We were the area everyone feared would go into a

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We were the area everyone feared would go into a recession. All this, plus we newbies were going to have to retake the Series 7, one month later. September 11 had put into perspective what was important and what wasn’t, and part of me wanted to think, It’s just a stupid test . In reality, though, passing it was vital to my getting my career started on the right foot—to getting it started, period. There’s only so long you can take coffee orders and make photocopies. At the same time, it was extremely challenging to go back and hit the books. Paranoia in the city, and at the firm, was high in the wake of the attacks. Would the other shoe drop? We prayed not. One colleague never came back to work after 9/11. She never even set foot in the office. We were just too close to the burning rubble and the trauma. It had been too much for her. People at work were freaked out, but I was moved by how everybody pulled together and supported one another—and our clients. The overriding message was “Now is the time we differentiate ourselves. This is where Goldman Sachs becomes Goldman Sachs. Let’s be ultra- attentive to our clients; let’s help them get back on their feet, even if it doesn’t benefit us immediately. Because that’s what the clients are going to remember.” The message was classic Goldman Sachs, and the reason it could be proclaimed so strongly is because the old guard was still there. Many of the pre-IPO partners were still in place. This was early in Hank Paulson’s tenure as sole CEO; he had recently forced out Jon Corzine. (Corzine, who had been a vocal advocate in the decision of the firm to go public, would go on to become governor of New Jersey, a U.S. senator, and then the CEO of MF Global, a futures brokerage that went bankrupt after using client funds to cover trading losses.) Paulson’s letter to shareholders in the 2001 Annual Report, released soon after 9/11, reemphasized the firm’s core values of integrity and commitment to clients. The company also established a relief fund for people and organizations affected by the attacks; Goldman employees contributed $5.5 million, which the firm matched. That was the macro. In the trenches, I was trying to learn my job during that crazy period. Every morning at 5:30, we first-year analysts would crowd into the copy room, our first interaction of the day, all of us competing to use the photocopying machine first because we had to make big stacks of copies to hand out to the senior people on our team by the time they arrived at 6:00. We were copying research reports on the stocks that Goldman analysts covered; we were summarizing the stories in the Wall Street Journal and on Bloomberg that would be relevant to the day’s trading. The idea behind aggregating and curating these data into summary form was to make the senior people’s jobs a bit easier, to save them from having to wade through the material themselves.
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