Alumni profile - Hristian Markov
We started discussing how most of the people at university were getting vacation schemes in large part because they had a friend who had already done one and gave them all the dos and don’ts. We thought that was rather unfair and started thinking about how we could level out the playing field. That's how we ended up creating Congrapps - the portal where you can access the successful applications and cover letters of the people who made it to your dream job!
Why did you create Congrapps? Launching Congrapps was a bit of a crazy story. My co-founder was working with me at Ardian and he was still applying for vacation schemes and training contracts. He asked me if I could give him my old applications, as I had done two vacation schemes. When he used them to see the right format, what the law firm was about etc, he was successful in both of his job applications. So he came back to me and we started discussing how most of the people at university were getting vacation schemes in large part because they had a friend who had already done one and gave them all the dos and don’ts. We thought that was rather unfair and started thinking about how we could level out the playing field. That's how we ended up creating Congrapps - the portal where you can access the successful applications and cover letters of the people who made it to your dream job!
Can you tell me about your experiences launching Congrapps and how you fit that in alongside your work at Ardian? Launching Congrapps was no easy task, especially as neither my co-founder nor I had any coding experience. So we adopted a model of "do what you do best and outsource the rest" and we hired a developer. But the project was still ours, so we had to gather our initial base of cover letters, reach out to our networks, sketch designs, do market research, and create a community. Long story short - it was a lot of work, a lot more than we anticipated.
In the meantime, both of us worked full-time jobs. So every day we would wake up at 8:00am, go to the office, perform to the fullest, come back home, switch into a different zone and work until late at night. Every night we had a different problem - something on the website wouldn't work, we had forgotten some pages, we didn't know how to anonymise the applications – we was working two jobs and it was crazy!
It was definitely a very hard period, a lot of late nights and not a lot of sleep, but thankfully Queen Mary had given me solid preparation for that with all the long nights studying in the library.
Can you tell me about a key turning point in your career? I guess the turning point in my career was doing a vacation scheme. Ever since first year, I kept hearing that a vacation scheme was a two-way street. I didn't really believe it, I thought that was part of the regular law firm marketing spiel.
It actually was very true for me. I did two vacation schemes - one at Davis Polk and one at Jones Day. Spending two weeks at each law firm was an amazing experience; I was surrounded by great legal minds. I would work (i.e. very minor legal research) in the law firm on big M&A deals but it wasn't right for me. I felt like I had a greater interest in the commercial side. What I was doing felt more like researching legal concepts for somebody else. In fifteen years I wanted to be the person making the business decisions, rather than the solicitor finishing the paperwork and giving legal advice (obviously this is an exaggeration, but that is how I felt back then).
At this point I became more interested in investments, venture capital, private equity and start-ups.
How did your time studying Law at Queen Mary set you up for your career? Queen Mary is absolutely amazing for building character. You get the perfect balance between supervised time and personal learning. You can manage your own time from a very early stage. This is such an amazing soft skill, which is perhaps cliché, but absolutely true.
Studying law completely changed me. Although my work at the moment is not 100% the typical legal graduate job, the way it changed my thinking was amazing.
When you sit in an exam and you start the problem question, you identify each issue, then you move to see if there is any defence for each issue, then if there is any sort of interference etc. Thinking in this way for my everyday problems has allowed me to be much more critical and efficient. And I don’t just use it in work but also when approaching a political topic, personal issues, a business problem - being able to analyse well is an amazing skill to have.
Why did you choose Law? Why did you choose Queen Mary? I wanted to study Law ever since I was fourteen. At that point, I was studying maths in high school and had a family friend that had become a Court of Appeal judge back in Bulgaria. She had a great influence on me and she showed me the "beauty" of the law. This, combined with binge-watching Suits and the prestigious and high paying jobs solidified my conviction to study law.
Queen Mary was an obvious choice for me due to the amazing reputation of its Law School. Being based in London meant I would get a great education and at the same time be able to attend all of the Law Firms' events, it was a no-brainer.
What advice would you give a current student or recent graduate considering their career options? My honest advice would be to just try and see. Until I was in my final year, I was convinced that being a partner at Kirkland & Ellis would be the dream. After actually tapping into that world briefly, I felt that it was not the right thing for me after all. I also had friends that wanted to go into investment banking but did a vacation scheme because they were studying Law. A few of them changed 180 degrees and decided that becoming a solicitor was right for them.
At university, there were so many events, a lot of companies came and showed us their working lifestyle and it sounded amazing, but it might not be for everyone. A bit of controversial advice (you definitely should not make up your mind based on it), is to follow "Finance God" on Instagram. It's a sarcastic channel, mostly memes from the corporate world but though it is complete satire, it does give you an honest impression of the lifestyle working in big banks, law firms etc.
On a final note, just try things. Take up an internship at a start-up, do a vacation scheme. Have a non-corporate passion? Try reaching out to people in the industry, shadow them for a week, see what the actual job involves aside from what’s on paper. You are young, you have time. You will have the rest of your life grinding and doing this job - take your time to make sure it's the right one.
What was the most memorable thing about your time at Queen Mary? Living with friends, managing my own time, Drapers, there are too many good memories from a social aspect. From an academic perspective, there were some professors/tutors that pushed me to the next level. I absolutely loved the teaching style of Amber Marks and Paul Kohler at seminars and I still remember how they never gave you the answer but pushed you to think and reach the conclusion by yourself.
Do you have any role models that you look up to, in or out of your field? I don't really believe in role models, I have this theory (inspired by Peter Thiel) that every person makes their own destiny and future. You can't sit on the sidelines and watch your life pass. Whenever there is a decision I need to take I don't ask myself what my role model would do but, "What would the person I would like to be do?". In a way my role model is the ideal version of myself.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Hannah Dormor. If you would like to get in touch with Hristian or engage him in your work, please contact Hannah at email@example.com.