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Early Career Lesson Number 2- Patience Is A Virtue

Early Career Lesson Number 2- Patience is a Virtue

October 20, 2016

Early Career Lesson Number 2- Patience is a Virtue

The fourth exclusive for Dynamic Commodities in my series- becoming a commodities trader

After receiving the devastating news that Philipp Brothers had no interest in hiring me in the spring of 1981, I felt lost. I let the chance of applying to law school slip away as my first choice was to work for the commodities trading company where I had spent every vacation period from school since 1976.  Philipp Brothers was plan A; there was no plan B. The two days following my receipt of the gut-wrenching correspondence was nothing but angst and worry. Then, another letter arrived.

This correspondence was from my closest friend’s dad, Bert Fontaine who was the head of Brazilian financing. Bert had been my hook into the firm, my “godfather,” and monitored my progress each summer. The letter went something like this:


Your letter to the head of personnel was, frankly, stupid.

It went on to say that I should never assume anything in the business world and that he will discuss the future with me after school ends and I return to New York. The letter made me feel a little better; I knew I had made a huge mistake. I should have consulted my godfather at the firm before I sent that “stupid letter.”

In early July 1981, I returned to Brooklyn, New York and immediately went to see Bert Fontaine and express my regret and desire to pursue a career at Philipp Brothers. He told me that he would see what he could do, but made no promises. Less than one week later he called and told me to come into the office for an “interview” with the personnel department. My spirits soared, surely this would be a formal meeting, and I would soon be in the traffic department back on the lehrling path.

The interview did not go quite as I expected. I was offered a job in the telex department with no promise or even discussion of a traffic job. Bert told me to be patient, do a good job, and my time will come. I wrongly believed that my college degree made me overqualified for the telex room position, but I swallowed my pride, put my head down and worked as hard as I could. Months went by with no indication that I would ever graduate from delivering telexes. After almost nine months, an unexpected call came one day, and I learned another lesson, that impulsive behavior is a fault and patience is a virtue.


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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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