- Tamia Marrow, 21, is a first-generation college student who aced her virtual internship this summer at BlackRock.
- The experience wasn’t easy though, she wrote on LinkedIn: “My summer consisted of waking up early to drive to a relative’s home, working at the kitchen table with family walking in and out, and even sometimes setting up work on my bed.”
- She pushed through to get a full-time offer to join $7.8 trillion BlackRock as an ETF index-investing analyst starting in 2021. Here’s how she did it — and her tips for others to follow suit.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Tamia Marrow, 21, represents the face of a changing Wall Street.
In high school, the Burlington, N.C., native wasn’t worried about which firm she’d land an internship at in college. Instead, she was earning $7.35 working after school from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at McDonalds to pay for her first car — a used 2006 blue Honda Pilot, which cost her $8,000.
She worked that same job throughout much of college to help pay the remainder of her tuition not covered by the scholarships she was receiving to attend North Carolina Central University, a historically black university in Durham, N.C.
Marrow isn’t shy about admitting that she comes from humble means. She and her brother are the first in her family to go to college. Without her scholarships, Marrow said she wouldn’t have been able to go to college in the first place. But, she’s set her sights not on staying in her small town, but carving out a role for herself at her soon-to-be employer BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which reported $7.8 trillion assets under management in October.
Earlier this summer, Marrow, who studies human-resource management but has long harbored an interest in investing, nabbed an internship at BlackRock, working remotely on its ETF index-investing team and as a portfolio engineer.
She wrote about the experience in a postmortem on LinkedIn: “I have an old laptop, there’s no room in my home for an office space, and I live in a rural county with no Internet services,” Marrow wrote. “My summer consisted of waking up early to drive to a relative’s home, working at the kitchen table with family walking in and out, and even sometimes setting up work on my bed.”
In spite of the challenges, Marrow managed to impress, landing a full-time offer in late September, a few weeks after the internship concluded in mid-August.
Her incoming full-time role as an ETF index investment analyst based in Atlanta is set to begin in August 2021, after Marrow is set to graduate. Representatives for BlackRock did not respond to a Business Insider request for comment.
When she received the news of the full-time offer, Marrow recalled that her colleagues from the summer internship were exuberant.
“The current full-time analysts, they reached out, some of them called me, emailed me, sent me a text to congratulate me,” she said. “I knew always that I was going to accept because this was my goal. Working for BlackRock was my goal.”
Marrow serves as a foil to the notion that finance jobs are only accessible to those who attended the Harvards or Stanfords of higher education, and have a pedigree which mingles with Wall Street grandees. She spoke with Business Insider about how she converted her internship to a full-time job, and how others can follow her example.
‘They want the student that they can teach’
First, it’s best to cast a wide net.
Marrow estimated she applied to roughly 20 different companies’ summer internship programs.
For some firms, she only applied once, whereas at BlackRock she submitted for six different positions. She received seven offers, three of which — BlackRock, JPMorgan, and Capital Group — she seriously considered. Marrow ultimately went with BlackRock because it was her top choice, since she had heard great things about working there.
Once she was accepted and started, Marrow was vocal about asking questions and showing her team that she was “intellectually curious.”
“I tell students all the time: Companies nowadays are not looking for the student who knows all of the technical terms. They’re not looking for the student who has five years of experience, because no student has that,” she said. “They want the student that they can teach and the student that is going to put their best effort forward.”
Another tip she offered was to actively solicit feedback. Speaking with managers is key to help get a sense of whether you’re on the right track, she noted. “I talked to everyone one-on-one at least once,” Marrow explained, “just to know what they do specifically and to ask my questions.”
Even though being remote can make it harder to obtain that feedback, Marrow said, having weekly Zoom calls with her BlackRock team made it easier.
Plus, being a self-starter who can “teach yourself some things you have to learn on your own” is an essential skill to have in your arsenal, she said.
‘Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong — because you do’
Marrow addressed the ongoing racial disparities prevalent throughout the finance industry. Just 8.5% of managers are Black, and 11.4% are Latinx, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, while more than 80% are white.
What’s more, the nonprofit group Catalyst found earlier this year that, overall, fewer than one in three (31%) senior or executive-level officials at finance or insurance institutions in the US were women.
The imperative of advancing diversity and inclusion at BlackRock has been on the mind of the firm’s top leadership, including CEO Larry Fink, as Business Insider has previously reported.
Fink laid out specific metrics that BlackRock was seeking to achieve in the way of D&I in a LinkedIn post this summer, saying it was aiming to double the number Black professionals at the firm, and increase the percentage of Black individuals in senior management roles, by 2024.
By the end of 2020, it’s also hoping to see women comprise 30% of its senior leadership ranks, Fink added. By his indication, BlackRock has a long way to go: At the time of his writing in June, just 5% of US employees at BlackRock were Black, and only 3% were in senior leadership posts. “We need to do better,” Fink wrote.
Marrow had an uplifting message for people of color seeking to make career inroads like she has done.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong — because you do,” Marrow said. “Black students — we have to just make our own path, and that’s kind of what I’ve done, especially being an LGBT woman, being a woman of color.”
“Now that I have made it with my foot in the door in corporate America, it’s now my duty to pull someone else up behind me,” she added. “It’s my duty to pass it on.”
As she sets out to do that, Marrow doesn’t plan to cast her small town roots aside, even as the promise of Wall Street beckons. Indeed, when she leaves North Carolina for Atlanta next year to start her new job at BlackRock, it’s the same 2006 Honda Pilot — the one she bought with wages from her McDonalds gig in high school — that will get her there.