Over fall-break weekend, more than 40 sophomores and juniors participated in Barnard Finance Focus, an intensive three-day program intended to prepare students to be competitive candidates for internships and future careers in finance. Organized by Barnard’s Office of Career Development, this initiative was sponsored by Goldman Sachs, BMO Capital Markets, and Citi.

“The Finance Focus program allows our students to learn about the financial sector, directly from management at some of the industry’s most important firms,” said Karen Worthing, Barnard’s associate director for employer relations and campus recruitment.  

The first day was a crash course in the various areas of banking, highlighting the differences between investment banking, asset management, sales and trading, and transaction services. Women from Goldman Sachs and Citi spoke about the divisions where they work and provided students with insight on the distinct career paths within financial companies. Students also heard from a panel of Barnard seniors who spent last summer interning at banks and were offered permanent positions for after graduation.

“I’m interested in equities and stocks, but didn’t really know how an investment bank works,” said chemistry major Sasha Stedronsky ’15. “Now I can speak confidently about different divisions and I have a much clearer sense of what I want to pursue for an internship.”

The second day of the program introduced students to financial markets through presentations on debt and equity capital markets and securities regulation. Through a guided tutorial on Excel, they gained some essential technical skills that analysts use every day in their work.

Hearing other students’ questions was helpful for June Wang ’14, who is double-majoring in economics and political science. “Researching is a very single-minded approach to preparing for the application process and interviews,” she said. “In this setting, people asked questions about things I wouldn’t have thought of, which is definitely a benefit of the program.”

On the final day, students received feedback on their résumés and cover letters from recruiters at the sponsoring companies. They also had the opportunity to participate in mock interviews with people from BMO Capital, including directors and vice presidents. The program ended with a networking reception with representatives from all three sponsoring companies. In the coming weeks, students will reconvene for visits to the sponsoring companies. “Getting to know people from these firms and going through this process removes the intimidation factor,” said Olivia Benjamin ’14. “It humanizes a really complex industry, and it’s a reminder that we’re strong candidates for these positions.”

For Benjamin and fellow economics major Yvonne Missry ’14, the Finance Focus program was also an opportunity to connect with like-minded classmates. “It’s been great being around fellow Barnard students with a shared interest in finance,” said Missry. “There aren’t a lot of women in this industry, and we definitely need to think of each other as a support system, not as competitors.”

 “We’ve already made plans to practice for interviews together,” added Benjamin.