This story begins a long way from New York City, the city Marco Ronning now calls home. Now working at Brex for their mergers and acquisition department helping small companies maximize their potential is all attributed to a leap of faith from a teenage Swede who followed his gut.
Marco grew up in Stockholm, Sweden playing soccer in highschool. At the highschool level in Sweden combining soccer with athletics was never a problem. However, things got tricky once he graduated. His options were narrowed down to two at this time; to either hang up his cleats and go to school in Sweden or to try his hand at the professional level. If only there was a way to combine the two. America!
The NCAA was the perfect alternative. Marco would continue to progress on the field while getting his secondary education. Obviously this was a big decision that took up a lot of time and resources, but Marco took a lot of comfort in the fact that if it didn’t work out he could always go back home. “Regardless of what happened, if I went to the US and I hated it I could have always gone back and had good opportunities in Sweden.” Being the first to go to school in the US out of his friends and family the key was to keep an open mind to new possibilities and embrace the journey.
The process became easier as he was recruited by coach Griffin, the Varsity Soccer coach for Hobart College. Even if Marco wasn’t recruited by Hobart he stated “I still believed I would have gone to school in the US, although it might not have been to Hobart.” Nonetheless, the process itself became much less cumbersome eliminating the step of applying to a bunch of different colleges.
It is impossible to know what to expect when you arrive at a new college campus, but that was no deterrent for Marco. It will always be a challenge to adjust, however, being part of a team can drastically change a student's experience. “I knew that it was going to be very different, but I had an amazing time and it was primarily because I was an athlete. No doubt about it. I got to campus 2-3 weeks early, and by the time school started I already had 20-30 best friends.”
In Marco’s new found environment he took advantage of everything Hobart and William Smith College had to offer, which also added to his experience. Besides soccer and his academic responsibilities he was a member in the Investment and Cooking club, while also being involved with the International Student Body Council by attending meetings and helping other internationals climitize to their new surroundings like he onced did. “Being involved with the international student body was objectively a good thing, dealing with people from all different types of backgrounds taught me a lot and it is the same in the workplace; you have to be able to deal with different types of people.”
The other advantage of going to a smaller liberal arts school was the Career Services Center. Of course students have to do the work, however, students are afforded a ton of opportunities and connections through alumni that are extremely beneficial. The very well connected group became very involved with Marco’s success. Marco even got his first job opportunity through Craig Stine, the current chair of the board of trustees at HWS. At a bigger school it might not have been the case, students sometimes get lost in the shuffle Marco explained. “I was very surprised how easy it was to get someone on the phone, especially alumni.” These resources are available at most school’s but Marco found it especially beneficial of how interconnected the HWS community was. “Then you have to pay it forward when you graduate, it’s a beautiful cycle.”
At the beginning of Marco’s college career his priorities seemed to be split between academics and athletics evenly, possibly even leaning more towards athletics in his first year. As Marco grew as a student his priorities slowly shifted towards academics. So much so he even finished his degree a year early. He was focused on making good grades his first year, but by the time he reached his sophomore spring he began a more concentrated approach towards his future career.
Along with Marco’s priorities, his academic interests evolved slightly as well. The end game was always the same (business) but at first he enjoyed studying math and physics courses then a year or two in he decided that he wanted to get into investment banking so he started taking more applicable courses such as corporate finance and accounting to ensure he was prepared for the workplace.
When asked if it was difficult to balance such a full schedule Marco voiced a different viewpoint than most: “It was hard balancing athletics and academics especially towards the end when I was trying to take extra classes, but I think athletes don’t struggle as much as people think because they are way better at managing their time in general. If you want something done take it to the busiest person because they are used to juggling a bunch of stuff. It’s almost like a personality trait.”
It’s safe to say Marco thrived in his fast paced routine. Though his extracurriculars taught him many lessons, reflecting back on his college experience Marco stated, “sports was the biggest asset preparing me for the work environment. Especially mine, where it is stressful and you work long hours and are part of a team and are expected to get the work done.” Marco was able to reapply intangibles he learned through sports such as performing under pressure, pushing himself to the limit, and participating in a team setting to be a high valued employee in the workspace. It is difficult adjusting to new environments but “being comfortable being uncomfortable is a saying coach Griffin would say a lot, and it’s true. Those were some of the biggest lessons I learned from sports. That and going out and learning.”
After school Marco accomplished his goal of getting a job in investment banking at Credit Suisse, who he previously interned for before his senior year of college. Daily responsibilities consisted of assisting companies sell or buy other companies where he gained an invaluable experience and learned a ton about many interesting fields. From Credit Suisse Marco decided he wanted to move closer to the tech industry, in particular startups. Moving closer to his desired field Marco took a job at Facebook in their connectivity department. In part to improve companies' connectivity, but also because Facebook is very good at helping employees get their green cards. Nonetheless, this department was made up of investment bankers, lawyers, and private equity consultants who were allegated a bucket of money to now buy stakes in smaller companies to improve their connectivity. Marco’s region in his new found job was East Africa allowing him to work in his desired field while also traveling the world. From Facebook Marco then moved to Brex, a smaller company where he now helps companies grow to their potential.
Marco has come a long way from Stockholm, Sweden. Away from work he continues to live a healthy lifestyle by doing yoga and running while also keeping his mind sharp by reading and exploring new things through travel. If there was one piece of advice Marco could give to those thinking about jumping into a new opportunity it is to “just do it. It's going to be overwhelming, it's going to be a lot of work, but it's totally worth it and if it doesn't work out you can always go back. But 99/100 it's going to be the best decision of your life.”
It’s funny how things play out over time. Each decision a young person makes will lead them down one road or another. Making such decisions requires a strong moral compass true to each person’s identity. In the end, instead of choosing to attempt a professional soccer career after college Marco chose a course of action to follow his passion, a career in business. “Soccer gave me so many great things and I am so grateful for what the sport gave me but I had a good job lined up and I never for a second thought about going back and playing professionally.” Looking back he has no regrets.
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