Brian Robinson has come a long way and has grinded long and grinded hard to get there. As Goldman Sachs’ head of U.S. prime brokerage sales, he was promoted to partner in November 2020. He’s since set about sharing his advice on the “grit and grind” that’s needed to get ahead, particularly when you come from a blue collar family that can’t afford to subsidize your time at college.
Speaking last Friday at the undergraduate degree conferral ceremony at his alma mater, Radford University, Robinson said his family made it pretty clear that they had big expectations of him. My father said, “Brian I have worked with my bare hands my entire life so that you don’t have to work with yours, so we are definitely sending your A-S-S to college,” Robinson spelled out.
His mother was able to give him $4k a year towards his costs, but Robinson said he still had to work three jobs during the holidays. One was an accounting job (where another Radford student helped him land the interview). Another was a job folding shirts. Another was a job bagging groceries. “Three jobs, 24 hours a day, multi-years at a time. The sacrifice was real.”
Robinson left Radford in 1993. His first job was in U.S. equity sales at Citi, where he stayed nine years and rose to become a managing director and head of emerging market sales. He then joined Renaissance Capital as CEO of the U.S. and head of sales. Three years later, he went to Goldman in emerging market equity sales; he was Goldman’s co-head of EMEA equity sales for six years before led prime broking sales in the U.S..
If you want to get ahead, you’ll need to put in more than standard hours, said Robinson. “A 9-5 mentality will not lead you to greatness,” he repeated. “I had to and was willing to commit to more. – I grinded through three jobs every summer so that I could meet the additional financial commitments to going to university.”
While he was at Goldman in London, Robinson also attended a corporate finance training program at London Business School. “To outperform your aspirations, you have to be prepared to go to the right night school,” he said. “If you rise and grind a magic carpet ride awaits you.”
It’s not just about the grind, though. Robinson, who said previously that he practices the Japanese art of Shinrin Yoku, or appreciating nature, said he’s also discovered the benefits of meditation. “Meditation has helped me. – It has helped me to practice self-appreciation. Learn to love yourself and to love someone else, and know that the first few times it might go unrequited,” he told the graduating students.
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