2020: One Final Look

Victor Ou
7 min readJan 6, 2021

A story of how my 2020 went.

It was December 30, 4:30 PM as I grabbed my cozy Winter jacket, put the car keys in my pocket, and took a seat in my family’s car. I turned on the engine and started driving down my neighborhood street and noticed the blazing sunset, casting a brilliant purple hue over the sky.

Photo by why kei on Unsplash

As I drove, I began to reflect. 2020 was a year of exponential growth and change. The organizations that I joined, the content that I learned, the people that I met, and the tasks that I accomplished — I never would have imagined myself experiencing any of it.

Getting a Feel for Finance

This year, I was truly able to expand my skillset in finance. Ironically, it all started after receiving a discouraging rejection from my institution’s investment society.

I Got A Mentor

Perhaps it was a mere coincidence, but I bumped into an extremely educated and friendly person the same day I was rejected. Soon enough, we were conversing about the latest economic trends, news on commodities, and the financial market. Following the conversation, he introduced me to a plethora of resources that could help me increase my knowledge in finance — one of them being the almighty Breaking Into Wall Street: Excel and Financial Modeling Fundamentals course.

At the time, my optimistic self was screaming “I Got A Mentor!”

My conversation with him was just the push that I needed. I felt inspired to read the news, write equity reports, and study the field on my own time. His support for me played an instrumental role in the projects that I accomplished later on throughout the year, and to this day, one year later — he is not only a mentor but someone I consider a good friend.

Throwing Myself In The Deep End

When the novel COVID-19 arrived, it left the economy and the financial markets in ruins. Despite the havoc and uncertainty that the pandemic caused, it opened up an opportunity for investors as consumer pessimism devoured the stock market, tanking the prices of several high-quality businesses.

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

During the lockdown, it provided me with an abundance of time for which I used wisely to sharpen my skillset.

I jumped off the 10 ft. diving board — throwing myself in the deep end.

Without much experience, my first endeavor was constructing an equity research report on Foot Locker. The research was difficult as I did not know how to begin, but after looking at a few examples, I started. After Foot Locker, I became obsessed. I was addicted to the amount of learning that occurred during the creation of a report. It was a fascinating experience — by writing an equity report I exposed myself to how the unique gears in businesses across industries rotated. This addiction gave life to another report on Activision Blizzard and my latest report on Alibaba.

It is safe to say that these projects have exponentially enhanced my business acumen and have prepared me in numerous ways for my professional adventures in the future.

My Entrance Into Entrepreneurship

What started as a call to catch up with an old friend turned into an exhilarating arsenal of experiences that have indelibly left a mark on my life.

iAscend: The Potential For Something Greater

When the pandemic started spreading like wildfire from country to country, unemployment increased drastically and opportunities became scarce. I wanted to help — I wanted to do something.

One day, I received a sudden phone call from an old friend. We caught up and briefed each other on how we were handling the pandemic. Upon discovery of each other’s goals and aspirations — we came to a mutual agreement.

There was the potential for something greater.

From that day forward, we rapidly exchanged entrepreneurial ideas and ways we could provide some sort of relief to our fellow students who had their opportunities stripped away by the pandemic.

On June 14, 2020, the same friend founded an organization called iAscend and welcomed me onto the team. iAscend is funded by the University of Toronto and was created to provide students with the opportunities and resources to help them excel in their academic pursuits.

In the beginning, it was challenging. It was the first time I worked in a “corporate”- like setting and I was unsure of my fit. However, I quickly assimilated into the culture and started producing results.

From designing and leading an internship program that attracted over 225 applicants across 5 different countries to a virtual university fair that garnered the attention of over 325 people across Canada — I think it’s fair to say that we helped a few people out.

Since conception, and with a group of driven and talented individuals — we have been able to make a difference on a global scale, influencing the lives of over 10,000 people across the world. It is through these projects that paved the way for my next entrepreneurial endeavor.

ClueUp: A Completely Different Setting

I met the founder of ClueUp at a Q&A session through one of the events that iAscend co-hosted called Ignition Hacks. Following that meeting, and after a few emails, I started my journey at ClueUp — a Singaporean company geared towards helping students find and use their strengths to succeed in all spectrums of life.

Upon joining, I came to recognize that it was a completely different setting.

I was working with people from Singapore and the United Kingdom. I attended 8:00 AM meetings to accommodate for the time zone differences and found myself surrounded by talent, unique perspectives, and cool accents.

I only joined recently in October of 2020, however, I feel like it has been much longer. Moving forward, I am excited about the growth that this company will embrace as well as all the challenges that we will conquer.

Sharpening My Technological Craft

Python, HTML/CSS, frontend, backend, full-stack, and hackathon — my year started off with me diving into a world of technology. To be honest, I was never a subscriber of technology — the meticulous nature of code intimidated me, and I had difficulty wrapping my head around the grand scale of the subject.

My First Doses of Code

At the beginning of the year, I participated in my first 2 hackathons, StarterHacks, and NewHacks where I was able to familiarize myself with code and the capabilities of technology. I took part in helping my teams create the following projects: HealthConnect and Clothing Classifier.

These 2 projects would be my first doses of code.

Those experiences ignited a deep passion for technology within my heart and before I even realized it — I liked, commented, and subscribed to the world of technology.

Swimming in Code

Soon after these 2 hackathons and straight into the pandemic, I immersed myself in code. I started with Python, as it was considered the easiest language to learn. I studied the code religiously — completing 4–5 problems a day during the quarantine period.

At this point, I was swimming in code.

I decided to create my own project — a machine learning digit recognizer. Now I know, for an actual software engineer, this was an elementary task, however, it was a huge accomplishment for me once I finished.

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

After Python, I expanded my breadth of knowledge to the frontend — learning HTML/CSS. After a few months of tinkering with the code, I was able to construct my own website!

As school started, I realized that it was time to depart from the world of technology and focus on my studies. As I wave farewell to this experience, it is without a doubt that I have gained an invaluable set of skills that will definitely assist me in whatever challenge I decide to take on in the future.

One Final Look

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

As I drive down this street called 2020, it has come to my realization that the days are long and the years are short. I take one final look into the side-view mirror and admire the dazzling sunset of riveting and unforgettable memories that have made this year a blockbuster movie.

As this year’s chapter comes to an end, here are 3 lessons that I learned.

1. An Insatiable Curiosity Leads To Limitless Opportunities

Had I not been eager to learn more about finance or entrepreneurship, I would not have been equipped with the experiences that I have right now.

2. The Importance Of Getting Started

Starting is the hardest part—the momentum of starting is more powerful than any rollercoaster descent.

3. Consistency Leads To Exponential Results

Take Michael Phelps and his medals as an example — he never missed a single day of training for 5 straight years

Turning my head around, I set my sights on the upcoming street called 2021. I crank the volume of my music up a little louder, press the gas pedal a little harder, and accelerate into the new year — grateful for everything that came and excited for everything that will come.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in my journey this year.