CMCers trek to campus, share advice
CMC alumni brought a bit of Silicon Valley and New York City to campus the week before classes began.
Two simultaneous networking treks provided nearly 40 students with the opportunity to spend time with alumni who’ve found professional success in the financial service and tech sectors.
In previous years, CMC students have travelled to industry hubs such as New York and Silicon Valley for intensive visits—dubbed “Networking Treks”—meeting with alumni and potential employers in their workplaces, and learning the inside scoop on the industries and organizations that interest them.
This year, however, the Soll Center for Student Opportunity flipped the script, bringing alumni to campus instead, by hosting the Financial Services Summit (sponsored by the Financial Economics Institute and the Robert Day Scholars program) and the Evans ITAB Silicon Valley Networking Trek at CMC.
Students spent the last week of their winter break clarifying their future career plans and meeting with prominent CMC alumni, picking up essential networking and interviewing skills, while building relationships that may lead to enhanced summer internship and full-time opportunities.
“We experimented with the format this year, and achieved our goals of preparing students for recruitment season, while building bonds between alumni and students,” said Ursula Diamond, director of student opportunities at the Soll Center. “We brought students together as a community and invited as many alumni to campus as possible.”
The revamped approach paid off, with more than 80 alumni taking time to share their industry perspectives and personal wisdom—with a CMC focus—to an attentive audience of students who were eager to engage.
Alumni led sessions both in-person and via Zoom, filling out a robust slate of company presentations and workshops with topics ranging from the “Lifecycle of an Investment Banking Deal” (with Kale Fein ’11, managing director, E.F. Hutton) to “Intellectual Property / Global Policy” (led by Barbara Rogan ’95 senior vice-president and general counsel, NeoPhotonics).
There were also ample opportunities to engage in informal conversations, as CMC alumni who visited campus spent time with students for “dine-arounds” at restaurants in nearby Claremont Village.
Rachana Muvvala ’24, an economics and philosophy major, joined the Financial Services Summit because she is interested in pursuing a career in investment banking. At the end of the week-long sessions, she reflected that, “Hearing alumni who were once in my shoes share how they got to where they are today, provided me with unique and valuable insights. It not only gave me an idea of what next steps to take and what to look out for during the recruitment process, but also what a future job in investment banking looks like.”
The value of networking was also emphasized. In a joint session with students from both treks, Miles Bird '13, founder of VC firm T-Bird Capital, detailed CMC-specific benefits in his presentation, "Leveraging the Claremont Community for Fun & Profit."
While admitting that he has an aversion to the word "networking," Bird acknowledged that "every professional job I've had; the first founder I ever invested in; the first angel investors who backed me in a startup that I founded; the most important hire I've ever made; and my closest and most enduring friendships today — all came from the Claremont community."
Bird, who also founded and publishes "Between the Lines," a newsletter covering the 7C technology and entrepreneurship communities, said that the types of outcomes he described didn't happen because he hunted for them. Instead, they were each a result of Bird "cultivating" relationships and "investing in" people in an authentic way that was true to the relationship. Over time, then, career milestones like a hire or an investment may happen naturally.
"It's not so different than just building any friendship," he said, noting as an example that he was an early investor in Living Carbon, a climate technology company founded by his friend and fellow CMCer Maddie Hall '14.
To provide perspective on how a bond deal works and share what it’s like to work as a financial analyst, former CMC roommates Scott Ashby ’95, who is managing director, head of capital markets and investment banking at SMBC, and Ross Slusser ’95, managing director, Crescent Capital Group, were joined by Tejas Gala ’09 M’13, who serves as director, corporate finance and investor relations at Apple.
The trio shared insights into their professional roles and provided both interview and career tips for prospective hires spanning the worlds of investment banks, private equity firms, as well as corporations.
To find the key to success, Ashby encouraged students to weigh their career options and assess their enthusiasm level for their prospective professions. “What really differentiates the people whom I’ve seen do well, and really grow in the business, is how passionate they are about it,” he said.
“There’s a competitive nature to it. What I like about the markets is that it’s the closest thing you can get to playing sports, from a day-to-day job perspective,” Ashby continued. “You keep score, and you know what your competitors are doing. You can wake up every day and say, ‘Here’s my number today. And here’s my number at the end of the day. How did I do?’”
Kaitlyn Kelleher ’17 and Thomas Schalke ’18 provided insights into what it’s like to work at Goldman Sachs. Kelleher, who is a Leveraged Finance Associate, and Schalke, who is an associate in the Global Markets Division, are both based in New York.
In response to a student who asked Kelleher and Schalke to describe the workplace culture at Goldman Sachs, a multinational investment bank, Kelleher assured students that despite the company’s size, the environment feels very similar to CMC’s.
“I came to CMC because I love small classrooms, where I could have direct interactions with my professors,” she said. “I like to feel like the big fish in a small pond. The cool thing about Goldman is there are very small deal teams. The culture is that you’re directly interacting with senior professionals all day, every day. And so, the learning that happens as a result of that is very similar to what it’s like to be in class at CMC.”
While acknowledging that the work can be demanding, Kelleher assured students that they were up for the challenge. “You guys are Claremont students. You have a great education. You guys are driven. That’s why you’re here. And so, remember—and remind yourself—that you can do this.”