Suddenly, I wasn't at the gym anymore: I was inside my old cubicle, drowning in mindless spreadsheets and presentations. I got a bad taste in my mouth. The human mind is a wonderful thing - it makes something difficult you went through in the past seem a lot easier than it actually was. Or it simply erases that memory from your everyday thoughts. I'd completely deleted the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference from my memory, and for good reason too. When I was in investment banking, that conference was the bane of my existence.
Back then, I worked in the healthcare group of a top-tier investment bank. That means I was in a group that focused it's M&A efforts on biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceutical companies. Every January, J.P. Morgan hosts a healthcare conference in San Francisco that invites nearly every single god damn fucking healthcare company to one physical location. For managing directors within investment banking, this provided an opportunity to hit every single client with a presentation and/or meeting in one week. Sounds great for business. For analysts like me, this was the ultimate shit-show. This week (and the week before it, and the week after it) would test my stamina and patience level beyond anything I could ever imagine.
The investment banking business model is a numbers game: pitch to x number of companies, and eventually someone will bite. Eventually you'll find a company willing to run with your idea and pay you for it. At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, there are normally 300+ companies present. Most of the pitches our managing directors make at this conference result in follow-up work through the month of April. So basically, I was fucked from January onwards.
As my body continued to run on the treadmill, my conscious mind painfully relived my first ever J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference experience. I don't think I went home a single night before 3 AM for two weeks in a row. Yes, the conference lasted only a week, but presentation materials needed to be put together before-hand. Then reviewed. Then changed. Then printed. Then reviewed. Then changed. Then completely scrapped and re-worked. Then re-printed.
Unfortunately for east coast investment bankers, the healthcare conference takes place on the west coast, which meant life fucking sucked for monkey analysts like me. During that week, I got the most irritating e-mails from the top brass in the wee hours of the night:
"Hey buddy, what was x company's highest stock price in the past year?"
"Need you to figure out who was ABC company's M&A advisor for the ABC-XYZ deal last year."
"Hey. Can you e-mail me over a copy of their latest 10-Q? Need it as a PDF."Every single one of those requests could've successfully been met through a BlackBerry or laptop: both of which every Managing Director had on them. But hey, why bother doing any sort of work on your own when you have a 24/7 monkey glued to a computer screen ready to jump off a bridge for you 3,000 miles away? That's what I went to college for anyway: how to copy and paste numbers from Yahoo! Finance into Microsoft Outlook.
The only positive thing out of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference was the fact that the big egos of the office were all out pitching their brand name on the west coast. That meant none of them were physically around the office for an entire week.
It was somewhere around the middle of the week during the Healthcare Conference, maybe a Wednesday or a Thursday, or maybe it was Wednesday night leading into Thursday morning. I don't remember. The only thing I remember is walking around the office without shoes on, my dress shirt untucked, and my belt on a very loose notch. I needed a nap, and the couch in the analyst bullpen was occupied by another monkey. I turned the corner and walked past the VPs still lingering around the office - VPs not cool enough to tag along on the conference with the big guys. Poor bastards.
One of the managing directors on our floor had an amazing corner office. It wasn't the biggest office in the group, but it certainly felt cozy. I remembered the second couch in his office, the one parallel to the window facing the Statue of Liberty, was extremely comfortable to sit on while I zoned out during conference calls.
This is where it starts getting hazy. I went into that office. I woke up a few hours later on the couch because my chest started vibrating. My BlackBerry, of course, was in my dress shirt pocket. An alarm I'd set? No. I checked the time: it was definitely after 3 AM EST. I'd gotten a new e-mail. I opened it. I stared it for what seemed like an hour before I got started. It read:
"Hey. Need you to fax me over the latest presentation..."