Profile: Yasna Vismale, Badass Freshwoman in Business

Yasna Vismale shares her secrets for getting involved in finance as a freshman woman of color with Ellie Hansen.

School/Year, Major, Hometown: Columbia College first year, possibly Economics, Seattle.

Activities outside of school: Columbia Venture Partners, BLK Hedge Fund, Columbia College Student Council Alumni Affairs Representative, BLK Hedge Fund, GGV Capital,  jazz ensembles.

How/why I got involved freshman year: It’s easier to join things as a freshman rather than older, because the stakes are lower and you aren’t expected to have experience. I found opportunities through mentorships and joining open organizations, not even all finance. I even went on Facebook and searched "Columbia finance club." I used the club fair and open events, focusing on talking to people. I always came ten minutes early, did my research, was engaged and took notes, to make myself someone to remember. I ask acquaintances from class to get lunch, so that we can get friendly and see what opportunities that creates. To stand out, I always focus on being genuine and friendly, since finance people can be pretty transactional. Building a genuine connection is important because friends will help you the most.

Mistakes and lessons learned: I relied too much on my personality and previous success with interviews, because the finance industry generally cares more about applicable skills. I had to learn how to navigate people’s ‘threshold,’ or what they’re willing to do for you—get as close to it as possible without going overboard. It’s also been important to learn how to communicate with people whose politics are different than your own.

Advice for future freshmen looking to get into finance, especially women of color:  Don’t just go to finance club meetings; use your network—it’s Columbia, after all. Instead of chasing after senior members, go for younger ones who are closer to your age. They’re more present, have more time and energy, relate better to you, and it will make your bond closer. It’s also crucial to learn the culture of whatever industry you’re trying to break in to. It’s not just theory—learn from talking to people, picking up on their patterns of behavior, nuances, and unspoken rules.

Want to hear more from Yasna? Read her op-ed for Columbia Daily Spectator.