Firstly, let me say that I am aware of how much controversy and discussion an article of this type can create (yes, I am young and my experience is limited) and I'm not a big fan of self-centered articles (I have already enough pictures of myself, so when I write I'd rather be talking about something else), but I've been asked infinite times why I didn't decide to pursue a career at an investment bank and the only way to answer to this question is to discuss my personal experiences.
The very short time I spent in the financial industry has been a great school for me, not only in terms of the products I became acquainted with and understanding I gained of how the banking system as a whole works, but from a personal point of view. I deeply respect the amount of loyalty and commitment each financial employee puts into his daily job, and - through tough times like downturns or recessions - the guts they have to keep looking forward and trying be a high achiever.
I also admire the way the whole hierarchical system works, the automatic respect for superiors and the self-discipline it produces, which is an absolute necessity for big structures. The breadth of the informational and knowledge platform that was offered to me while I was working in banking was unique: I could literally reach out to an incredibly structured database of intelligence and get any hard-to-find piece of news or particular information. On the flip side, my personal impression was that the learning curve of a specific sector flattens quite rapidly into, almost, a plain execution role. There's a risk of getting stuck instead of switching to bigger responsibilities.
Having said that, I think it's quite important to figure out if your personality is cut out for banking. It can be hard to be honest with yourself when you have the security of a big salary and you're working for a prestigious organization. In many ways, financial services is a career for the risk averse: while having a relatively big decision power over considerable amounts of money - the responsibility you bare isn't, in my opinion, always proportionate - the biggest downside risk is that of losing your job.
Conversely, I am creative, not risk averse and I love to take full responsibility for what I do. This is part of the education my parents have given me and it means I am naturally suited to a more entrepreneurial career. Although I am always happy to start at the bottom and to play the game from scratch, I am not the typical employee-type. I have been raised as a very independent and responsible little girl, and - by self-managing my image, jobs and business for some years already - I have become used to being my own boss.
I consider every bit of what I've achieved until now to be due to a mixture of luck and hard work: you have to "carpe diem" but after that, it's up to your own effort. Banking has given me better tools and better self-discipline. I am now able to apply these to running my own business, which is and has always been my dream occupation. I will always treasure my financial experience and will miss its very academic, intellectually stimulating environment. But long term, it's not for me.