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Investing has been my passion for a long time, and my path to managing money has been anything but conventional. I was born in the former Soviet Union, in the shadow of the Cold War, and as remote from the capital markets as possible. In fact, I was being brought up to be free from the “shackles of pecuniary mediation,” whatever that meant. At the time I didn’t think about the capitalist threat anyway since I was busy learning English and training for the Olympic tennis team. However, since visiting the US as an exchange student in my teens, I had always wanted to come back. And since the last ticket to Ellis Island had been sold more than 40 years ago, I had to find another way. Eventually, I returned to study at a
small liberal arts college where I majored in Economics. I got my first job at a trust department thanks to a local banker whom I had met through the tennis team, and who apparently was bent on having a former tennis pro work for him. That is where I became fascinated by investing, and read everything I could find on the subject between my classes and three other jobs I worked to pay for tuition.
After graduation, I headed to Denver where I landed a job as an analyst with an investment firm, and that’s where, according to that eminent 20th century philosopher Freddie Mercury, I had “my share of sand kicked in my face.” Apparently, my vision of becoming an American resident was hopelessly outdated. I thought all it would take was stepping off the boat, or its 1990s equivalent: receiving permanent residency through work. Unfortunately, no financial company would sponsor me for a work visa. The only way out was to find employment in the booming IT industry, which meant putting my financial career aside. I told myself it was all temporary of course. I should have remembered the saying, “Nothing is more permanent than the temporary,” because that detour lasted for many years.
Although it seemed a setback at the time, IT work taught me many valuable skills: disciplined thinking, power of step-by-step analysis, and the ability to formulate and clearly present ideas that many people can agree on. But what attracted me most were the problem-solving aspect and the sheer joy of finding a solution by breaking down complex business issues into manageable pieces. I also acquired a deep appreciation of all those Dilbert comic strips.
I never stopped wanting to make investments my main profession, but back then it meant only doing it part-time. Still, I set out to learn from the best and practice what had worked for them. Luckily, I am put together to learn by reading, and have always been a voracious reader. Since then, I have started a family, co-founded businesses and continued to invest. Charlie Munger once spoke of the art of worldly wisdom. To me, part of such wisdom is either doing what you like or liking what you do in life – I’m fortunate I can do both.
Hedge Fund Manager.
Energy stocks, REITs, Stocks - long, Stocks - short
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