Do well here and you would be on the path to a career

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this was a tough room. Do well here, and you would be on the path to a career where even the average middle manager makes $250,000 a year and exerts some power and influence. I was a pharmacist’s son from Johannesburg, South Africa, and had never heard about investment banking until I got a scholarship to Stanford University and came to America for the first time. Also flanking the whiteboard with Josh at the front of the room was another intern presenter named
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Adam, who would later become one of my best friends and go on to manage billions of dollars at a hedge fund. But at this moment, at the height of the Internet bubble on Wall Street, these two interns were under severe fire. Adam was flushed, too, but maybe it was just the thrill of the moment. An applied math major, he was crushing it; he knew his stuff cold. Josh, on the other hand, was an English major, and completely out of his depth. There were two Open Meetings a week, held after the day’s work on the trading floor was finished, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The ninety-minute meetings were usually run by (in order of rank) a partner, a managing director, or a tribunal of three angry vice presidents, sitting imperiously at a table at the front of the room. Depending on the personal style of the people in charge, the meetings could be brutal. They were always intense. Open Meetings started at 6:00 P.M. on the dot—not 6:01 or 6:02. There were always three or four interns who got there at 6:03 or 6:05; they were almost always made to wait outside. If too many people arrived late, we would all have to come in at five the next morning for a makeup meeting; the partner would also show up at 5:00 A.M. Once again, if you arrived at 5:05, you were made to wait outside. This rule was strictly enforced. There were people who just couldn’t get there on time, and it reflected poorly on them. The interns sat behind long tables arranged in rows. On the tabletop in front of you, you’d place a pad of paper containing your preparatory notes. At the head of the room, the person in charge, armed with a list of all the interns’ names, would kick off the meeting by cold-calling people—just picking names at random. Out at the rows of tables, every intern was praying, Please, don’t let it be me . I was nervous but ready. My strategy was to volunteer, very quickly, whenever I knew the answer to a question—then those running the meeting would be less likely to pick on me later, for an answer I didn’t know. Some people seemed totally unfazed by being called on; but several, male and female, seemed undone by the experience: VP (pointing): Okay, third row, second seat over. Stand up and state your name. INTERN (standing slowly): Brynn Thomas, Brown University. VP (firmly): Tell me about Microsoft stock. What is our house view? What does our research analyst think?
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