THIS IS A TESTIMONIAL FROM A PAST ALUMNIATHLETE WALL STREET INTERN
Every morning I got up at an hour most often seen on my way home from a Saturday night out. On your way to work on Friday, you’ll share the sidewalk with dressed up party-goers, coming home drunk. But, you get used to it. I was fortunate enough to stay the summer in an apartment in Greenwich Village- so I could avoid any substantial commute. And, after one week of the gross and sweaty subways, I imported my bike from my home in New Jersey, and got to work that way. I showered in our exclusive gym, where all interns received a locker, and where (thank goodness!) they did our laundry.
the program was designed to have three, 3-week rotations through debt and equity markets. I spent all three rotations of the trading floors. This was perfect for me. The first time I saw the trading floor I got the same feeling you get when you’re at an away game in some super impressive stadium. Not quite your home turf, a bit intimidating, but you carry with you some sort of independent confidence in your energy, and somehow that will make up for everything. The trading floor is loud, and to the average citizen, stressful. But if you’re used to that, and used to crowds and noise psyching you up, you’re in for a fun summer. It’s not for the faint of heart, for sure, but neither is morning practice.
I arrived at the desk at approx. 6:30-7:15 am, depending on my rotation. The mornings on the floor are the busiest, and the phones are ringing nonstop. In my first rotation, global stock loan, I was responsible for answering phones and talking to clients, which I enjoyed. The ability to multi-task is essential, but if you’ve survived a few years as a student athlete, then you’re already a pro- how many times have you been eating as you studied as you checked email and IM-ed at a computer? Or had to worry about your teammates’ lousy left hand when a trap is coming her way from the right, and you are in foul trouble, and your coach is screaming at you? During the morning rush, you could retire by the end of the summer if you got a dollar for every time you heard the F-word. Get over it. Phones will slam, grown men will holler obscenities across a floor, and you might even be asked to find a place that will deliver pepperoni pizza at 7:30am for breakfast. And then feel obligated to eat it when you pick it up. To be successful in this business, one trader told me, “You’re never full.” And that advice could be understood in so many ways. Because this is a real-time business, the job is never really “done”. You have to pick your battles, be smart, and proactive. After three hours of answering phones, delicately directing calls, and finding time to input loads of data into a foreign computer program (you’d better learn quick and not screw up), you “break” for lunch. But a break, it is not. If you’re lucky someone on the floor will order food for everyone. Enter, $500 worth of sushi. Or 300 BLT’s, because some broker likes them. Or ten bags full of assorted sandwiches. You’ll learn that if you don’t jump in there among the wolves when the food first arrives, you’ll get the cheese and tomato on white. If there’s no freebie for lunch that day, you get approximately 15 minutes to run downstairs, go to the café, spend like $10 on a pretty good sandwich, and drag it back upstairs, without spilling it, to eat it squished at a desk while you answer more phones. Many times you’ll have to grab food for the other guys (yes, especially on fixed income, they’re mostly men), and bring it back up, a tricky feat if you only have two hands.
The afternoon involves being sleepy, despite the constant noise and action, and executing the fine art of positioning. Not guards, posts, or footwork, but rather learning how to position yourself on the desk. Too far away from the traders, you look disinterested. Too close, you’re annoying. Too few questions, you take no initiative. Too many questions, you don’t know what’s going on. That’s tough. The temptation is there to zone out, but if worst comes to worst, ask to read research. At least then you’ll be learning something, and can maybe ask a question later. The best rotations, in my mind, are those that require you to DO things- not those who ask you to only observe. However, if you can find a group that you mesh well with, you’ll enjoy spending time with some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. Driven, competitive, hard working: your favorite teammates.
The day ended for me anywhere between 4:30-7pm. Of course you’ll hear horror stories about people who don’t leave till 10pm-4am, but that’s not usually the case in sales and trading. In my middle rotation, on the fixed income floor, I was often frustrated at 5pm- when it seemed like an appropriate time to leave, but nobody else had left. At times it seems like it’s a game of endurance- guys don’t want to be the first to leave, or even the next to leave- even if their work for the day is done. But you stay tough, and get through it.
After work you’re tired, you want to go home, or take a nap. But you have to go to various events, and be “on” all the time. What group are you in? What do they do? Where are you from? You’ll answer that a million times. Sometimes you don’t want to go to these events, (unless it’s an Alumni Athlete event, of course!) but in the end you’re always glad you came. If you approach that scene with enthusiasm and energy, you’ll meet somebody, who knows somebody… and suddenly it will all seem very worthwhile.
Being an athlete is certainly an advantage. You walk on that floor, and realize you have a toughness embedded in you. This helps you have confidence, even in the presence of big-shots, or if the other guy’s older, or knows more about Credit Default Swaps, and have worked there for years. If you’re an athlete, and you’re smart, friendly, and work hard, you can do it.
*For more information on the AlumniAthlete Wall Street Internship Program refer to the AlumniAthlete Network on Gotta Mentor