I worked as an Associate Developer Intern at Exponent Investment Management. I will say that I was extremely fortunate to have this amazing experience. I really loved working at this company and I learned a ton.
Exponent focuses primarily on managing portfolios of high net worth clients while making a solid return on them. Something that still boggles my mind to this day was that an average portfolio size was around 1 million dollars, but the firm was mainly operated by a few people. My two main mentors helped me with everything and they oversaw the back-end of pretty much everything that went on in the firm. One of them conducted technical transactions while my other mentor focused on big-picture stuff. It was an interested dynamic to be a part of. I really enjoyed interacting with them and learning from them.
When I first started working there, it was a bit intimidating because to be honest, I really did not know what to expect and what I could offer. Since I started working during the school year, I did not work many hours a week, but my boss made sure I still learned what went on at the firm. This included learning what the different programs and web-based software they used to deal with clients as well as what I would be specifically doing at the firm. I also gained financial acumen, something that I still am building on and hoping to apply later in my life. I had a multitude of minuscule tasks that I enacted on. But my boss assigned me this humongous project that involved being fluent in VBA (programming language of Microsoft Office). I had to create a conversion system that took raw financial client data on their online database and convert it to fixed presentation templates on PowerPoint. Essentially that entire school year was focused on becoming proficient in VBA, so I could construct the system.
It was extremely complicated, however, I acquired not only VBA skills, but also project management skills because I divided this gargantuan task into smaller ones. As each day went by, I would gradually get closer and closer to my goal. I will admit there were some days, weeks even, where I would be stumped on an obstacle. There was a slew of prominent issues I faced. One of them was that the amount of data involved was enormous. This was due to the fact I had to cover every single transaction that went on with the account, which included deposits, buys, and other types. There were multiple times where Excel crashed because the data was too large to compute. So, I had to refine my code and make it more efficient, which was a bit tricky. But the cool thing with programming, problem solving synonymously, is that there are multiple ways to reach a solution.
I finally successfully built the system and on my last day, my boss took me out to lunch and we just talked. Whether it was about school, career aspirations, or even girls, none of it was as helpful as the advice he gave me about my work at the firm. He told me two things:
- The first was to be kind. To everyone you meet. For him, as a portfolio manager, his entire establishment is reliant on generating and maintaining clients. If you are nice to a potential lead, they will remember you more fondly and may ask you about what they can do for you. I will admit, I am a huge pessimist, so this was a bit hard to wrap my head around. But as he continued talking, I became more inclined to believe that this mindset does have merit in the business sector, regardless of your intent. To this day, I constantly strive to conduct random acts of kindness. In today’s world, everybody is looking to obtain something in return after conducting a Samaritan deed, but in my opinion, that isn’t the point of doing the kind act in the first place. This is something that I and a few of you who are reading this probably struggle with. I always view everything through a cost-benefit analysis perspective and value my time greatly, but I need to step away from this and be spontaneous.
- The second tip he gave me was to not solely focus on your job when at work. I think I was just wrapped up in my work that I wasn’t aware about what went on in my surroundings. For example: I would arrive and leave at my scheduled shift. I was only focused on my job description and never really went above and beyond in terms of interacting with my co-workers. It might be due to the introvert in me, but I just did the bare minimum of social interactions at work. It is imperative that you are involved with your other co-workers because at the end of the day, you are contributing to an organization with them.
These two valuable lessons are something that I want to apply later in my career and life.