Goldman Sachs panel focuses on leadership

Akshay Dave Jan 30, 2011

Every year, several Carnegie Mellon students join Goldman Sachs as interns and full-time employees. The company is a global financial services firm that specializes in investment banking, securities, and investment management. As part of its continued efforts to recruit students, the company hosted a leadership panel discussion in Rangos Hall last Wednesday.

Julie Harris, managing director of the company, moderated the discussion. On the panel were vice presidents Gregory Thompson and Lauren Day, associate Lizzy Schulzinger, and analysts Sharon Somuah and Brad Yankiver. The audience consisted of 35 members of the Carnegie Mellon community, including a diverse group of undergraduates.

The panel focused on providing a more expansive definition of leadership, especially in the context of the corporate environment. The discussion, titled “Leadership and the Transition from University to the Working World,” was intended to aid students facing the transition from the university environment to the corporate world.

Sponsored by the Office of Student Activities, the event showed how the skills gained from leadership roles on campus can carry over into a work atmosphere and give transitioning students an edge.

The Goldman Sachs panelists shared their experiences and insight through an interactive discussion. They addressed important topics ranging from how their leadership experiences in the academic world played a role in their job search to choosing a company to how they continued to develop their leadership skills in the workplace.

Yankiver, a Carnegie Mellon alumnus (HSS ’07), served in a number of leadership roles during his undergraduate career. He was a community adviser, publisher for The Tartan, teaching assistant, and member of the University Discipline Committee.

“There are different ways to display leadership. And it has a lot to do with the ability to be comfortable when you step outside your comfort zone,” he said.
Yankiver’s personal experiences from his roles in the Carnegie Mellon community helped build the skills he needed to be a leader in his job at Goldman Sachs, he said. He exemplified the goal of the discussion by connecting his experiences as an undergraduate to his new responsibilities in the corporate sector.

“Meaningful leadership is a learning curve — it is about adapting the things that you learn in school and applying them to something you are passionate about,” Somuah said in response to Yankiver’s point.

Like Somuah, all of the speakers stressed the importance of passion in any leadership position. “The most important thing in a leader is the passion. And this should shine through in the desire to do more and more without being asked for it,” Thompson said. Day added that “if there is something you are passionate about, take the lead and then see where it takes you.”

Finally, the audience got a taste of the benefits of being a leader in one’s professional career. Day reminded those present that “leadership helps you make those friends and get those opportunities that are advantageous later on.”

“While your impact can be regional or global, leadership skills will keep you up-to-date on foundational business principles,” Harris added.

The audience responded positively to the advice and insight from experienced professionals at Goldman Sachs. The panel was open to any individual questions the audience had in response to the panel’s speeches.

Kevin Williams, a junior civil and environmental engineering major, came to the event because he wanted to learn more about the industry perspective on leadership.

“Often students hear about leadership in an academic environment, but here I was happy to get a corporate viewpoint. I was surprised to hear that leadership was not just about being in charge of something, but about being an active part of a team — making sure you contribute by adapting and applying your skills,” Williams said.

Avantika Goel, a junior business administration major, was happy to see that she “had the opportunity to interact with professionals in the financial services industry.” She summarized the event by saying that after she graduates, she “would love to be back one day as the member of a similar panel.”