Our meetings during the day even if it was held at

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our meetings during the day, even if it was held at three in the afternoon, there would be a full spread of food outside the room—and not just cookies and tea, but sandwiches, giant platters of them, plus beverages and dessert. I put on about fifteen pounds that summer. There was a lot of muttering about overkill. We had just eaten lunch at noon, and now here were all these sandwiches. It seemed like a colossal waste of money. As did the fruit. In those days, Goldman had fresh fruit, big plates of it, everywhere on the trading floor. There was so much of it that it couldn’t possibly all be eaten—I remember seeing piles of rotting fruit with clouds of tiny flies swarming around them. It was said that Goldman was spending tens of thousands of dollars a month just on fruit. When the technology bubble burst, the fruit was the first thing to go. ——— But in the summer of 2000, the bubble hadn’t burst yet: Tech was still booming. Dot-coms were all the rage. All a company had to do then was put that magic suffix .com after its name, or the prefix e- in front of it, and its value would instantly soar, to absurd, stratospheric levels. That summer on the Goldman trading floor, you saw a lot of “deal toys” (Lucite blocks commemorating tech deals) on people’s desks; you saw a lot of celebratory baseball caps bearing tech company names; you saw a lot of high-fiving. And amid this irrational exuberance, I found an island of solidity: I found my rabbi. Early in the summer there was a lot of talk, in meetings and among the interns, about the roles we aspired to within the company. I gave the question a lot of thought. I had already decided that sales and trading, the last bastion of true, unadulterated capitalism, interested me more than asset
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management (a slower business, investing money for large institutions and wealthy individuals) or investment banking (helping companies raise capital or reconfigure themselves). Sales and trading itself contained three roles: salesperson, trader, and quant (aka strat). The last was immediately out, as far as I (and most everybody else in the program) was concerned: I was good at math, but I was no genius; I didn’t have a PhD. The choice then became salesperson or trader. It was a decision you needed to make in the first two or three weeks of the summer, and the answer wasn’t instantly apparent. When you walked onto the trading floor, you couldn’t tell who was who. There were just rows and rows of people. Over the first few weeks, I began to understand who chose one specialty and who chose the other, and why. The salesperson, of course, dealt with clients. And whether the client was a mutual fund in Boston, a macro hedge fund in New York, or a sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East, these clients managed hundreds of billions of dollars in assets, executed trades with the firm frequently, and paid Goldman commissions ranging from thousands of dollars per year to the double-digit millions.
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