Winning Summer Interns Setting The Jefferies Tone For The Month Of August!
Last month, we asked each of our 226 U.S., EMEA and Asia-based summer analysts and associates to share what was on their minds and hearts by writing their own August 1st “Jef_All Letter.” The goal of the monthly letter is to share an idea, thought, perspective, observation, theme or objective for all of us to ponder/debate/achieve/avoid. This year, we left the topic open: interns could write about the current state of the world, what is going on in the markets, thoughts about culture and what it means to be a part of Jefferies, diversity, workplace flexibility, or anything that came to their mind.
The senior leaders of Jefferies (along with the two of us) read every individual letter, and we chose the winners without seeing the names of any of the authors to ensure complete objectivity. The submissions were inspiring, honest, original, motivating, thoughtful and creative. The truth is it was not easy selecting the winners. In fact, we had so many unique and insightful submissions this year that we ended up selecting eight letters!
The winners come from various parts of the firm: Equities, Finance, Fixed Income, Investment Banking, and the J-NOBLE Rotational program. Rich will have the privilege this year of joining our winners: Breanne Davis, Nguissaly Gueye, Kenny Jeong, Tanya Kapoor, Tama Kellner, Laina Lu, Bridget Momper and Peris Mwangi for a Zoom lunch on Tuesday, August 3rd to celebrate their victory. We are happy to now share the winning letters with the rest of Jefferies.
But most of all we were touched by how all the letters – not just the finalists – embodied the values we try to live by at Jefferies: originality, quality, creativity, honesty and directness.
While it was unfortunate that a large part of the internship this year was virtual, the summer interns never lost their focus and were able to make valuable contributions to their teams and the firm. We cannot thank you enough for your dedication, and it was wonderful to at last be able to interact with many of you in person, if only for a few days.
We would also like to thank so many of you who contributed your time and ideas to making sure our interns had an incredible experience. There is nothing more important to us than ensuring our future leaders have a chance to understand Jefferies’ culture, capabilities, and what makes our industry so exciting and important.
Stay safe, enjoy your August, and thank you to all our interns for an amazing summer,
Rich and Brian
School: Lehigh University
At Jefferies, Everyone Belongs
“We belong to something beautiful.” But what does it mean to belong, you may ask? To belong at Jefferies is to stand out. To be an innovator. To be someone that inspires, thinks outside of the box, and paves an individual path to success. Jefferies is a place where the CEO has interns at his house, where several senior employees take time out of their day to help advance their junior’s careers, and where everyone is available to answer an email in record time.
And the “something beautiful” is a place where people can be comfortable solely being who they are. With jWIN, jNoble, jMosaic, jVet, and so much more this is a place that one can be their true authentic self and not be afraid of it. Jefferies is a mixing pot with every employee being an integral part of the puzzle that makes Jefferies whole.
As Nadia Batchelor put during one of our in-person panels, “I have never had to be anyone but Nadia.” Jefferies has been one of the only companies I have heard of who truly has changed the way Wall Street is looked at. After hearing the misogyny and banter that used to be uncomfortably common in the finance industry, Jefferies has broken the stereotype to make all people from various races, ethnicities, and genders feel not only welcomed, but empowered to work at a place where the culture intersects with our universal idea of doing what is right.
Putting these words together means that Jefferies is a truly remarkable place where collaboration and innovative together can create a place where all voices are heard, no matter the title. I have been able to feel this firsthand. When I started this internship, I did not know exactly what to expect and how I could contribute. Right from the start Andrew, my manager, invested in me. He quickly offered up a list of projects that I could jump right into and learn about the business while making an impact to help the team. There is no I in team and even though there is one in internship – I am taking that to mean inclusive.
It has been a very special summer of 2021 for me. One where I was able to experience being part of "something beautiful” as a Jefferies employee where differences are celebrated and embraced.
Division: Investment Banking
School: London Business School
Substance rather than surface
Why role models in banking matter, that is the title of the LBS Think article I was recently featured in. As an African and Black woman, raised in a Senegalese culture that was -back in the days- merely celebrating women for their professional successes, it was difficult for me to have a professional female role model I could relate to and look up to, to dare to aim high regardless of my background. Having decided to pursue a career in finance since my teenage years, I knew it would be uncommon to see someone like me in the top ranks of a successful financial institution, especially in Investment Banking, which was at a time reserved to an elite of white man. With that in mind, I aim to be successful in my Investment Banking career and perhaps one day be a role model to future generations of black, African and female bankers.
In 2020, when I started applying for internships in Investment Banking, diversity and inclusion was a hot topic in the industry. A lot of financial institutions were throwing out vague statements and meaningless numbers and objectives, without ever coming up with a real plan of actions to fix the issue they “just found out about”. At that point, it became important for me to target companies that were not engaging in tokenism. And amongst all my prospects, Jefferies was different. Not only was there a senior investment banker I could identify with, but she was working with a group of colleagues on the difficult task to make Jefferies walk the D&I talk. Hearing about JEMS’ initiatives and seeing the leaders of the company seek help from interns – as with the EMEA interns’ letters about diversity – was a real proof of good faith to me.
Whilst the leadership programs, unconscious bias trainings, and the educational webinars are a good start, there is still a long way to go for Jefferies to walk the walk in the industry. What I love about Jefferies is that all senior employees I’ve addressed this topic to, from the CEO to VPs, are honest about the issue and eager to see change. Why am I questioning the seniors? Because change must come from the top. However, it is imperative that the “top” and the “bottom” meet half-way to have a real impact when challenging for positive change. As the African saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
In that sense it is important that all junior employees and even interns, feel concerned about this topic. Not just the ones that identify with these minorities, all of us. As such, to our allies I shall say:
No matter your seniority, you should never be scared to speak upon behalf of others. Show up and actively participate to events, not because they are mandatory but because it is a matter of humanity. Get educated, debate, share thoughts and ideas because it will open your mind and make you a better person. In the process, you may inspire other people like you to be more conscious about this topic and to dare to challenge for positive changes. While JEMS is working on building the next generation of role models for minorities in Investment Banking, you will be building the next generation of allies. Ultimately, we will all create a safe space for every minority that will consider Jefferies to start and/or build their career.
Throughout this “building the next generation of role models” journey, it will be important to think about ways to support the people that are here now and do not necessarily have models. Although it is encouraging to have one senior banker that we – African, black and female aspiring bankers - can relate to, one out of two hundred bankers in London is not enough. One way to change the narrative could be to leverage on Jefferies’ global network and the greater connectivity we have gained through the COVID-crisis, to connect - via cross border and cross division events and mentorship schemes - juniors and seniors that could have similar perspectives and stories.
I have no doubt that Jefferies, as a collective, will get to the point of being a reference in D&I and finally see the fruits of its efforts, with augmented benefits for our clients and an enviable work environment. Until we get there, I shall say that I am proud to be interning in a company that chooses substance rather than surface.
Division: Investment Banking
School: University of Oxford
From One Trench & Family to Another
I was discharged from the military in May of 2021.
When the time came to reflect upon my time in the Army, I realized that returning to society would mean leaving behind many aspects of life that I had grown accustomed to – for instance, the daily routine of waking up at 0530 for physical training, the long hours tinkering away in the turret of my crew’s M1 Abrams main battle tank, and spending weeks in the field on live fire exercises.
Yet, what I feared most was taking a step away from the brotherhood that I had come to know as family.
The members in my platoon of 16 tankers came from all walks of life. Off the top of my head, my platoon leader was a Virginia native who graduated from West Point, section sergeant was a former police officer from Puerto Rico, and gunner was a Californian high-school graduate who saw the Army as a way of getting to college debt-free. And while we definitely didn’t agree on everything, we could always rely on each other to get through ‘the suck.’
Spending hours patrolling under the 100 degree heat, eating army rations on the move under torrential rain, wondering when we’ll come into contact with opposing forces for days on end… and worst of all, what every service member probably hates the most: the orders ‘hurry up’ and ‘wait’ eventually melding into the confusing mantra of ‘hurry up and wait.’ These are just a few common elements of ‘the suck.’
At the end of the day, I think all service members embrace the challenge, understanding that it’s a part of serving their countries. After all, if it ain’t raining, you ain’t training. But ultimately, the strength to persevere in the moment comes not always from the love of country, the benefits of being a service member, or the belief that whatever we’re doing is conducive to the mission. Of course, these are important elements, but often times they are not at the forefront of your mind. Rather, it’s because when you’re in the trenches – literally and figuratively – you have someone there with you who’s going to give you a helping hand, have an honest conversation with you, and at the end of the day, be someone that listens.
Why is any of this relevant? Just one week into the internship, an analyst who was assigned to be my buddy sent me a Zoom invite. Funny enough, the meeting was called “Getting Ready to be in the Trenches Together.”
I mean, I did have a good laugh at first. But after I convinced myself that I was probably the only one who found it to be that funny, I realized I was skeptical – truth be told, I had doubts that a member of my deal team could be the type of pillar that someone from my platoon was.
But to my pleasant surprise, I was wrong.
I think it’s worth emphasizing that in no way am I characterizing my experience at Jefferies as surviving ‘the suck’ – this would be a gross mischaracterization, considering how much I have learnt and enjoyed the work so far. In particular, I am extremely grateful to my team members for giving me so much autonomy and responsibility from day one. Not being scared of falling has given me the courage to take that extra step forward, even if I am uncertain if it’s in the right direction.
Yet, I think it would be dishonest to say that everything is always sunshine and rainbows because at the end of the day, no job really is. There have been long nights when my team and I became frustrated trying to understand why a model isn’t behaving like we think it should, fatigued from granular analysis scrubbing through hundreds of lines to arrive at a more accurate number, and lost in terms of what to do generally. But none of us are really alone in the trenches that my buddy was metaphorically speaking about – because it’s in those moments we can always hop on a call, shoot a message, or drop an email, and know that the person on the other end will be right there with us. Just like my time in the military – being a part of a team, one that feels like the brotherhood and family I was a part of, is why I am confident that when all is said and done, we’ll have found a way to pull through and deliver.
I wish I could go back several months ago to tell myself that I’m not just taking a step away from a family. Rather, I’ll be stepping into a new one. At the end of the day, I’m an intern, so it does still feel weird that I’m being given a chance to set the tone at Jefferies. But if I may – I really do think this sense of family is what makes this firm special. I know not everyone in this industry has the opportunity to cherish something like this – and I think that’s worth keeping in mind.
Division: Jefferies Finance
School: Claremont McKenna College
Life lessons from two suitcases
While most people stopped travelling during COVID and were able to hunker down at home, my two suitcases and I had to move around a lot. Due to numerous travel restrictions, I couldn’t go back home to Indonesia for a long time. As a result, in the span of one year, I ended up moving five times across four different cities in three countries. At the time, there was a lot of worry and frustration, but looking back my two suitcases have taught me some important life lessons. More excitingly, over the last few weeks, I have seen many of these values shine through at Jefferies as well and I’m honored to be working for such a company. Without further ado, here are a few of the lessons I learned living out of two suitcases but have also seen at Jefferies:
Adaptability is key
Admittedly, I’m a bit more of a type A person. I love planning, scheduling, and organizing, so it was tough to get used to the uncertainty around me. Not knowing where I was going to stay or when I was going to fly back home was nerve-wracking. Eventually, I learned that I had no control over these things. Getting stressed or worried was not going to help me, so I just had to go with the flow and adapt to each situation as it unfolded.
Over the last few weeks, I learned that Jefferies was one of the early adopters of working from home. The company took the uncertainty of COVID in their stride. Today, when Zoom crashes we switch to a phone call immediately, or when the VDI freezes we start working off our phones. Whether it’s a big or small change, Jefferies adapts. It’s incredible to see how much the company has grown during the pandemic.
You can do it!
During the second half of 2020, I lived in New Delhi for a few months and to manage the time difference for school, I slept during the day and stayed awake the entire night. At the time, I often said to myself, “I can’t do this, I’m not superwoman.” The truth is I slowly started to realize that I was getting in my own way and that I needed to change my rhetoric to keep going. I switched it up and started to say, “you’ve got this, you can do it.” It became my new mantra and I know it may sound cliché, but it really worked.
Jefferies has created a place for women to thrive in one of the most demanding industries. As I get to know more senior leaders across the firm, especially women, I’m in awe. It is amazing to see them raise a young daughter or three teenage boys, all while sending emails and going through memos during all hours of the day! They truly are inspiring!
Community is everything
I grew up learning about the importance of a community but when times are tough, their value shines through even more. My community of friends and family were there for me each step of the way through 2020. Relationships require time and effort, and it’s up to us to invest in them because when the time comes the same relationships will empower and stand by you.
Jefferies has created such a supportive, friendly, and open community. Everyone from first- year analysts to MDs is there to support you. Every question is answered, every email gets a response, and every Teams message gets a reply. I remember during my first week, I had sent a question on Teams to a first-year analyst, and the next thing I know I get a phone call and the analyst starts discussing the question with me. Every day, I start work truly grateful to be a part of such an amazing community.
Before I end this letter, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Jefferies for some of the most memorable weeks of my life!
Division: Equity Research
School: University of Maryland
All of us have been asked at one point or another: “What is Jefferies?” That is certainly the most common question I get immediately after “So what are you doing this summer?” And every time I give the same answer- An investment bank and financial services firm. Recently, however, I have been asking myself this same question, what is Jefferies? And what I have found throughout the summer is this:
Jefferies is not one, but three calls of congratulations after receiving an offer to come work here.
Jefferies is an MBA Associate staying an extra hour to help those of us who could not quite get our balance sheets to balance on the first day of onboarding training.
Jefferies is the CEO inviting interns into his home and then making sure to spend time talking with every single one of us.
Jefferies is a Senior Vice President from another division willing to take an hour out of her busy day to grab coffee and give insights into being a woman in the industry.
Jefferies is the associate who answers every question I can think of, and then continues encouraging me to ask even more.
Jefferies is the smiling faces of team members on zoom day in and day out, ready to work together on whatever challenges the day brings.
Jefferies is its people. No matter the rank or division, it all boils down to the individuals logging on day after day, putting their best foot forward.
And that, I believe, is the answer to how Jefferies will maintain its unique culture as the company continues to grow. It can be easy to get caught up in the fast paced day-to-day of the street and fall into being just another bank. However, if new hires continue to be brought into this people-first culture that has been so successful and welcoming, the personal touch of Jefferies will prevail far into the future.
So yes, Jefferies is still an investment bank and financial services firm, but it is also so much more. And for that, I am so grateful.
Division: Investment Banking
School: University College London
The Balance of Things
What do you do when you are taught entirely different values and told to behave in the exact opposite ways from individuals that you equally respect and admire? That is a question that has troubled many people who have had a combination of Western and Eastern upbringing.
In China, where I spent the first decade of my life, I was constantly taught the Confucian virtues of being humble and reserved; that you should never talk about your achievements and never take compliments easily. Classic responses to compliments would be denials. One would say while shaking their hands and head hastily, “No! No!” “Not really!” and “No! you are so much better!” instead of a straightforward and sincere “Thank you.” By no means are the Chinese not confident or proud of themselves but it simply goes against societal expectations when you directly acknowledge compliments. By contrast, in Western cultures, there is no harm in being proud of your success and sharing it with the others. In fact, one is expected to be able to do so in many situations. This cultural difference made me uncertain at first about how to ‘sell my stories’ and convince interviewers that I am competent. Am I still humble when I explicitly tell others I have great communication, teamwork, and leadership skills? And equally, when I stay humble, can I adequately express my ability to work as a team whilst demonstrating my entrepreneurship? How do I find the right balance? Or do I?
As I navigated through the internship application season the importance of the saying, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” really struck me. I realised that I would be jeopardising myself if I failed to convey my confidence to my interviewers through verbal confirmation. So, I started to talk about my qualities, but I backed them with facts and stories, which happened to come across as more convincing as well. It was indeed a personal journey of finding a balance between the opposite values taught to me and I became even more aware of the impact of inherent cultural differences on individuals’ behaviours. So next time if an East Asian tells you they are “not bad” at something, chances are they are very good at it. If they say they are “good,” they are probably at a level that is in between excellence and perfection.
Another cultural difference observed in corporate settings is the disparity between Eastern collectivism and Western individualism. In an East Asian setting, the goal is always to blend in instead of to stand out. There is an idiom which says, “shoot the bird that takes the lead,” which lectures that whoever tries to stand out will be attacked first. This ideology complements the hierarchy prevalent in the society as well. As a result, juniors hardly step forward unless they are given specific instructions to do so or else, they would be viewed as insensible.
Fortunately, that is not Jefferies’ culture at all. I am very grateful for the fact that everyone is approachable and more than willing to teach me, from off-cycle interns to managing directors. Within this flat structure, the mentorship element was felt even more strongly as I not only received support from my buddy but simply everyone on the team. We were also highly encouraged to take initiatives and all our opinions felt valued. I have already lost count of the number of times someone on the team has reassured me there is no dumb question to ask and would give me a quick call to explain how to do things correctly. I feel grounded and excited at the same time, for I know that I would have all the guidance I need along my journey of taking on more challenges and responsibilities. As what is said by many, it is the people that make Jefferies great.
Division: Fixed Income S&T
School: University of Dayton
In true Rich Handler fashion, I feel it is only right that this letter be laid out in a list format. This summer has been full of challenges, surprises, and most importantly – lessons. Below are just a few things which come to mind as I reflect upon the past several weeks to the beginning of what I hope to be a long and successful career at Jefferies.
Just Okay, Isn’t Okay – I have always firmly believed that mental health is a priority above all else, or at least I thought I did before this summer. I have been blessed to never truly struggle with maintaining a healthy and happy attitude. That being said, the long hours of difficult work can certainly take their toll. This summer I have struggled, for really the first time, to take care of both my body and mind. It is incredibly easy to push aside taking care of yourself when you are taking on a different and challenging lifestyle to the one that you have always known. At the end of the day, mental health needs to come above all else. Take the thirty-minute walk. After all, if I’m not happy, I can’t do the job to the best of my ability.
Everyone Notices Your Attitude – When you get frustrated, stressed, and tired, it is easy to forget how privileged you are to work at an incredible firm, surrounded by even more incredible people. No one wants to work with someone who has a poor attitude. There are many, many people who would do anything to be in the spot that you are. Be grateful for the opportunity and show it. A positive attitude goes a long way.
Find Yourself a Mentor – I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by an abundance of potential mentors. The industry, bank, and role are extremely daunting at first. I have found myself discussing mentors time and time again with my older colleagues this summer. Finding a mentor who sees themselves in you, shares similar values, and will be a source of support in this new and unknown environment is quite possibly one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Feeling Okay with Discomfort is Key – Needless to say, I have never felt comfortable one day this summer. I have been pushed to work harder and think smarter than I ever have. Do what scares you and do it to the best of your ability. I have always read that greatness is born out of discomfort. It wasn’t until these past couple weeks that I truly realized I will never know everything, and I will certainly always be challenged no matter how many years of experience I may possess. Then again, I think that is the beauty of this job and industry.
Every Day is a New Opportunity– When you first start working, it is easy to view each day as a check box and countdown till the weekend. I think the phrase “Live Each Day to the Fullest” is cliché but in reality, it couldn’t be truer. You can’t take anything for granted. Every day is an opportunity to start a friendship, strengthen a relationship, build your skillset, and ultimately, become a better person. You need to find a job that makes you excited to wake up each day and embrace it.
Risk Taking is Critical, Be an Athlete– Similar to the note on discomfort, you need to take calculated risk. Growth does not come from taking the same approach time and time again. Success is going to require you to take risks that you aren’t comfortable with and don’t believe you are ready for. Always be ready to compete and adapt.
I Know Practically Nothing – This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Truthfully, I thought my finance courses would have prepared me better for the job. While I may be slightly better off than those who have never seen a balance sheet, it is astonishing to see how knowledgeable my colleagues are. Whether they have worked in the industry for thirty years or thirty months, their level of knowledge is far superior to my own. It’s extremely exciting to think that if I work hard, I can know (and more importantly, understand) what they do some day. For now, work hard and humbly.
Even Managing Directors Make Mistakes, Learn to Laugh– Everybody makes mistakes. What is far more important is how you react and whether you make that mistake again. No one is perfect. It is inevitable that you are going to make mistakes so learn to make a note of it, laugh it off, and move on. Life is too short to dwell on something in the past.
Settling is Only Going to Hurt You – Although the work itself might vary day to day, your routine is likely somewhat the same. When you get in a routine, it is easy to become comfortable with the consistency. Never settle with what is comfortable. Instead, constantly strive to push yourself with new ideas, new methods, and new topics. Being complacent with where you are at is not going to make the firm any better and it certainly won’t make you any better.
I will never forget receiving the call that I had the offer to intern at Jefferies. It was a surreal moment where everything that I had worked so hard for over the past couple years finally came together. I knew I would be challenged this summer and I expected to learn a lot. What I didn’t expect, however, is to meet the people that I did. I have never been surrounded by so many intelligent, driven, and supportive individuals. To Jefferies, thank you for taking a chance on me and thank you for pushing me to become a better businesswoman, friend, colleague and overall person each and every day.
Division: J-NOBLE Rotational Program
School: Smith College
My summer experience at Jefferies has been nothing short of enriching. From the engaging conversations with senior leaders, to the daily interactions with my teammates in the various departments I have worked with and even the intellectually engaging work I have done and continue to do. I am thinking back to the 1st of June, and my idea of how my internship experience would be was vague. I had crippling anxiety as to whether I was cut for this, whether I would be able to make it through or even fit in the culture at Jefferies. Seven weeks later, I am pleasantly surprised at how well I have done and how welcome and seen I have felt throughout this internship.
Some of the key highlights so far are:
Learning the value of relationships- Beyond being excellent at one’s job and knowledgeable, what sets one apart from the rest is how personable they are and the values they share with others. Rich Handler and other senior leaders have emphasized the value of building interpersonal relationships with clients, coworkers and mentors. My mentor said her strength has always been her genuine interest in people as she shared Maya Angelou’s famous quote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. This is a valuable lesson not only for us interns as we launch our careers, but also for those continuing with their careers.
The entrepreneurial spirit at Jefferies- Throughout my year long experience as a JNOBLE fellow while networking with people at Jefferies, they mentioned that juniors here are always given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their teams’ work. I have seen this firsthand for myself, having had the opportunity to work on a project from its inception to fruition. The highlight of my internship so far has been seeing that note get sent out to clients and receive great feedback. It has been an honor to be given agency over important work and to have my manager believe in my capability to deliver even as an intern.
Equal opportunity to excel- Jefferies has proved to me to be a place where people from diverse backgrounds can excel and thrive. I have been fortunate to meet and get mentored by excellent individuals from all walks of life. I am also impressed by the efforts to increase diversity and inclusion with Jefferies, with initiatives that go above and beyond to ensure minorities are not only onboarded but also supported in terms of mentorship and access to valuable networks. While there is still a lot of work to be done, as a person coming from underrepresented communities, I have felt so welcome within the teams I have sat with. Jefferies continues to put deliberate effort in leveling the playing field. Thank you for giving this first generation, black woman and many others an opportunity to excel with their peers.
In conclusion, my experience at Jefferies has been a defining moment in my career. I have some useful insights to kickstart a successful career with, and a valuable network to guide me with that. I am now more than ever empowered to go forth and pursue things I once thought were out of my reach. I see myself succeeding at Jefferies while contributing meaningfully to the business objectives. I am eternally grateful for the people I have met and worked with this summer. It has been an incredible experience and I sincerely hope to come back to Jefferies in the future.