We recently had the chance to sit down and talk to Jake Wamala on the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. He had a lot to say on the subject of tenacity and perseverance for self and world betterment. His words range true so we felt it was important to share some of those details here with you.
Jake Wamala is a chess champion and global research analyst with a diverse background. He believes in giving back in whatever ways you are able. He certainly has an interesting story to draw us in.
It’s only fair to start from the beginning. Jake grew up in Massachusetts, Boston. This is an industrial town located on the East Coast. In his youth, his father worked in engineering and his mother was an artist. His household saw both sides of book smarts and liberal arts.
He clearly remembers in 2000 when his father lost a significant amount of money in the stock market. This was his first exposure to the investment world and perhaps what piqued his interest. His father knew just enough to dangerous with the stock market. He tended to get in more trouble than he should when it came to investing.
This story was perhaps the revelation of Jake’s interest in business and his journey continued from there. Jake started his undergrad at MIT. There he studied economics and mechanical engineering. For a time, he worked at Morgan Stanley and got some experience with Wall Street in New York.
He spent quite a bit of career time working in the financial industry. Jake gained experience in fields like private equity and growth equity as well as venture capital. He did some independent consulting for hedge funds and took the opportunity to get a good handle on the finance world and how everything worked.
He has always been about building his skills and knowledge base. Eventually, he wants to return to investing but felt knowledge growth was his priority. Eventually, this brought him to apply to business school as Haas.
Jake contributes some portion of his success to chess. He started playing chess with his father when he was just 7 years old. Learning how to play chess and improving his skills over time taught him self-confidence. He made an interesting point that self-confidence is so very important for children. They need to believe they can do something, particularly children of color.
When Jake first started playing chess, his dad would take them to a weekly chess club. Jake says he learned that he was very bad at the game. They always ended up with zero points, which means he only lost games. He says he went on to do scholastic tournaments against adults and still mostly lost.
He clearly remembers his turning point. He points out that he and his sister were often the only children of color. There were a lot of different cultures but very few black or brown people played chess. When he was about 10 or 11, he clearly remembers when he decided to get better.
Parents would tell their kids that the other kids weren’t any good because of their race or because they just weren’t smart. At first, he just accepted that was the way it was knowing they couldn’t afford a coach to help him improve.
Jake talked his parents into a CD-ROM that had chess tactics to practice with. He spent a lot of time studying these and going through them over and over again. He put the term practice makes perfect to work! Eventually, because of that practice, he became one of the best players in the chess club.
He started winning. Winning boosted his self-esteem so he started thinking ahead and planning. At 16, Jake became the Massachusetts state chess champion. He was ranked 16th in the country. He knew all of the other top players his age. Then Jake decided to let go of chess and focus more on his studies.
Jake Wamala tells us his theme is that change happens because of the small steps and actions that you take.
His experience with chess and improvement gave him the grit to learn and persevere. It gave him the confidence to learn disciple and to believe in himself. And that’s where his story really begins.
Career in the Public Market
We touched slightly on Jake’s career but now we’re really going to dig into his background and his time working in the public market. Currently, Jake is part of Aristotle Capital Management out of Los Angeles. He is a global research analyst.
Jake has spent a lot of time building his career and his knowledge base to truly learn how investments and finances work. He has had the pleasure of traveling to many different countries. As part of the Aristotle Capital team, they invest in big businesses, locally and globally.
He spent a lot of time working directly on Wall Street and building his financial and investment knowledge base. He learned how investments work and how to understand investment companies. He also learned the associated risks and how to review those risks.
He believes that background is what makes you who you are. It’s the circumstances that bring you knowledge and help you along the way. He attributes his career success to things like being involved in finance activities throughout business school. Even activities like peer advising or running a speaker series make a difference.
He describes what he currently does as primarily communication. He gets to see businesses and their track records and contribute value to the research team. He works through some social media exposure, traditional media advertisement, PR, and entertainment.
Jake is primarily drawn to the public market. He appreciates the liquidity of the public market. He says his insatiable curiosity really helps as well. He gets to think about the business side of things and even hold businesses accountable.
It’s his experience in the business world that really draws out his thoughtfulness. Jake tells us the secret to a great institution or team is to be diverse. He doesn’t just mean diverse ideas but also people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. People come from all sorts of different backgrounds with different experiences.
Jake puts it like this: “If you want to understand what your customers want or need, you’re going to need their voices.”
Jake Wamala graduated from Haas in 2019 from the MBA program. It’s already been a year since that time and now there’s an even fresher class underneath him. Haas is a forward-thinking school that is open to forward movement and change. They tend to be self-aware about the need for diversity and improvement.
At Haas, Jake was the president of the investment management club. He earned his undergrad at MIT and then went directly into investment work for Morgan Stanley. He has always had a knack for business and how things operate and wanted to dive back into the public market.
Jake did a lot of research about business schools and his research led him to Haas. He was attracted to the four defining principles of Haas. He even named those for us and passed the quiz. Those principles are It’s a question of the status quo, confidence without attitude, student always, and beyond yourself.
He was always involved in the various activities, particularly finance-related ones. He enjoyed peer advising friends and classmates who wanted to invest and being part of the different clubs.
His time at Haas helped to get him to where he is today. He loved the diversity and the ability to learn and be involved.
Passion for Giving Back
Jake has always been passionate about giving back. He believes every person can give back in some way. You can give back to your roots, you can give back to your community, and the options are endless.
Jake’s background really led him to this point. He had a non-traditional upbringing and believes his own community helped him become who he is today. He had resources along the way and if it weren’t for those, who knows where he would be!
Now it’s Jake’s turn to give back and hopefully inspire others to give back as well. He serves on an alumni leadership council. He also believes in giving back financially to support your school if you are able. But, you can also just keep in contact with your school and fill roles where people are needed.
You make connections and you stay in touch and share your knowledge. You can offer mentorship. There are young kids everywhere who need mentors and someone to look up to or encourage them. Be accessible and be willing to answer questions for people who need some guidance. Those are simple ways to give back.
If everyone looked back at where they had been and simply took on the persona that they need to help in those same places they received help, we would see a lot of change in the world. Check in with people, see how they’re doing, just make an impact!
Giving back financially to your community and other organizations is such is important. Jake recognizes that not everyone can give back in those ways. The very best way to give back on a personal level is to simply be available and be accessible. You never know whose life you could change.
One Step at a Time to a Better World
Jake’s footprint is just one of many. If everyone had his attitude and his drive, the world would see more smiles. We certainly enjoyed listening to Jake’s story and learning more about the important of persevering and bettering the world the best that you can.
If you want to hear the full interview with Jake Wamala, check out the podcast episode here!
Call to Action
When Jake showed up for our podcast, he was wearing an interesting shirt. It said “Menos Hate Mas Perrero.” The phrase translates to “Less hate and more dancing”. This is the message that Jakes strives to share. Just be there, be present, and enjoy the journey.
Everyone has a story that has brought them to where they are today. We’re curious to know if you have a similar story. What has life done for you or taught you and how can you use your experiences to better not only yourself but the world around you?
We’d love to hear your stories!