Yasna Vismale: Financial Literacy

Yasna Vismale is a Coca Cola scholar and rising sophomore at Columbia University. Read below to learn about her experience taking a gap year and developing financial literacy.

My definition of success is to be the best version of myself in the present while setting up a pathway to continue being the best version of me in the future. 

Before starting my freshman year at Columbia University, I decided to spontaneously take a gap year. This came from self awareness in knowing what was best for me at the moment. I didn't feel prepared enough to begin college. I wanted to have complete authority over my time before diving into another structured academic environment. 

Throughout my year I interned at a technology startup, got signed to Heffner Modeling, went on a jazz tour with the C.U.G Jazz Orchestra, networked with CEO’s of startups throughout California, and participated in many other life changing activities. To this day, I have kept the connections I made. I started my gap year with a blank slate. By reaching out to existing mentors and connecting with new ones, practicing my trumpet, setting goals while continually analyzing their feasibility, and saving up my earnings from interning, I created a fulfilling and enriching experience for myself. 

I started to learn how corporations intersected with politics. We are moving into a space where political affinity becomes more important to a business’s identity. Although there are efforts such as Nike’s Kaepernick campaign and Aerie’s unretouched #bodypositivity ads, there is still a severe lack of diversity within the executives who are making the decisions which affect us all. According to Fortune Magazine, female CEO’s make up only five percent of the entire Fortune 500 companies. Within this small percentage there are only two women of color and zero black women. I would like to contribute as a force to helping make a change towards the lack of diversity within our corporate leadership. 

I am comfortable with not fully knowing where I will exactly be in the future. Right now I am equipping myself with the skills to be successful wherever I go. This means learning how the world works. This means understanding how, as a female of color from a low income background, I can obtain a position of influence from broadening my platform to empower people who share the same background as me. This comes from teaching myself how to be financially literate. Financial literacy to me means I have full authority over what cause I chose to invest in. This can be other leaders, certain assets over others, and certain ideas which promote diversity and inclusion. 

I came into Columbia knowing nothing about the financial services industry. However, from my gap year I had built the interpersonal skills to know how to start. I attended every networking workshop and meeting held publicly by the financial clubs at Columbia; expanding my network and learning about the industry. I also attended non-finance related clubs such as the Black Student Organization (BSO) club meeting. I wanted to build connections with mentors in a non-professional and casual setting as well. I met more than enough students - from the finance clubs and BSO - who interned at Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Goldman, and/or Barclays. After talking to them individually to see who I genuinely got along with, I started to build mentee/mentor relationships. I asked my mentors what resources I could use to obtain more information about financial terminologies as well as for help in preparation for interviews relating to finance clubs/internships. 

When I compare myself from the beginning of the year to now, I can proudly say that I have gotten a foothold into finance. From being able have experience as an intern for an international Venture Capital/Private Equity firm, to being selected to attend conferences hosted by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, to interning with a global asset management firm this summer. I can’t say I am as financially fluent as I would like to be. However, I am happy to be where I am especially as a rising sophomore. 

In order to diversify who is making the executive decisions politically and financially, we need to invest in more people of non-traditional backgrounds. Who knows, maybe they’ll be “the next Bill Gates in the making.” Whether it is showing femmes to embrace their inner and outer beauty from my modeling or learning about the financial sector so I can eventually invest in entrepreneurs from marginalized backgrounds, I advocate for the betterment of my society as an intersectional feminist and activist.