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Home  > Insider profile
Thomas Niss
Consulting Finance

"Focus - every strategy is not only about what you are going to do and where you want to win but also about what you are not going to do."

As children, we're all asked the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" How did you answer?

Can't really remember anymore - probably the same as my dad - an entrepreneur.

What have been the most defining moments along your career path?

Getting my first high profile summer internship - it's not a secret that one known name on your resume opens up doors to many more additional opportunities. That's what happened to me. I didn't have family grounded relationships to get one so I worked to establish a strong relationship with one of my professors at Law School. He made the introduction and endorsed my application - the rest is history:) Moving from Europe to the US to pursue my MBA at Stanford - the most important competence in our future lives will be pattern recognition. Pretty much everything builds on the ability to understand patterns and the ability to apply experience in common and in new ways to problemsolving. The more diverse your experience, the more patterns one sees in life, the higher the ability to excel in problemsolving.

How did you get your big breaks?

Guess I try to be as active as possible - being out there. I spend a lot of time listening and communicating. Not having a TV for about 10 years certainly helped:) You can't force luck, but you can increase the chance that luck strikes you by increasing your exposure to the outside - it's not going to happen in your room.

What was the best advice you received when you were first starting out in your career?

Focus - every strategy is not only about what you are going to do and where you want to win but also about what you are not going to do. Make your choices.

What have you learned from your experience?

Don't defer your life for too long - best, don't defer it at all: if you have passion for something specific follow it with persistence. If you love what you are doing you'll be successful. However, don't fall in the trap (as I did) to create such a passion - it's only going to work for very few people this way (didn't work for me). Search for your passion inside yourself - it's there, sometimes not obvious, but it's there. Mine is working with people - pretty vague, right? But it works. Keep on going forward - don't look back too much - choose the places where you like the people you work with and that gives you a wealth of opportunities after two or three years. And yes, build deep friendships - pounding your head against a wall alone gets boring after a while. Read Randy Komisar's "The Monk and the Riddle" if my explanation is too vague.

What would you like to have achieved by the last day of your career?

The overarching goal is happiness. There are only a few people out there who would say that they have worked too little in their lives.

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