My Trick For Breaking Into New Career Fields Without Going Back To School

On January 1, this year, I got a soft job offer as an investment analyst for a wealth management company and will be based in Dubai (if the offer gets solidified and if I accept). 

Next week, I will be doing the third stage of the four stage interview with the most reputable and hard to get into freelance company, Toptal. They hire only the best and industry veterans, so not just head knowledge but portfolio/experience hugely counts. I have successfully passed the first interview, passed the second which was a very tough test that they say plenty people do fail, and I am scheduled for the third stage next week Friday. But here is the shocker -- I am applying for a Finance Expert role.

Last year, I got a job opportunity with Etisalat. Via referral though. It was for the budgeting and financial planning unit. 

And my academic background? B.Eng in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. No ICAN. No ACCA. No ACA. No CFA.

How then did I break into the notoriously difficult (due to the walls of certification and academic requirements) corporate finance world?

Sit tight 'cos I am going to tell you the secret. It's going to sound simplistic, like a no-brainer and you'll be like "really?"

The secret is to start small, with real work and real clients before head knowledge.

I have friends who are trying to break into the corporate finance world. They've got professional certifications and even work in the financial industry. Somehow, without planning to, I have achieved the very thing they want and without any expensive certification. And what fast-tracked my progress and very cheaply was that I started working for real clients and on real projects. Slowly, I got trusted more with bigger projects and got referrals. Then once in a while, like the Dubai one, a big door opens and someone I have worked with feel I am perfect for the role. 

How about the head knowledge part? Oh yes, I did read as much as those going for professional certification. But with the added advantage that I am immediately applying what I read and the practical use is giving more meaningful context to what I am learning. Makes the knowledge stick and translatable into value.

I am doing the same with web development. And when I am done with attaining proficiency in my French language learning, I will get some well paying translator gig just for the fun of it.


  1. Thank you for the write up, but i will like to know more on your sentence "The secret is to start small, with real work and real clients before head knowledge" because this is my major thing i want to go into this year but don't know how to start. I will appreciate if you can help me out on this.

    1. Hi Segun,

      Glad to hear you made definite plans for the year!

      As per that sentence, it means don't try to get ready with reading and studying before looking out for real projects to learn on.


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