Degree from Michigan: B.A. in Sociology: Economy, Business, and Society
Current location: Chicago, IL
Year graduated: 2010
Student orgs involved in at Michigan: BOSS and MII
Other jobs held or graduate programs attended since graduation: Private Wealth Management Analyst at Deutsche Bank; Private Banking Business Analyst at Credit Suisse
JW: I work within Goldman Sachs’ Asset Management division in a group that partners with financial intermediaries, banks, and insurance companies by providing investment management solutions through portfolio construction and investment vehicles such as exchange traded funds, mutual funds, separately managed accounts, and alternative investments. I’m part of a 15-20 person team that covers the entire country (including Latin America) in marketing Goldman Sachs’ products.
KC: What other professional experiences have you had since graduating from U of M?
JW: I’ve been at Goldman Sachs for about a year and a half. Prior to that, I was in Los Angeles after graduation; I spent a year at Deutsche Bank and 4.5 years at Credit Suisse. At both firms I was doing private banking (essentially private wealth management), where I was an analyst on two very large teams. I did everything from creating portfolios to talking to clients about the markets, building a book of business, conducting research, trading, etc. Now at Goldman Sachs I’m much closer to the products and the portfolio management.
KC: How do you feel your education and extracurricular activities at Michigan have influenced your career path?
JW: Getting a world-class education at the University of Michigan, in my opinion, will prepare you for your career, regardless of your major. That being said, while I had an intellectual curiosity in economics and sociology, my professional curiosity was within finance and investment management. So to better align myself with these industries, I got involved with a few clubs at Michigan like Business Organizations of Strategic Studies (BOSS) and Michigan Interactive Investments (MII).
KC: How would you describe asset management?
JW: When considering your ideal role within finance, it’s important to try to “map out” a bank – learn about all of the different groups, as well as the major players in each space. I’ll map out a few areas here: my background is in wealth management, which provides financial advice to individuals. Investment banking, on the other hand, provides financial advice to companies; this can include taking a private company public and listing that company on a public stock exchange, or helping that company clean up their financial statements (consultative advice). Asset management involves literally managing assets. The focus is on technology stocks or municipal bonds; you’re closer to the physical money.
KC: What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job?
JW: Favorite: Interacting with some of the brightest people on Wall Street, making a difference in clients’ portfolio decisions, and watching the news to see how they influence the markets.
Least favorite: I have to work on several projects at once with long timelines to get them done.
KC: What are similar grad school programs or companies that students could look into if they want to pursue a similar field as your own?
JW: Top MBA programs, MAcc programs, and Masters in Finance (MFE) are all great graduate school programs. Companies that I would suggest would be any finance company that has direct working experience to the field you wish to ultimately pursue. Otherwise, I would emphasize professional designations like the CFA or CPA to show your employer you are serious about your career despite past work experience.
KC: Some students can be intimidated by careers such as consulting or banking if they aren’t in Ross. What can you say to that?
JW: Being in Ross is not a requisite by any means. There are very few careers that absolutely require you to have studied a specific field in order for you to get that job. For example, you cannot be a doctor without going to medical school. But that is not the case for things like consulting, banking, and marketing. Speaking on behalf of Wall Street, a lot of the Wall Street firms now like having a diverse set of incoming interns and new hires. They like being able to pick and choose from students with computer science to engineering to liberal arts-type majors, as well as from those with traditional business backgrounds.
Realistically speaking, while students in different backgrounds shouldn’t be intimidated, they do have to be very prepared. It’s difficult to get a job in general these days, but to get a competitive one you have to beat out the other people who are already that much more prepared just by being in Ross. Reach out to alums, use school services like the academic advising centers, and even look things up on YouTube – there are a million ways to learn what you need to know for an interview. The key is to have an intense tenacity to get the job that you want.
When I went back to Michigan a month ago for recruiting, we had a firm-wide session for freshmen and sophomores ONLY. All of the big companies are now starting to recruit earlier and earlier. The application for Goldman Sachs summer 2018 positions opens in July 2017…that’s a full year before. If you want a coveted post-junior year internship, you essentially have to be hunting for that job at the tail end of your sophomore year. Freshmen need to realize that they have to start early.
KC: Is your work environment fairly cutthroat?
JW: I think that depends on what you do in your career. Every firm is different and each one has a different culture. While I can’t speak on behalf of consultants or anyone who is doing a business-related job outside of Wall Street, I will say that since I’ve worked for 5-6 different banks (if I include summer analyst positions), the competitive nature is definitely there. However, depending on the firm, the environment can be very collaborative at the same time. Everyone wants everyone else to do really well because that essentially moves the entire ship forward. Everyone’s natural competitiveness bounces off one another, but it’s not like we’re trying to sabotage each other.
KC: What advice would you give to current students hoping to follow in a similar career path?
JW: Do your homework. There is an immense amount of information readily available out there from career guides, to the Internet, to alumni networking. Understand the roles that you want to pursue and begin to align yourself with those professionals. Being proactive when it comes to getting an internship or a full-time role in a highly competitive industry means starting early and being strategic. Don’t wait for school to teach you something, be proactive enough to teach yourself. You will be much more knowledgeable on the subject in an interview setting or when you ultimately cover it in class.
I went back to Michigan a few months ago for a recruiting event, and I also get a lot of emails from Michigan students on LinkedIn. I have no problem helping students out, especially ones that aren’t in Ross but have the desire to get into finance or some type of banking. I like to help because I was that person too. I was the LSA student who was able to swing a job on Wall Street in 2010.