Julia Tsai is an Analyst, Surveyor Capital at Citadel. During her 2021 Spotlight Series, she discusses what drew her to a career in finance, the roles of mentors in her career and more.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am Taiwanese (my last name is a tell-tale giveaway) but my family emigrated to the US when I was in 6th grade. After completing university, I worked in finance in both New York and Hong Kong but generally found Hong Kong to be a much more friendly environment for an Asian female, so I focused my professional trajectory here.

  1. What drew you to a career in finance? What has motivated you to stay? Embarrassingly, going into finance was not a choice I consciously made. During my senior year, the on-campus recruiters were predominantly management consultancy firms and investment banks, and as I was an Applied Math major, finance was rather chosen by default. The decision has worked out very well for me though, as I have had the good fortune of being assigned to the M&A team. The permutations possible given the interplay between the relevant statutes under the constraints of the ownership structure just continue to fascinate me. Unequivocally, I have stayed because I am still learning.

  1. How do you stay on top of your professional game? Any tips on how you keep your competitive edge? 

While I would definitely not say I am on top of my professional game, I have found empathy and alignment to be useful qualities. Finance is a people business. If you understand your counterparty, it makes thinking through an issue easier, or perhaps also makes a setback less hurtful.

  1. Mentors play an important role in the development of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person? 

In my opinion, and I have always preached this to anyone who would listen, there is nothing more important than a mentor in one’s career development.  A mentor protects you from the aggression and irrationalities of our business (elements that seem to be in ample supply within finance), challenges you before you realise you are ready, teaches you how to breathe through the market volatilities, and gives support when you are most vulnerable. While some say we work for a paycheck; I believe we are more than that. I believe we work for confirmation and growth: and who to provide the former and validate the latter? Your mentor.

I have been working for 22 years now and I have had the astounding fortune of working for only two bosses, one for 7 years and I am still with the second one. They have both been amazing mentors to me and are individuals whom I respect and admire wholeheartedly, for their intelligence, knowledge, compassion, and panache.