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Success Stories Please share your coming-home success stories here.

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  #1  
Old 07-16-2018, 08:36 PM
flau600 flau600 is offline
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Default Felon to Finance/Engineer. My success story

This is for everyone of us who questions our ability to be successful post felony conviction. I hope my story helps to motivate and push each and every one of you to be the best and most successful version of yourself that you can possibly be.

When I was 18 years old I took part in a series of burglaries that ultimately ended up with 8, 3rd degree non violent felonies(burglaries and theft) on my record and a total sentence of 3-20 years in state prison. From 20-23 years old I served 3 years in SCI Dallas in Pennsylvania. During my time there, my family stood by me and gave me hope and courage to complete my sentence and get back to my loved ones. We continuously talked about plans that I had and goals that I should set to be accomplished when I was paroled. It gives an inmate something to think about and look forward to knowing that you have a plan when you get out. But sticking with that plan and seeing it come to fruition is a whole different story.

In August of 2014 I was paroled from SCI Dallas into the loving arms of my parents and back to the home in which I grew up. The MO was simple, go back to college, get my degree, and move on with my life. In January of 2015 I reenrolled at Rutgers University where I started anew, fresh and eager with determination to make something of myself. The connections and education that I gained while at Rutgers is invaluable. In May of 2018 at 27 years old, after 7 consecutive 20 credit semesters in addition to the credits I had earned prior to be incarcerated, I graduated summa cum laude with a double B.S. in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University.

Armed with my degree, I was unsure of how to go about looking for jobs given my status. I struggled with and still do struggle with self confidence, and while I know i'm technically competent enough to do any of the jobs in my field, I felt that many industries (finance) were immediately unattainable due to my convictions. Nonetheless I put out my resume and spruced up my LinkedIn and hoped for the best.

The recruiters started calling with jobs all around the country but I wanted to stay on the East Coast to be near my family. Finally, a recruiter called me about an open position he had in the finance district, New York City. I was incredibly skeptical about whether I could even be considered for the opportunity, but he sent me a technical test and I aced it, at which point they called me in for an interview.

The company is an enormous investment bank and a household name. They will remain unidentified for obvious reasons. At the interview, I once again killed it, performing incredibly well on all the technical questions they asked me. The thing with computer science, engineering, and finance, is that in the interview they're really only looking to see if you have the knowledge and skills to perform the job. I was never really given a good opportunity to disclose my conviction, nor did I fill out a job application for this position. They just kept throwing technical questions at me round after round. For example, one of the questions I was asked was:

Given a six sided dice, devise a system of rolling that will allow you to simulate the results of a seven sided dice. Once I came up with the system, they follow up with the question, do you need an infinite number of rolls to have a certain probability of accuracy in representing a seven sided dice. Prove why or why not.

There were many other technical questions, each asked by varying levels of engineer. I answered all of them to the best of my ability and they thanked me and told me my recruiter would be in touch.

Fast forward a week and I haven't heard a word when finally my recruiter calls me and tells me that I blew them away with my answers and quantitative reasoning and that they want me to go in for a final interview with the Chief Technology Officer and the VP of Engineering of the company. The recruiter tells me it will be another round of technicals so I prepare myself accordingly.

I arrive back at their office in New York City on the day of the interview to be greeted at reception by the VP of Engineering. We walk into the CTO's office and exchange pleasantries for a minute. They go over my resume and ask me some basic questions about things I did while in school. Then the VP of Engineering asks me to derive the Black-Scholes formula on a white board. Let me pause for a second and explain in laymans terms, the Black-Scholes formula is a partial differential equation that almost every physics/engineering/mathematics student knows how to derive. I complete it and they say okay thats all we needed to see your recruiter will be in touch with you. The interview lasted about 15 minutes, again, no good opportunity to disclose my conviction.

I thought for sure I blew it. As I get to the lobby and walk out of the building my recruiter calls me and asks me if I want the job, I say hell yeah. He says alright you got it they just called me with a verbal offer, you should be receiving a written offer in your email soon.

Fast forward a week, I receive a correspondence from their HR department that I need to complete a HireRight background check and formally accept the written offer that they attached to the email. At this point I think I'm screwed and they're going to yank the offer once they find out. I sign and return the offer letter to the HR person but I procrastinate on filling out the background check. A few days go by and another HR person reaches out to me with forms to fill out for an FBI fingerprint background check that are required to have some licenses that they require their employees to have. At this point I feel like I have no choice but to disclose my convictions to them.

I draw up an email and forward it to both the CTO (he emailed me personally congratulating me on the offer), and the two HR people, I left out my recruiter (I don't have a specific reason why). I tell them EVERYTHING, thank them for the opportunity, and apologize for wasting their time, wishing them best of luck in finding a suitable replacement for my position.

A few days go by and I hear nothing when finally my recruiter calls me and asks if I received a start date yet. I still don't tell him about my convictions, instead, I tell him I have not received a start date yet (a true statement). He says he will call their HR and find out what's going on. I think to myself, that's the last that i'll hear from him. Not even 5 minutes go by and he calls me back, I watch my phone as it goes to voicemail. He then sends me a text telling me to call him and that it's urgent.

I figure since I wasted his time and effort, I'll let him yell at me. I call him up and he says "Alright so you did some stupid shit when you were 18, they don't care, they want you. Your team members are all okay with it, the CTO and VP of Engineering are alright with it, and your HR correspondence is okay with it, it just needs to go to the HR Director for approval, but you need to fill out the background check so do that now and we'll wait to see what the HR Director says.

So I fill out the background check, and hear nothing for a week. I think for sure I'm screwed now that they can see it in the flesh and blood. Today, I received a call from my recruiter informing me that I have been approved for hire by the director of HR and that I will be hearing an official acknowledgment from their HR department.

Not even an hour later and I have an email in my inbox with a revised offer letter with a start date. I call up their HR to confirm and have an extremely laid back talk with them about my conviction and what happened and other discrepencies on my resume. At the end, the lady congratulates me and informs me that if I accept my position as a High Frequency Trader and Quantitative Analyst, I will be starting work next Monday (July 23rd) at a starting salary of 170k a year + a bonus commensurate with my performance.

I genuinely teared up after hearing this, almost 10 years since the commission of my crime, I have finally landed a professional job at the age of 27. My father, who has a PhD in Physics and designed computer chips for Bell Labs for 40 years, and my mother, a pharmacist, also teared up when I told him the news.

What I want everyone to take away from this is that it is possible. I firmly view my success not just as a success relative to other convicted felons, but as a success in general, relative to ANY measure in life. The political trend is changing in that society WANTS to give people second chances, and while we will have to work 10 times as hard as everyone else, we also brought that upon ourselves. My co-workers and managers come from some of the most prestigious institutions on the globe. I'm talking MIT, Cal-Tech, Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton level graduates, and they all know and they all have given me a chance to be on their team and contribute to something meaningful.

Take it day by day and focus on being the best version of you and I'm willing to bet that if you show that part of yourself to the world then the world will be willing to take a chance on you

Last edited by flau600; 07-16-2018 at 09:19 PM..
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  #2  
Old 07-16-2018, 08:42 PM
onedayatatime13 onedayatatime13 is offline
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wonderful story! You had drive and support. It def paid off!
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Old 07-16-2018, 10:53 PM
Minor activist Minor activist is offline
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Thank you so much for posting here! I think a lot of the successful people want to leave their past completely behind them. That's their right, but it means that there's less encouragement here for people preparing their new lives.
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Old 07-17-2018, 01:13 AM
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Well done & wishing you the best going forward! Thanks for posting
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Old 07-18-2018, 06:07 AM
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Most impressed.
CONGRATS TO YOU!
Glad you stuck with it. Glad they are willing to take a chance. Very cool.
Now go kill it!!
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Old 07-18-2018, 06:46 AM
BearsLadyBear BearsLadyBear is offline
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I am so proud of you!!!
Congrats..
I actually teared up reading your story.. We all hope and pray for this success when our love ones enter society.

Keep up the great work. Stay focused..

Again
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Old 07-18-2018, 06:57 AM
Lax24Mom Lax24Mom is offline
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That’s a wonderfully inspiring story. I am so happy for you. And actually I think you did tell them at the best time. First prove your worth and value, and then at the time of the job offer and background check is the perfect time to disclose your convictions, and not before. Glad it all worked out in the end. Wishing you well on your future endeavors, enjoy life, and your brand-new job. Have an exciting first day at work, and we’ll be thinking of you.
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Old 07-19-2018, 10:45 AM
rockchalk1 rockchalk1 is offline
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Congratulations and best wishes to you on your future endeavors! Computer Science/Engineering is definitely the way to go these days. There is a huge demand for people who can do even simple programming that I actually told my husband 2 weeks ago if he can learn this (I don't think he can, he's too old and not tech savvy enough) as well as someone else that I know looking for a job) they can pick up odd jobs here and there as independent contractors very easily.

My daughters will be Seniors in high school and they 100% know that they need to at least get a minimum of a minor in CS, although they're actually considering combined CS/Business programs because they're actually good at CS (our high school fortunately offers AP CS courses) so they're lucky and good at it.

Finally, it is so awesome what you have done. My oldest son (21) did not want to go to college and instead went right to San Francisco and got a job in Silicon Valley as a Software Engineer and went through a similar interview process as you did, making a buttload of money and in his case, they didn't care that he didn't have a degree, he was self taught and also took those classes like my daughters. So for anyone out there if you can teach yourself this stuff, or in some cases take a coding class, it is possible! My son is at a start up that is working on an IPO, has stock options, and is killing it. I still wish he will go to college one day, but that is one field it is not a requirement.

As for the background checks and second chances. Someone I know that is a VP in HR at an Options company recently told me that there are people that will give second chances. She said, don't give up, it can be depressing of course, and demoralizing, but in this day of underemployment, there are jobs and there are people who believes everyone deserves that second chance, so don't give up. Anyone who says they didn't do stupid shit when they were a teenager is a liar.

Good luck to you and that is really so exciting!! I hope you will use what you have learned and even do something to pay it forward somehow!!
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