February 29th, 2008 | 7:22 am

Journal of an Aspiring Professional

filed under Analysts and Associates

During the summer of 2005, I traveled around Vietnam with my friend Mary. We started off in Old Saigon and worked our way along the coast, via beach resorts, to the northern city of Hanoi. We had plans to travel from Hanoi to Sapa, a small village on the border between Vietnam and China. Our travel agent instructed us to go to the train station and look for a guy in a turquoise shirt, who would have our tickets. We ended up finding him too late and we watched our train as it chugged away. Afterwards, when we were trying to get our money back, our travel agent said that we were “pioneers,” because none of her customers had ever missed the train before.

“Pioneers?” Mary asked, as she noticed the language confusion, “well, at least we will be pioneers in something.”

Fast forward to November 2007. I am in a vacant sales office in downtown Chicago, on the phone with my mentor, John Lothian. John is a journalist-turned-futures broker and I am interviewing him for a story. He publishes a daily newsletter that I’ve read ever since I started working in capital markets. He collects headlines of the day and emails them to readers along with his commentary. He says what he thinks and isn’t afraid of how the industry will react. I like that about him.

When the subject of industry pioneers came up in our discussion, John said to me, “You know how you can tell who a pioneer is? It’s the one with the bull’s eye on his back.”

I met John Lothian for the first time at the Futures Industry Association’s annual expo last year. He was an attendee and I was working at a booth in the exhibit hall. It was the year he participated in a pie throwing contest to benefit the Boy Scouts of America. Since John is so well-known in the futures industry, I felt like meeting him was similar to meeting a contestant from a reality TV show. I knew all about him, but he didn’t know about me.

After the introduction, I pretended like we were old friends, and followed up by contacting him for quotes or industry background. He is a powerful voice in the industry and I so thought he would be a good person to keep in touch with.

Last week, I had lunch with John at his office in the old Chicago Board of Trade building. He is launching a new website called Marketswiki, which is a Wikipedia for the capital markets. Over lunch, he explained to me how technology is advancing journalism to new levels. Information is made available in split seconds thanks to the internet. In some scenarios, his daily newsletter is old news by the time it hits a recipient’s inbox. With this in mind, he has launched a new website where financial news is constantly being updated. He hopes the online financial encyclopedia will become an industry standard.

To further the exposure of his new venture, John created a Marketswiki profile for me. I felt like he was putting together my resumé as he trolled around the internet and uploaded my freelance articles, marketing work and then, my travelogues. I was nervous when he started reading the poetry I wrote during my travels in Vietnam. I always knew that stuff was on the internet, because I posted it there. However; in my mind, it wasn’t the same internet that also published my financial articles. It was embarrassing having him read a poem I wrote while I was going through a breakup and traveling through Southeast Asia. It didn’t faze him though. He included the link on my profile and continued his Google search for past pieces I’ve written.

After I finished eating my lunch, I stopped to think about why I had sought out John as my mentor. In our very first conversation, it was apparent to me that he was a pioneer in the financial industry. He saw a need for up-to-the-second news feeds and made them widely available for everyone in the capital markets. He took his “slash role” as a journalist/futures broker and ventured into a career where he could manage both.

As a writer with various interests and a diverse background, I too hope to become a “slash” professional. I admire that Lothian was able to combine both of his interests into a job that no one had thought of before, but which provided an important service to the financial community. I also realize why I am drawn to John as a mentor. I too want to be a pioneer. In fact, a woman in Hanoi already thinks I am.

3 comments

  1. Alison

    Go Jessica! Fantastic article, you’re an inspiring force. Thank you. Let’s see more of your writing, both financial and otherwise – life is so much more about integrating all its facets than about compartmenting them.

  2. OZ

    what a crock.

  3. Buck

    Great insight to how life works, one piece impacts another. Thank you for being willing to share your insights into how your life fits together. It is a risk few are willing to take. John is on the cutting edge of journalism in the futures industry, a great guy and a good role model.