Works and Days

Financial Services Fellows, Sarah Brauner

As many of my fellow Financial Services Fellows have blogged, this spring break, a group of Reed students (myself included), traveled to a very far and foreign land, where people wear nice suits, and eat steak, and talk about mortgage backed securities, and follow sports: Wall St. Before the trip, I literally could not fathom what went on at this mythical place whose name alone probably induces shudders among at least 50 percent of the student body. Assuming that my ignorance is the rule rather than the exception, I thought I’d spend this blog post illuminating a bit of the world inhabited by some of the most powerful people in the world. What follows is a brief selection of some of my experiences on Wall St; I’ll let you all cast your own judgment (or go on the trip next year to see it in the flesh!)

During Spring Break, I…

  1. Had dinner with at least a dozen fresh Reed alumni that work in the finance industry. I, too, thought that was a slight oxymoron—but no, its not, and they were irrefutably still very-Reed.
  2. Watched as a fellow Reedie started the clap that closed the New York Stock Exchange. To clarify: usually the stockbrokers don’t clap, and when it began, they seemed slightly confused.
  3. Talked to the front-page editor at a certain internationally renowned newspaper about his understanding of the relationship between the media and financial industries. And heard his take on the decline in print media.
  4. Got to listen to a high-ranking banker at a very large and well-known bank talk about his experience of what he called “the day the world ended” (the financial crisis).
  5. Also heard him, and many others, talk about the new regulations on their industry. The word “suffocating” was used. But so was “necessary.”
  6. Heard first-hand about the life of a first-year analyst (which is a job, usually for people right out of college, that is fiercely competed over at most universities); apparently, Reed is not the only place where people work themselves to the point of insanity.
  7. Got to hear a Warren Buffet-esque investor explain why his job is intellectually stimulating. The jist of it: he gets to gain expertise in a myriad of industries and learn about strange behavioral correlations that let him predict (backed by tons of research) what people and businesses will do in the future.
  8. Ate sushi in a cafeteria with floor to ceiling windows overlooking all of Manhattan, surrounded by hundreds of suited professionals. (This sounds pedestrian, but it was very striking.)
  9. Took a management quiz at a certain bank; learned I and some of the other fellows, like some disproportionate number of Wall St. CEOs, are “directors.” (Among our group, this became a euphemism for dictator.)
  10. Got taught how to market myself in 1-minute, 3-minute, and 5-minute increment stories, over steak—this skill has already been used beyond the confines of Wall St. (On a side-note, I know this is the second time I’m mentioning steak in this short post, but honestly, it was a big part of the experience).

Obviously, this list does not encompass even a fraction of Wall St., or my brief time there. The purpose is more about giving a taste, and maybe piquing the interest, of students to partake in this Reed-sponsored journey to what might not actually be the dark side.

Tags: wall st., finance, stocks, financial services fellowship