The article (forwarded to me via classmate Fabrizio Zappaterra, who was working at the M&A powerhouse boutique Wolfensohn at the time) made the email-forward rounds on Wall Street for over a year. Prefixed by an irate Salomon banker: "A Stanford student who did not receive an offer from Salomon Brothers was bold enough to put his name in print with these two articles. Maybe he doesn't want a job at all ..." Shield's much-read screed killed any chance he might have had at a post-Stanford career in high finance.
Angry Young Summer Associate
by Tim Shields, MBA2
Well, summer is over and by all relevant measures it was a smashing success; after all, in addition to getting to spend 110 hours a week next to Iris, my job provided me with a whole new crop of people toward whom I could direct my rage and bitterness. The 38 members of my Investment Banking Summer Associate class represented a wide range of personality types, from the merely obnoxious to the moderately narcissistic to the overwhelmingly repugnant. What amazed me most of all was how these differences invariably broke down along school lines. I had always been of the impression that all MBA students were more or less the same, allocated in some random fashion (a.k.a. the admissions process) to the various schools. I was wrong. I was very wrong. The differences between people from school X versus school Y are enormous, and I write this column to provide you with a useful glimpse of the person you might have been if Marie's dart had landed just a tad to the right.
Without Further Adieu:
These people were frightening. Like caged tigers long deprived of fresh kill, they descended upon Wall Street seeking to satiate their unquenchable thirst for discounted cash flows, coverage ratios, and, of course, 'the Big Deal.' They were boorish and dull, and interacting with them was like being locked in a room with a Bloomberg machine, except that the Bloomberg screen has two dimensions. Their armor was not impenetrable, however, and I loved tugging at their Achilles' heel. It annoyed them to no end when I referred to them as 'the Penn people.' They also have this complex about their status in the b-school hierarchy, desperately trying to convince themselves that everyone buys into Business Week's assessment of their school. When one of the Wharton people expressed to me his disappointment at the number of fellow summer associates who were not from Stanford, Harvard, or Wharton, thus presumably reflecting poorly on the Bank's recruiting efforts and relative prestige, I concurred, noting that 'at Goldman they hire nearly exclusively from Stanford and HBS, which explains its sterling reputation.' His subsequent wince was one of the highlights of my summer.
Sort of Wharton-lite, Columbia MBAs were finance semi-gurus with a little less attitude. Having successfully climbed over the backs of their classmates in order to obtain one of the precious few slots allocated by Wall Street firms to the hundreds of eager Columbia MBAs, it was always great fun to tell them how by comparison it was so remarkably easy to obtain an investment banking job from Stanford. 'My background? I worked in a food pantry in Appalachia for a couple of years after obtaining my peace studies degree from a junior college in Arkansas. I also failed my finance and accounting core classes in business school, so I was really surprised when I had eleven banking offers for the summer. Do you think that would have happened if I had gone to Columbia?' Yeah, I loved doing that. If I was in a truly nasty mood, I would follow up with a discussion hypothesizing on the quality of life differences between Palo Alto and Harlem. As you might guess, I wasn't too popular among the Columbia crowd.
Believe it or not, I actually like the Kellogg people. Not the sharpest ginsu knives in the set, they were as out of place on Wall Street as you might expect from people who'd spent the prior year intensely debating the merits of Dave Thomas appearing in person in the Wendy's commercials. Still, they were all pretty cool and laid back and into having a good time. I thought they would have fit in quite well here at Stanford; in fact, if you took the average Stanford MBA, subtracted 50 IQ points and added a penchant for sub-zero weather (probably related to the lost IQ points), you would have a Kellogg MBA.
I think I found Waldo. Every stereotype you have ever heard about MIT is true. These guys were such incredible weenies, brilliantly managing to combine both the brainpower and social grace of an HP19B-II. Every time one of them came anywhere near me I did my best to convey a look which said quite plainly: 'go away - now.' I was generally unsuccessful, as they would not budge until they had finished telling me how they had been working until 5am every day this week on such and such a glamorous and sexy project, and that they had worked on a project similar to the one I was assigned to 'when they first started.' Moments before going postal, I could usually get them to leave me alone by making a comment to the effect of 'it must be a bummer constantly having to remind people that the school you go to in Boston is not Harvard.'
Speaking of Harvard, I've got to hand it to the HBS people. Their ability to mask their general incompetence with sheer arrogance impressed me. Floating through the summer like Cinderella at the ball, they expected you to accept their jargon-laced drivel with the same attitude that Moses and his stone tablets received on Sinai. Universally despised, they were oblivious to the disdain they inspired among their summer classmates. I suspect they would have been indifferent, though, associates being several levels below anyone they considered worthy of their attention.
There were also a few stragglers from other random schools. To quickly summarize, Darden and Chicago people get a thumbs-up; NYU and Yale a thumbs-down. There were also a few ranch-hands from Canadian schools who I thought should have been raising cattle or growing wheat or doing whatever it is they do in Canada, but probably not investment banking, eh.
In reflecting upon my summer experience, then, I am now angrier at Stanford than I have ever been in the past, which as many of you realize must mean I am simply brimming with unabated wrath. Why am I so upset with the GSB? It's obvious had I chosen to pursue my graduate education elsewhere, I would never have the problem I do here-'What am I going to write about for the next issue?'
Top 10 Quotes Overheard at 7 World Trade Center
10. 'You might want to reconsider that. It would be like stamping 'shoot me I'm stupid' on your forehead.'
Analyst, Media, on my telling him that I was going to ask an Associate for help in understanding a financial model.
9. 'You don't want this job. You really don't want this job. You get sucked in by the money and then find yourself trapped and miserable like I am. Don't be me.' Vice President, Energy, in a 4am confessional.
8. 'I love Wharton. All we do is eat, sleep, and breathe corporate finance. I've heard Stanford is different.' Fellow Summer associate, discussing the differences between the b-schools.
7. 'I rented a townhouse on Beacon Hill. I leased a Ferrari. I only ate in the best restaurants. I took trips around the world.' Vice President, Mergers & Acquisitions, describing to enthralled summer charges how he managed to spend $125 thousand during his second year at Harvard Business School.
6. 'I love that story.' Diane Sasseville, MBA2, commenting on my 'we lost the deal' experience.
5. 'Joining Salomon Brothers is effectively like selling a 24-hour call option on your life.' Recruiter.
4. 'Salomon Brothers is just not a culture where anyone says 'please' or 'thank you' or 'good job'. Managing Director, Technology
3. 'I hope your summer here has convinced you that Salomon Brothers is your first choice for full-time employment.' Managing Director, Paper & Forest Products, in a goodbye message to me.
2. 'We have absolutely no reason to believe that we are a buyout target, nor that we will be in the near future.' Deryck Maughan, Salomon Brothers' CEO, August 18, 1997, easing the concerns of the Investment Banking unit.
[ed note: On Sept. 24, 1997, Salomon announced it was going to be acquired by Travelers Group for $9 billion]
1. 'Uniformly horrible.' Director of Energy, offering his impression of the Stanford Summer Associates.