OVERCOMING RACIAL OBSTACLES: FROM YOUNGSTOWN TO WALL STREET
A Story Of Triumph That Will Inspire All To Succeed
As the nation challenges its history of systematic inequality, J. Derek Penn’s rise from Youngstown, Ohio, where his father worked in the steel mills, is inspirational, motivational, and fraught with racism. Penn’s memoir, DIARY OF A BLACK MAN ON WALL STREET: From Youngstown, Ohio To The Big Apple,weaves a narrative of hope and perseverance through the trials of life as a black man and banker in America as he rises to become one of Wall Street’s top traders.
Penn shares racial struggles and triumphs, from his elementary and middle school years, to his acceptance at Duke University where he excelled in athletics as one of the university’s standout players, to his tryout for the NFL, to his acceptance into Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and his eventual thirty-four year career on Wall Street. “I hope that the majority of people reading this book will better understand the life and struggles that a person of color must endure on a daily basis,” says Penn.
Few blacks lead Wall Street divisions. The racism encountered by Penn along the way, in his professional and social life, both globally and in the US, would have stymied a lesser man. His father taught him early on to develop a thicker skin, to be better than the majority party, and he absorbed these lessons while remembering all the slurs and slights.
Penn shares stories of joy, humor, travel, family, and friendship throughout, but the instances of racism that greet him randomly, whether from fellow traders or being mistaken for a terrorist at an airport, are a constant reminder of the inequities and inequalities that persist in the world. He shares his experiences with humility and with the purpose of making the world a better place. At one client meeting, Penn was met with, “So, how did you get to be the head guy?” He relayed a little bit of his Wall Street history and got the usual, “I’ve never seen a black man in a position of such huge responsibility prior to today!” Penn somewhat smugly responded, “You ever heard of a man called Barack Obama?”
The book provides insights into how race in America pervades both the workplace and the social space daily, but also leaves the reader with hope for future progress. While Penn is optimistic that the current industry diversity efforts will yield results, the commitment is still at the very senior levels, and dissipates as it funnels down through the organization. He believes there needs to be a more focused effort to genuinely tie compensation to diversity to effect change.
DIARY OF A BLACK MAN ON WALL STREET will inspire people of all ethnicities to persevere in whatever endeavor they are pursuing, while at the same educates the reader about the oppression black Americans endure.
About the Author:
A graduate of Duke University, BA, MBA, J. Derek Penn has worked at Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Fidelity Capital Markets, BNY Mellon, and is currently an independent trustee, Board of Trustees, Charles Schwab Mutual Funds and ETFs, Charles Schwab Corporation. DIARY OF A BLACK MAN ON WALL STREET is his story.