Max Salk currently works as an investment analyst in New York City.

Salk studied finance and history in college, and at first was not completely sure what he wanted to ultimately do. By his senior year, he had discovered an interest in the financial markets, and pursued it by researching and investing in stocks in his free time.

Max Salk’s first job out of school was with Morningstar. It was a great opportunity and experience, but the role he was in wasn’t what he ultimately wanted to do. Soon after starting work there, Salk began to study for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams in order to boost his knowledge of investing and position himself for the right opportunity.

After about 10 months at Morningstar, Max Salk joined an investment management firm in Chicago, PPM America. It was here where he was first exposed to the inner-workings of the financial and capital markets on a daily basis, and had the opportunity to research industries and companies and make investment recommendations for a living.

Salk spent three years at PPM, where he tried to learn as much as he could about sound investing, and how the global economy and financial markets worked. While at PPM, he also continued to study for the CFA exams, until he finally completed the Level 3 exam in summer 2014.

Max Salk left PPM and Chicago in June 2015, and moved to New York City to join Blackstone. In addition to his work as an investment analyst, Salk is a landscape photographer.

How did you get started in photography? What inspired you to start?

I first became interested in landscape photography during my semester abroad in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I was walking around the harbors one very foggy morning, and the balance of the fog and morning light really struck me, so I took out my camera and took a few pictures. That sort of kicked off my interest, and it grew from there. When I travel, I usually take a lot of pictures, but my favorites are often the ones of open, dramatic landscapes. There is a certain peace and serenity I draw from these types of environments/landscapes, and that’s why I like to photograph them. I enjoy the serenity of a quiet, more remote area, and the photography just happens to be a by-product of that enjoyment. Eventually, I had a large and diverse enough portfolio that I decided to start a dedicated photography website.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

I think it is natural for anyone to doubt his or herself at times, and I am no different. When I first graduated college, I joined a great company, but I was working in a position that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do longer-term. I knew that breaking into what I ultimately wanted to do would be a challenge, and there were certainly times when I doubted whether or not I’d be able to do that, and how long it would take to make that transition. To deal with that uncertainty, I did whatever I could to improve my skillset and position myself for that transition. This involved studying for and taking the CFA exams, taking financial analysis courses on the weekends, and networking, among other things. It took a lot of extra time and energy, but it was worth it.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I am genuinely interested in and enjoy what I do. I think this goes a long way in any career. If you don’t like what you’re doing, or you’re not that interested in it, it is difficult to motivate yourself to go the extra mile. When you enjoy and are interested in what you are doing, it doesn’t feel like work.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

I’m repeating myself a bit, but enjoying my job, and learning from it. Being in a field I truly have a passion for and growing as I have has been incredibly fulfilling. My favorite part of work on a regular basis is getting the chance to really dig in to a company or industry in order to better understand it. Sometimes this happens by reading various research, and other times through phone or in-person conversations. I am naturally a curious person, so I like jotting down questions as I do my research, and then ultimately getting to the answer.

What business books have inspired you?

I recently read Ben Bernanke’s memoir of the financial crisis, The Courage to Act. It details the Federal Reserve’s response to the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009 under the stewardship of the Chairman, Ben Bernanke. It is inspiring in that it offers insight and perspective into an unprecedented financial crisis that was facing the country (and the world), and the ability of a few individuals to make extremely difficult, and sometimes unpopular, decisions to combat it.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

This isn’t related to work specifically, but I would have to say a day of ski school in Colorado on a recent trip with friends. Five hours with an expert instructor went a long way in building both skills and confidence, and I believe trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone, and spending time with loved ones are key to overall success.

You moved somewhat recently from Chicago to New York – was it a difficult change?

Moving to New York was definitely a big change, but it was an exciting one. New York and Chicago have some similarities, but overall I find them to be quite different. Like any big move/change, there was an adjustment period at first, but ultimately it wasn’t long before I was settled in.

Do you have any advice for those in a similar field, or who are hoping to join a field like yours in the future?

Go “above-and-beyond” with your work product, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek out the advice of others.

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