Goldman Sachs executives, including CEO David Solomon, visited the School of Business (SOB) last week, where the finance professionals spoke to students about the importance of networking, reading each day and being their authentic selves in the workplace.
On March 21 in the SOB auditorium, more than 100 students, professors and Goldman Sachs executives listened in on a fireside chat between Solomon and Goldman Sachs’ Global Head of Corporate Engagement, Asahi Pompey.
In his 42nd year in the financial services industry and fifth year as head of investment bank Goldman Sachs, according to the firm, Solomon gave advice to the audience about how to properly navigate their future careers.
“Set aside five to 10 minutes a day to just read – absorb media to help you understand what’s going on in the world around you, and especially get your media from diverse sources,” he said.
“Secondly,” Solomon continued, “spend time getting to know new people and expanding your network. Find ways to connect with people globally so that no door is shut to you.”
Throughout the conversation, Solomon talked about the necessity of making good connections in the industry, recalling how networking landed him his first job at Goldman Sachs in 1999 after leaving the now defunct investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert.
“Four years after Drexel went out of business, I still had made good relationships within the network internationally, including one with Goldman Sachs after refinancing a new hotel in Las Vegas,” Solomon said. “I got a call from Sheldon Adelson when Drexel went bankrupt and through connecting with him, I was offered a position at Goldman Sachs and nine years later, we’re here.”
Solomon continued by saying, “You just don’t know who you’re going to meet and where it will take you, so always make good relationships.”
The Hamilton College alumnus ‘84 segwayed into his life as a college student and related his experience to that of the students in the crowd, speaking to his aspirations as an investment banker at a young age.
He assured the audience that although he is currently the figurehead of Goldman Sachs, his “C” in accounting class while at Hamilton never discouraged him from pursuing his dreams in finance.
“So for all of those in the audience with a “C” in accounting right now,” Solomon said with a smile, “I promise you, there is still a chance.”
When Pompey asked, “What would you tell your younger self?” Solomon said that one thing he regrets was his rush to get to where he is now.
“When you’re coming out of school, everyone is ambitious and in a hurry. Now I find myself at 61 years old with two daughters, and I honestly feel like I didn’t cherish every single moment because I was in a rush to get it done,” he said. “So if there’s any advice I would give, it would be to slow down and enjoy the present…enjoy the journey.”
At the conclusion of the fireside chat, Marcellus Williams, a sophomore business management major from Los Angeles, California, reflected on what he learned.
“It’s great being able to network and learn with people who have worked hard and reached the end of the same race we just started,” he said.
Williams also commented on how interesting he thought it was for Solomon to sit so high up on the corporate ladder and still keep DJ-ing as a social hobby to help maintain a healthy work-life balance. Solomon has DJ’ed for audiences at festivals like Lollapalooza and has more than 500,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
“Mental health has been a topic of conversation for a while,” Williams said, “and seeing him able to juggle his happiness and wealth successfully is inspiring.”
A few hours after the fireside chat, Goldman Sachs Associate and Howard alumnus Alfred Woodward ‘15 gave opening remarks for the “Black History Makers” leadership panel, which was composed of Goldman Sachs executives who spoke about their experiences in business with specificity to work life at Goldman Sachs to a group of about 40 SOB students.
Jaelen Coney ‘22 who is a current analyst at Goldman Sachs moderated the panel and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to return to his alma mater hoping that this event would serve to inspire the next generation of Howard business leaders.
“I think a lot of times you forget to come back to the place you really grew as a student,” Coney said. “And for me it’s all about giving back, paying it forward and just inspiring the next generation of business leaders because that’s what it’s going to take for us to get to a place where we’re all fairly treated and promoting an equitable work environment for all people, not just Black people.”
Coney asked the Goldman Sachs panelists a lighting round of questions ranging from wellness, protecting their mental health and what it looks like to work in a predominantly white institution as a person of color.
The panelists Amal Alibair, Stratford Dennis, Marene Jennings, and Erika Coleman each shared their own unique story as to what led them to Goldman Sachs and how they leveraged their roles to give back to marginalized communities. They also made sure to emphasize the skills students should develop if they want a leg up in the industry.
Dennis, a managing director for emerging market equities, recommended a strong analytical background and emphasized a particular piece of advice, “It couldn’t hurt to understand programming,” he said.
Jennings, a managing director in the asset management division and head of the Black Equities Opportunities Fund emphasized the importance of adopting networking as a principle, while Coleman, head of diversity recruiting, added that she wished she would have explored the career field differently.
Graduating from The Wharton School with a bachelor’s in marketing and communications, Coleman knew two things: that she never wanted to work in finance and “I didn’t want to live in New York,” she said. Though she does reside in New York, her job in diversity has provided her with the ability to meet new people and tackle different challenges.
“My first job out of undergrad had a lot of freedom, which is great when you’re young and can set your own schedule, but at Goldman I felt like I was learning,” Coleman said.
Alibair also highlighted the importance of learning on the job and where it can lead by sharing her personal story.
Having immigrated to the United States from Somalia knowing she needed to become the breadwinner for her family, Alibair chose to major in business, though she was passionate in the arts, she said. She eventually ended up working for a hedge fund for four years before she faced burnout and accepted an internship at Goldman Sachs before making her way up to head of U.S. institutional client solutions.
“If you want to go up the ladder people are going to see “is this person a problem solver?” and then it doesn’t really matter which business you’re in,” Alibair said. “Someone’s always going to have to teach it to you, but no one can teach you street smarts, no one can teach you critical thinking, no one can teach you intellectual curiosity.”
She ended her advice by focusing on soft skills development, being your authentic self at work and maintaining a strong sense of community.
“The moment that I started to get senior people noticing what I was doing, getting great opportunities, is the moment I started speaking my mind,” she said. “When you get to a senior level, people expect that of you.”
While most students attended the event as part of a requirement, some walked away with valuable information from the panelists.
Sophomore Troi Profit, chose to attend the event in support of her organization, the International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Phi, Iota Chapter, whose members came to support Coney.
“I found myself totally engaged in the panel,” Troi Profit said. “Most topics are really repetitive and talk about the same thing, but this was a topic I hadn’t touched on.”
After the panel, Woodward indicated how special it was for his company to visit his alma mater to speak to its students. He emphasized how his education and community at Howard prepared him for life after graduation.
“I grew up in a single-parent household in a Black city, I went to a Black school, and my Black school, Howard, definitely prepared me in a way I didn’t know for Goldman,” Woodward said.
Earlier that day, Pompey spoke to students about Goldman Sachs’ commitment to fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce, as well as the importance of creating opportunities within the corporate world for young talent throughout the conversation. She had two important announcements to make to the Howard community.
Pompey began by saying, “GS knows exceptional talent when we see it and Howard has exceptional talent, with that being said, there will be 14 new incoming analysts from Howard University at GS this year alone.”
According to information provided by Woodward, six Howard students will become summer analysts and associates at Goldman Sachs this year, and eight new full-time analysts and associates will be joining the firm from Howard.
Pompey added that Goldman Sachs has given a total of $2.33 million to Howard University through the HBCU Market Madness Possibilities Program, which is meant to support students studying finance.
From January to April, the program provides HBCU students with training and networking experiences, and culminates in a case study competition where teams representing different HBCUs can win funding for their respective university. Howard’s team won the grand prize of $1 million in last year’s program.
According to Vault, Goldman Sachs is the most prestigious investment bank in the world. On their website, Goldman Sachs is characterized as a “leading global financial institution” in today’s economy. The firm provides a range of services including asset management, investment banking, securities trading, private wealth management and investment research. For more information on their services, please visit their website.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee