Students deserve to have the same opportunities, no matter where they come from. That means being able to reach the same internships, enjoy decent housing and feel comfortable in their journey through uni.
Students coming from less advantaged backgrounds can sometimes feel left behind. They don’t know the right people to get into the jobs they want, or they might not even know the kind of jobs that are out there at all.
Having the right guidance can make the difference. That might be family and friends, or it could be a mentor.
As part of our launch of the iQ Thrive Academy in partnership with upReach, we had the chance to talk to advisory board member Reggie Nelson about how finding a mentor changed his life for the better.
From a challenging home life on a council estate, to helping pave the way for other young people to access the right support, read a part of Reggie’s journey.
I’m from East London and grew up on a council estate there. I grew up with two loving parents, but they were addicted to alcohol when I was growing up so things were quite challenging. There were words of war, violence at home. I sort of got involved with the wrong crowd when I was younger, but football was an avenue that I used to navigate out of the wrong that was happening on my estate.
I ended up playing football at a youth professional level, and thought I was gonna become a Premier League professional footballer, but that didn’t quite work out. I unfortunately lost my dad to alcohol at seventeen and that’s when I had to find another avenue and way to build something for myself and for my family.
That’s when I decided to start knocking on people’s doors.
I wanted to find out what wealthy people did to amass wealth. That was the question in my mind. Not growing up with much money, I knew that there was something out there that I could find in order to change the circumstances of myself and for my family.
I did a quick Google search of “how do you become rich” and that didn’t really give me the results that I was looking for. So then I decided to go to those [wealthy] areas myself and find out what [people] did to amass wealth. There was a key secret I thought. That if I could attain that or extrapolate that then I could one day become like the people I was speaking to.
So I went to Kensington and Chelsea and started asking people on the street what they did to amass wealth. The answers I was getting wasn’t what I was looking for. So that’s when I started knocking on people’s doors. And at that point I just wanted a response. Either you tell me the skills you had or tell me to go away. I just wanted some sort of traction.
At that point I knocked on the door of the then Global Head of Alpha Strategies at Blackrock. His wife initially opened the door, invited me into the home and then five minutes into the conversation he came in. His name was Quintin Price. During our conversation, he asked if I ever considered finance. I said I hadn’t and he invited me to Blackrock about a month later for an Insight day. That insight day led to work experience. That work experience led to me going to university which I didn’t want to do. But I did. I graduated and that’s when my career in finance started.
My mentor changed my life. Quintin Price is still my mentor today. It’s been about ten years and our relationship has changed from him helping me with my career to us being friends and family. It’s changed from him helping get into finance to him helping me thrive in life. He was the reason I had visibility into finance. He was the reason I went to university. He’s the reason I got into university. He’s the reason that I know about asset management and finance and why I’ve been able to carve out the life I have today.
Mentoring gave me visibility, guidance and hope. Mentoring’s played a huge part in my life.
I didn’t plan to go to university. I didn’t go to any open days. My sister went to university and a couple of the older guys on my estate when to university, but that’s it. I never considered university because I was focused on being a footballer. I didn’t pay too much attention to those who went to university until I made the decision to go.
My first time in a university was my first day at university. I went through clearing – I didn’t do the application properly. I had to set up my student finance and everything late. I just called which universities seemed “cool” and ended up doing economics at Kingston.
I questioned whether I was smart or academic enough to go to university. My biggest concern was whether I was bright enough to do an economics degree when I hadn’t studied maths since I was in year 10.
I think [having good accommodation] is very important. Mainly speaking from the perspective of some of my friends that I grew up with who went to university, sometimes in my environment there are a lot of people in a small room, small house, council flat. Not having your own space to study and keep your own headspace is quite challenging and can play a big role in school and life in general. Having good accommodation and the space to do the work you need to do without worrying about other people is vitally important.
There are ample amounts of stresses. Accommodation and your own space shouldn’t be one of them.
Having programmes like upReach is really important because it provides students with visibility they otherwise wouldn’t usually have. So, finance for example is hyper competitive. The dial is moving, but largely the calibre of people working there aren’t the people that upReach is targeting. They’re not from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and a large part of that’s because access to those industries is very limited. Levelling out that playing field is important and upReach are doing a great job at allowing students to have that visibility and get the guidance they need to enter those spaces.
Reggie Nelson is an associate for Blackstone, a proud published author and an advisory boardmember for upReach. Reggie helps with upReach’s events and often speaks to associates on the programme about his journey.
You can read more about how the iQ Thrive Academy and upReach are providing opportunities to less advantaged students here.
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