Motivating Start to August with Messages from our Interns

Motivating Start to August with Messages from our Interns

Each August, we reset and hear what is on the minds and hearts of our global summer intern class. We asked all 369 this year to take their individual best shot at setting the tone for our firm, which could be an idea, thought, perspective, observation, theme or objective for all of us to ponder/debate/achieve/avoid. It could be about the current state of the world, what is going on in the markets, thoughts about culture, diversity, and what it means to be a part of Jefferies, or it could just be about life in general. As they all found out, this open-ended prompt is no easy task.

The Jefferies senior leaders (including the two of us) read all these letters, and we choose winners each year without seeing names of any authors to ensure complete objectivity. This process is never easy, as the submissions are all honest, thoughtful and inspiring – but each year we diligently pick a handful of the best ones.

The five winners this year come from across our Firm: Asset Management, Jefferies Finance, Investment Banking, and the J-NOBLE rotational program. We’re happy to share with all of you today 2023’s winning letters from Charles Ndlovu, Ava O’Connor, Tao Tian, Caitlyn Wurzburger, and Ava Zaleck.

Thank you to all of our interns, as each of you presented letters that embodied the values we live by at Jefferies: originality, quality, creativity, honesty, and directness. Your letters moved us, and reading them is the perfect way for us to complete the wonderful summer we experienced with each of you spread throughout our various offices. Please be proud of yourselves for your hard work, talent, integrity, perseverance and goodness.

Just as important, thank you to the vast group at Jefferies who mentored and contributed to our interns’ memorable summers. Ensuring our future leaders have a chance to understand Jefferies’ culture and capabilities is invaluable.Please enjoy your August, and thank you to all our interns for your contribution so far to Jefferies,

Rich and Brian

CEO, Jefferies Financial Group
[email protected]
@handlerrich Twitter | Instagram
he, him, his

President, Jefferies Financial Group
[email protected]
he, him, his

Charles Ndlovu

Division: J-NOBLE Rotational Program

School: University of Rochester

Human instinct dictates that we maintain close ties with those that agree with our viewpoints, after all they offer us the much sought-after external validation. As such people will avoid calling you out, opting instead to silently watch you on a destructive path because they are afraid of risking the fragile relationship or unfortunately just don’t care enough.

There are those that choose to go a different route, knowing that it might lead to fractured relationships, bruised egos and burnt bridges, and yet, they still take the path anyway. Why? Simply because they care! They pull you aside to an empty conference room and say, “Hey, you seem like a smart kid, here’s what you might think about changing…”. It is not always an easy pill to swallow, yet it still must be swallowed. Without the constant feedback one could have been lured into a false sense of security, an illusion that they are doing well when they could be doing so much more or even self-actualize.

In my short time at Jefferies, I have been lucky enough to meet wonderful analysts, associates, and fellow interns who not only care but also have been honest with me; applauding when I do well and giving constructive criticism where needed. I cannot count the number of times I have sent out a late-night email or an early 5am teams message asking for feedback on a recent project, comments on my August 1st letter, or advice on life itself. It is that culture at Jefferies that draws one in. There is a commitment to growth and a firm-wide belief that no one is ever too busy or too important to help, to constructively criticize or to share a cup of coffee at a crowded coffee bar.

The feedback and/or advice that stood out to me the most is:

  1. Remember your role as an intern is to make the job of the analyst/ associate easier, be helpful
  2. Don’t just highlight problems, think critically, suggest potential solutions, and give your reasoning
  3. Always ask and understand the big picture of the task or project you are working on

Receiving such constructive and insightful feedback is the manifestation of a deeply held sense of community. It truly embodies coming together as a village to raise a child. This is my ‘Why Jefferies’.

To all the unsung heroes who want to see us grow, continue keeping it real!

Ava O’Connor

Division: Investment Banking

School: Amherst College

A Night to Remember

It was Friday night before the 4th of July holiday weekend and Midtown was a ghost town. An intern received an email to complete an unfamiliar task and was unsure of how to proceed. Who could the intern turn to? An hour went by, and two full-time employees noticed the distressed expressions coming from behind the intern’s screen.

The two people, who the intern did not know, walked over and inquired if everything was alright. The intern replied that everything was under control, but not convincingly enough. Displaying genuine care, they pledged to support the intern until the task was finished.

As an intern, you want to prove that you know how to do everything in hopes of impressing those around you. You might feel apprehensive about seeking help and admitting a lack of familiarity with certain tasks.

Shying away from asking for assistance is by far and large the biggest mistake one can make. At Jefferies, no question is a poor question, and no person is the wrong person to ask for help. It is not expected for one to possess all the answers, and the most effective way to truly learn is to ask those around you who have experience.

The two individuals patiently explained each step of the process, addressing questions, until the intern felt capable of tackling the assignment. Upon its completion, they all stayed in the office getting to know one another as they awaited feedback.

That night will forever remain etched into the intern’s memory. The dedication exhibited by these employees, who generously invested their time late into Friday evening on their holiday weekend to guide an intern through a complex task, truly embodies the types of individuals that Jefferies attracts.

Jefferies has cultivated a culture that is second to none and no words can adequately describe the sense of value and support one is met with while working in an environment where everyone, regardless of seniority, is esteemed.

The intern left the office that night overwhelmed with gratitude, for they had not experienced such an exceptional level of human kindness in a very long time. In an industry that is often deemed as cutthroat and unforgiving, the people at Jefferies have collectively risen above norms to create a very special workplace. Jefferies fosters a supportive and inclusive culture that enhances individual and collective potential, and I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to experience it firsthand.

Tao Tian

Division: Investment Banking

School: Rice University

Coming to the halfway point of my internship at Jefferies, I started reflecting on the journey of the last five weeks in the firm. I still remember the nervousness on the first day. I had no idea what would come to me in the following weeks. Still, I always knew the experience would be fantastic to learn from people, challenge myself and contribute to the firm.

Here are a couple of valuable things I observed at Jefferies during the summer:

  •  Client first: Always putting clients first at Jefferies is not just a word but is reflected in daily work. Bankers always try to find solutions that maximize clients’ best interests and help clients make the best decisions by telling real stories. Jefferies’s success comes not simply from client relationships, but the actual value added the firm offers to our clients. With years of sales experience before internship, I can tell that is the only way to long-term success in a client-faced business.
  •  ESG and Sustainability: In 2022, Jefferies met the 100% renewable energy goal and achieved net zero emissions from our global offices, data centers, aviation, and vehicle fleet. But as an intern in the Energy and Power group, I see that sustainability is reflected in the firm’s operations and the commitment to support clients on their energy transition plan through finance. The energy transition and ESG projects I am involved in made me believe that Jefferies will make a significant impact on the world with our clients in the future.
  •  Challenging the status quo: Hard work is not long hours here but always challenging our status quo and taking extra to contribute the best of ourselves to the projects and organization. The internship provides me with opportunities to learn from people at the firm and improve myself every single day.
  •  People: Talking with colleagues sitting next to me whenever I have any questions and sitting behind the analysts to watch how they work, I see everybody willing to help. Group work with the intern class during the training also connected everyone. No matter where we are located, we all help each other to solve problems and become better selves.

The internship experience at Jefferies has been the perfect start for my investment banking career. I believe that the firm will also continuously grow its business and maintain its leadership position on Wall Street.

Caitlyn Wurzburger

Division: Asset Management

School: University of North Carolina

The Constant Pursuit of Excellence TOGETHER

A quote I live by and will continue to is, “When I am done getting better I am done.”

This quote sits with me because of a story my father told me when I was young. When my father was in college, he played lacrosse and was asked by his coach to go meet a young boy, who at the time had cancer. This boy was a huge fan of the Maryland Men’s Lacrosse Team and simply wanted a few hours of one of his favorite player’s times to hang out on a Saturday afternoon. Being a 21-year-old on a Saturday, my dad planned on going to the hospital to meet the boy for maybe an hour or two and then head out to go out with his friends. My father that coming Saturday arrived at the hospital. As he walked into the young boy’s room, a sheet of paper was hanging above his hospital bed with a phrase written with black sharpie. There was no color or anything just a simple white paper with black writing. The phrase above his bed was that quote I stated in the beginning. My father ended up staying all day and night talking to this young boy.

This quote has stuck with me because someone so young going through such a tough time had come to terms with his life and what he wanted to do. He decided in that moment that he was going to keep getting better and improving rather than give up. But more importantly, others around him had to not give up on him. This same lesson can be applied to every individual’s life. I use this quote in every aspect of my life and so does my father. It may seem simple, but it is the hard truth of the world that people need to face and except for themselves. My father explained to me an important lesson of giving people your genuine time. My father didn’t stay all day with the boy because he was obligated to, he did because he wanted to.

After being halfway done with my internship at Jefferies, this same theme is what I have found here at Jefferies. Jefferies has the go getters. They have individuals who are never done improving and do not settle for where they are now. Although, lots of people are smart and work hard. The difference here at Jefferies is you are surrounded by people that not only want to do well but want to see others do well. From the first day I started, I was met with smiling faces who have stopped doing something to answer my questions or help me with a task. My coworkers are genuinely happy to be at work with their fellow coworkers who are their friends. That is rare to come upon such a competitive but inclusive environment.

The biggest lesson I will take away from Jefferies after my internship is that you must want to keep improving and setting a new standard for yourself. But you cannot do it alone. You must team up with others because you want them to succeed, and you want the people you surround yourself with to want you to succeed as well. Not every place people work that is the standard set but here at Jefferies that is. The continuous pursuit of excellence with the people to the right and left of you cheering you on is the Jefferies’ Standard.

Ava Zaleck

Division: Jefferies Finance

School: University of Michigan

At the mid-way point of my summer internship, I can now take the time to reflect on both the growth I’ve experienced in the first weeks of the summer as well as how much learning there’s still left to be done. Having conquered five weeks of my internship so far, I share below five of the most important things I’ve learned thus far:

  1. It’s ok to not know something – While a challenging reckoning for any of the intelligent, high-achieving summer interns, it is ok to not know something. In fact, no finance or university course could truly have prepared me for the complexities of the industry that I’ve been exposed to thus far in my internship. Asking questions and learning from mistakes is paramount for both professional and personal growth.
  2. The Jefferies community is undeniably critical to distinguishing the firm – From our Speaker Series to diversity initiatives such as jWIN, Jefferies truly goes above and beyond to foster growth and community within the firm. Commencing the internship with a talk from Rich Handler and later being invited to his residence along with the entire NYC and Jersey City intern class emphasizes the interconnectivity amongst all levels of Jefferies. Similarly, the efforts made by Jefferies to break traditional stereotypes or barriers for women in the industry has made a world of difference to my internship experience.
  3. Your division’s analysts and associates as well as fellow interns are the most valuable resources you have – I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve asked a question of a colleague and been met with a thorough, intellectual, and kind answer. The patience and willingness of my senior colleagues and fellow interns to share their wealth of knowledge has made all the difference throughout my internship experience. Many of them have been in my position before, and it’s more likely than not that the question lingering on my mind could be answered in a Microsoft Teams exchange of three messages or less.
  4. Be proactive – While Jefferies certainly does their part in facilitating the most beneficial program for their interns, the rest of your experience is entirely up to you. Spending downtime digging through past deals or practicing shortcuts on Excel is the difference-maker in taking control of your own learning and growth as an intern. Similarly, reaching out to associates and analysts and learning from their industry expertise can be some of the most valuable and enriching moments of your internship program.
  5. This opportunity is truly once in a lifetime – Since receiving a phone call last October with an offer to join Jefferies as a member of the 2023 intern class, I’ve felt undeniably proud and excited to be joining this firm. I could not be more grateful that since starting work here this summer, these feelings have only intensified. These past five weeks have been some of the most enriching of my life, and I’m so looking forward to continuing to grow, adapt, and learn for the remaining weeks of the summer.