting the website. However, this has to take a lot of extra time and effort on your part. What was the trigger moment that pushed you to actually start this project and get it off the ground?
The moment came about a year before the pandemic hit. My CoFounder and I were interviewing kids for internships at the company we work for and we noticed a lot of people from nontraditional backgrounds like us, were really struggling in the interview process. They were some of the brightest, most determined and hardest working kids, but they were making mistakes that were difficult to overlook.
I found myself typing out notes for these kids via email and giving them instructions for their future interviews so they could polish things up to get jobs. Eventually. we decided to create Samaaj because of how common this need was. To learn more, visit samaaj.org