Every year, college and MBA students flock to New York and other financial centres for highly-coveted summer analyst positions at investment banks.
A Wall Street intern who works hard and is a great team player has the potential to turn their 10-week long summer stint into a full-time offer from their respective firm.
We spoke with Suzanne Gauron, a Goldman Sachs managing director, about internships in the bank’s Investment Management Division.
She shared tips for summer interns and explained what she looks for when making a hire.
Guaron, who studied humanities in college and began her career at Goldman as an intern, also told us what an intern can do to impress her and the biggest mistake they can make.
We’ve transcribed our Q&A with Gauron below. (Note: It has been lightly edited for clarity).
JL: First off, can you give me a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?
SG: “I was a humanities major in college. I studied 18th century poetry. I had no experience in business. I was a summer analyst at Goldman before my senior year in college. That was my first real business experience and I was extremely, pleasantly surprised by that experience. I was invited to come back as a full-time analyst on the same team I worked with that summer in private wealth management. I covered high-net worth clients for two years, went back to business school at that point and then joined the group that I’m in now eight years ago. The group I’m in invests in private equity managers on behalf of Goldman Sachs’ clients.”
JL: Can you describe the typical day for an intern in your division? What sort of responsibilities do they have?
SG: “In our group, we’re an investing group, and our interns work on the transactions that we’re working on. They’re staffed as though they are full-time employees with the same level of responsibility and involvement. So we’re taking them through the transactions. They’re working with senior members of the team leading the transactions. They would be doing the valuation work, the research work that we do around the types of investments that we’re assessing and they’re part of the team that forms a view on whether we are going to make the investment or not.
“That’s our group, but generally people are doing a combination of shadowing and education in their summer analyst program that starts to get them to build the types of investment views and perspectives that we’re looking for in investment management.”
JL: How do you balance the desire to use an intern’s talents and delegating responsibility, while still feeling comfortable? Basically, how do you decide how much responsibility to give an intern?
SG: “We give them as much responsibility as they’re willing to take and that they can achieve on. In terms of day-to-day, we’re trying to build a support system around the interns so they can be successful. So we’re giving them big chunks of responsibility, but we’re also giving them a lot of resources that they can use to make sure that they’re on the right path on this. That means that they’re staffed with another analyst who can help show them the steps that they could take to solve the problem or model out the valuation that they might be working on. They have a mentor who they can talk to about ‘Hey, is this a dumb question? or not a dumb question that I’m thinking about and I’m asking about?’ because they’re integrated in the team they can go to other members of the team at any time. So if I just looked out of my office, they’re sitting next to two other analysts who are full-time analysts who have more experience who are willing at any minute to sit with them and take them through a question large or small that may be a challenge to them.”
JL: Do you mentor an intern?
SG: “I mentor a number of interns. We have a big buddy system and then a more senior mentor. The big buddy is the person who can talk to them about what time do you get in in the morning? What does casual Friday really mean? That sort of day-to-day practical things that can trip somebody up. Then the senior person is there to give broader counsel about career development and the types of feedback you receive during the summer to make sure that people are thinking more long-term about their career and where their place might be in the firm and group.”
JL: What sort of advice would you give to an intern in your group? Like, what would be the best piece of advice you could give them?
SG: “I think the best piece of advice that I give most often is I think that people get really hung up on the practical skills that they have to have coming in. So what we see in Investment Management is a lot of people want to demonstrate ‘Oh, I’ve run a portfolio. I’ve invested for myself.’ And that’s certainly a good thing to have, but the thing that’s really priceless over the summer is having a good attitude because during the summer they face a lot of challenging situations and there are long hours and so feeling like the person next to you is excited to be there and wants to do the work every day is the thing you remember about somebody after they’ve gone back to school in September.”
JL: When you were an intern, did someone give you a piece of advice that stuck with you?
SG: “I think my managing director did say to me when I was an analyst, I didn’t know at the time it was true, he said look, ‘You’re 22, you think you’re a grown up, but you still have a long way to go.’ And when I look back on my career in my 20s, I actually evolved not just as a professional, but as a person a lot with the experiences I had in the first five years. I think people are sometimes too pre-mature in pigeonholing themselves based on who they think they are at 22.”
JL: So what do you think is the biggest mistake an intern can make?
SG: “Probably the biggest mistake is not writing things down and remembering them. So we always tell people that they should ask more questions. That’s a very common feedback that we give interns and we’re willing to entertain as many questions as they have, but they need to write that down and take that answer on board not just ask a question for the sake of asking a question and then ask it again a week later.”
JL: That’s good advice.
JL: What’s something that impressed you about an intern?
SG: Probably going the extra step. So there are some interns that do the work and do it well and then there are some interns who say, ‘Here’s this good work product that I’ve done that’s fully checked and accurate and when I think about how this fits into your business here’s the next thing that I think I could do. Or why don’t I build you this other model as well.’ So offering up other things that they can do that are thoughtful and show that they understand the business is a really exciting thing to see from someone.
JL: If I were an intern, what’s a good way to standout?
SG: “I think being a good team member is always the most important thing. You’re probably the youngest person on the desk and sometimes people feel like they’re not a full member of the team, but nobody else views it that way. Everyone views it from day one that you’re just like everybody else and so that means building personal relationships with other people on the desk, getting to know people and meshing as part of the team so at the end of the summer people are surprised when you have to say that you’re going back to school.”
JL: In a job market that is so competitive, what are some of the details which make a difference in an interview or on a résumé?
SG: “In a résumé, showing expertise at something is really important. So I’m looking for depth as well as breadth of interests. So you have to have taken one thing and moved up in the organisation or excelled at a sport or whatever it is that is most interesting to you. And then following on that, in the interview demonstrating passion about that thing. We’re not looking for everyone to have a PhD in finance, but we’re looking for them to have done anything that they like in the world and done a good job at it and feel deeply about it.”
JL: What advice do you have for someone who wants to turn an internship into a full-time job? What should they do? How should they do that?
SG: “I think it’s a combination of coming in every day and doing the work and fitting in on the team so that people don’t remember by the end of the summer that you weren’t there full-time. I think people can be reasonably vocal about it. We can’t read anyone’s minds so saying, ‘I really like this. I’d like to do this next year’ never hurts.
JL: How should someone prepare for an internship in this division? And then talk about the training they get on the job.
SG: “In preparing for the summer, I think following the markets is very valuable because we are investing. So I always ask people what stories they are following in the financial press and what companies they’re most interested in. It’s not a matter of knowing the price quote for the S&P for the last fifteen days in a row, but having larger framework that they can fit knowledge into over the summer.
“And then on the job, we have a pretty extensive training program at the Investment Management Division level. It starts off with a couple of days where all the interns are together getting an introduction to the firm and to investment management so they understand the different businesses across the division, not just the business that they’ll be working in. Then they also throughout the summer have thought leadership gatherings were different business leaders come in and talk about the challenges and interesting opportunities that they’re seeing in their businesses. And then professional development as well around things like feedback, thinking about your career, working on teams. So it’s both the practical and the longer term.”
JL: Can you talk about the diversity of candidates that you all look for?
SG: “We’re looking for very diverse set of students. It’s not all finance majors as I said before. I think I’m a pretty good example of that. I hadn’t taken any classes that required maths in college. We’re looking for people who are logical and organised and disciplined and have demonstrated the ability to come up a learning curve in something in the past whether it’s learning to speak Chinese or learning to play an instrument or a sport or taking up something else that’s a challenge. I think you see that in a cross-section of our summer class that they have a lot of different backgrounds.”
We will be doing these Q&A’s with Goldman managing directors in different divisions over the next couple of weeks. Up next will be the Technology department.