Growing up with alcoholic parents isn’t necessarily the best way to start one’s life. “I thought situations were resolved with arguing because that’s what I saw my parents doing.” It came by no surprise that this eventually spewed into Reggie’s education. He describes secondary school with a bitter nostalgia – a time of bad influences, vandalism and tactical fights. “Tactical fights?” I ask – “We would pick fights with people we knew we were going to win.”
Initially Reggie had made reference of growing up with two parents but in all his accounts of his Secondary School mishaps made mention of only his mother. His dad left when he was 11 – “You know what you see on the TV; the whole Father-Son relationship it wasn’t like that. He was my Dad, sort of, by like title.” Their relationship was strained – he would still continue to drink when he came back and this took a toll on Reggie’s perception of him. In many ways, Reggie lacked a positive male role model, “I didn’t really go to him for advice”. Quite a difficult situation to be in – the time when you require some sort of guidance to navigate one’s adolescence. Reggie describes a time that had come to define his life so far, the day his Father died. “The day before Fathers Day I invited him to church and he said that he would come. However, on the Sunday morning he said he didn’t feel well. At the time I didn’t think much of it – but looking back he looked really unwell and was gasping for breath. I knew he had diabetes so I didn’t think it was that deep. I went to visit him and for a couple of hours he was in a coma. After that they pronounced him dead.” There exists a brief silence in our conversation. Quite a lot to take in. I offer my condolences and Reggie accepts.
Exclusions from school and an eventual arrest all seemed to act as indicators for a life descending on a downward spiral. On all the occasions that I had met Reggie, he always spoke highly of his mum. There was a clear respect. I was keen to find out whether the dynamics changed when she picked him up from the police station upon his arrest at 14. “She didn’t know what to say, she was shocked.” Growing up on a Council Estate there was always the thought that Reggie could get side-tracked. His mum tried to reduce his exposure to some of the vices on his doorstep. The gangs, knives and robberies which became a natural element to life in Plaistow during his Secondary school years. He goes on to describe that the arrest changed him. “I wanted more smiles from her, not the tears in her face when she saw me at the station.”
I started to get the feeling that after this point, there was a change. A U-turn. Reggie keeps referring to his arrest as a pivotal moment in shaping him. A moment pinned to the wall of his brain. Football seemed to be his first attempt to have and provide a better life for his mother, sister, and himself. He tells me he was all over and had various stints with different clubs. “Barnet, West Ham, Stevenage, Peterborough – but I finally settled down at Woking; where I signed a two-year contract. With my limited knowledge of the intricacies of signing schoolboy contracts – I wondered if Reggie had been doing any other studying on the side with the aim of maybe going to University. “I did not want to go to Uni – it never seemed like a viable option.”
It was at this point that Reggie was invited to church by a friend. He speaks of the camaraderie that was on display at the church’s youth group but also the inspiring messages he heard. “You need to come out of your comfort zone in order to see things happen” reiterating the words of his Pastor. Reggie speaks of how that particular message stuck with him – it led him to think about how he could do things differently. He says it was while watching the show – How’d You Get So Rich that he was inspired to take a trip to the “other side.” He speaks of how he wanted to put a Bible verse he had come to like (Joshua 1:9) into practice. He researched the richest area in London and came to the conclusion of Gloucester Road – Kensington & Chelsea. He decided he would go and ask the same question Joan Rivers would ask in “How’d You Get So Rich”.
“I put it off for quite a while but then I realized that I had a no already, so it couldn’t get any worse that.” He tells me of the day, throwing on a pair of jeans, a jumper and some Nike Flights he decided to take the leap. Throughout the interview, Reggie makes a lot of references to cars – there’s a clear admiration. It was this that caught his eye as soon as he left Gloucester Road station. “I just saw different cars, Aston Martins, Ranges and a Mercedes that I saw in a music video one time.” Reggie speaks of how at first it wasn’t easy, the residents were quite cautious when he was randomly stopping them on the road. He explains how his optimism was restored when he met a man in his Aston Martin who could relate. “He was from Algeria – so he said he could relate with what I was doing. He told me study hard, if you can get work experience do it. Abroad opportunities, do it. He then gave me forty pounds and wished me well – that was an encouraging sign.”
Reggie then decided that he would start knocking on doors. “I had a rehearsed pitch ready for when the door opened, aha!” He said it was helpful that the first door gave him a positive response but the next few were not as willing to lend an ear until Reggie finally got his break. He spoke to a woman with his rehearsed pitch and she invited him into her house – congratulating his charisma and determination. Half an hour later, a guy then walks in, Reggie chuckles and admits that it was a bit awkward at the start, but after getting a briefing from his wife he invited Reggie to take a seat. Providing some background info he goes on to say that he was at the time, Head of Alpha Strategies at BlackRock – trying to explain to me the financial jargon – I soon came to the understanding that he was very senior and quite important. “He was managing about $944 billion in assets!”
After their conversation and finding out that Reggie was studying business he was invited to the Undergraduate Insight day. “The insight day was funny – a lot of people were confused as to why I was there because I was still in college at the time. It was interesting I was meeting guys from Oxbridge, LSE and Warwick – it wasn’t until speaking to them that I found out you could get A*’s at A-levels!”
Reggie begins to let me know about the preceding weeks after the insight day. He mentions how the person he had met from knocking on doors was head of the BlackRock London office and assigned him to a mentor. “He also grew up on a council estate so he could relate to some of the things that I was going through.” Reggie’s proactive hustle didn’t stop there, a few days later he emailed his initial contact asking for work experience and was provided a week long internship in the London Office working with the fundamental equities team. “On my first day I went in with a shirt and tie and my Nike pouch” laughingly he admits “it didn’t take me long to realize that I can’t wear this bag anymore”.
A month after the internship, Quintin had asked to meet his mum. He and Reggie’s peer mentor advised him that if he wanted to work in a place like BlackRock, he should strongly consider going to university and possibly add a new language. Reggie agreed and enrolled at Kingston University where he is currently studying Economics with Mandarin. “I didn’t know any Mandarin and I didn’t want to be too out of depth once I started so I watched a series of YouTube videos (Culture Valley Mandarin) which provided me with some confidence before starting uni.”
2 years on and Reggie is currently a summer analyst with BlackRock – hoping to land a full time graduate role. While he speaks and I take note, I sit in awe of his hustle and determination. I ask for some words of wisdom and he shares the words that his now professional mentor (the man he met knocking on doors) gave to him “There are 3 E’s you have to remember through life. Energy, endeavour and endurance. Everyone tends to forget the last one, but that’s the most important one.” He speaks excitedly of the future and his hopes to remain committed to his Christian faith and inspiring people. “Where I’m from it’s mad. I was driving and saw the same people on the block. Trapping don’t get you far and I want the youngsters growing up around it to understand that.”
Reggie certainly has inspired me and remains active in the Victory Youth Group, a youth group aimed at providing a safe space for young people to develop into successful and productive members of society. I take a look at his impressive LinkedIn profile and see words from him that he certainly lives by and seeks to inspire others by also:
“Knock on the right doors and work hard.”