Career Profile: Grace Lee, Investment Banking

Career Profiles is a series of posts that features Haas students who have accepted an internship or full time job offer across various industries. 

12747974_10207424390201061_6931160318748461798_o.jpgGrace Lee is currently a 3rd year Business Administration student. Throughout her time at UC Berkeley, she has been involved in numerous organizations and activities on campus. Grace is currently HBSA’s Vice President of Technology and Communications, a cohort leader for the class of 2017, as well as the Assistant Director of the ASUC Student Legal Clinic. In addition to her more serious endeavors, she enjoys taking scenic photos, and playing basketball, piano, and strategic board games.

This past summer during her sophomore year, she was a summer analyst in the Corporate & Investment Bank at J.P. Morgan in New York, and she will be returning for the summer of 2016. 


Why finance? What made you choose Investment Banking at J.P. Morgan last summer?

I came across J.P. Morgan as I subscribed to their emailing list—they emailed me about an IB Risk dinner reception in San Francisco. The people I met were great. For the first time, I didn’t feel forced to network—one person I met I genuinely clicked with and wanted to know more about. I found myself asking questions out of genuine interest and desire to learn more, rather than from a predesignated list in my head. He helped me understand more about what finance was and was very patient with me, giving me great advice and direction that helped me as a sophomore. I even had a chance to work under him this past summer, and he was one of the big reasons I decided to stay at the firm—I think that role models and mentors are really important to have in the workplace, especially while we’re young.

Here are some reasons I like finance: Finance is the language of business, and it’s practical and can be used in so many different ways. It’s everywhere. It takes both a quantitative and qualitative approach. Most of all, there’s a steep learning curve, which is important to me—I’m always looking to learn new things!

What were some of the challenges that you faced while recruiting during sophomore year?

I don’t feel like there are as many resources for business/econ freshmen and sophomores in the recruiting season. Moreover, most firms are only interested in juniors and seniors, so I really wasn’t picky. Coming into recruiting as a sophomore, I was open to trying anything, although I did steer away from economics consulting, which is what I had done in the previous summer. I wanted to try something new, but there weren’t many resources or firms interested—every career fair focused on juniors and seniors.

At the same time, Investment Banking requires you to know a lot of technicals, and for the sophomore me who hadn’t yet taken accounting or finance, learning from scratch was incredibly difficult. I remember emailing random IB business clubs on campus asking if I could get an “interview” or a coffee chat to get some help. I emailed my business friend from Emory asking if he could share some IB guides with me. One of the campus IB clubs gave me some “phone interviews” on the Saturday a week before my Super Day with J.P. Morgan, and I got wrecked. I cried afterwards, humiliated, discouraged, and I realized just how much I didn’t know and how I would fly to New York just to embarrass myself.

That was my wake-up call. I locked myself in a room for 11 hours just learning and writing the 3 financial statements from scratch, solidifying the 5-8 stories I would have in my back pocket in STAR format, refining the way I shared my story, and practicing all the interview questions out loud. It was a huge game changer. I learned a lot in those 11 hours, and although I was far from perfect on technicals, it ended up being more than enough to get me by as a sophomore interviewee.

What advice do you have for students who are currently recruiting or beginning the process this coming fall?

Every situation is so different. Maybe except for the well-known advice like “don’t underestimate the importance of networking,” it’s difficult to find advice that’s one-mold-fits-all. And really, who am I to give advice?

More than advice, though, I would like to offer encouragement.

You’re not alone, and there are so many people, here, at Haas, at Berkeley, who are more than willing to help you. They’ve been there with you, they’re going through it with you, but you may need to get out of your comfort zone to find them and ask for their help. And that’s okay.

More importantly, your job, your internship, doesn’t define the person you are—you have so many unique things about you and your potential doesn’t start or end with your first internship or job. You’re more than the sum of your achievements, no matter how much the competition, the pressure, or society’s standards may make you feel that way.

Ultimately though, whether you do know or you don’t, you shouldn’t stop working hard or give up. It’ll take a lot of hard work, it’ll be stressful, it might even push you to your limits, maybe your 110%. But you’ll come out a better person, more mature, more experienced, and more prepared for the real world, and you’ll even learn more about yourself than you think. And when you look at it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad. 

This is my mindset: “At the end of this, no matter how or when it ends, at least I can say I gave it my absolute best.”

Apart from your career goals, what are you most passionate about?

Two issues are and have always been the closest to my heart: fairness, especially  in equality and justice, and helping others, especially through teaching, counseling, or coaching. I know that I have been remarkably blessed and privileged with the opportunities and education I have received. Not everyone has the chances like I did and many never will. I am constantly striving to find ways I can improve by gaining the skills, the wisdom, the knowledge, and the experience to be competent and qualified enough to make the greatest impact, especially to those without a voice.

Everything that I have been able to achieve and do today has been possible only with the help of others. I hope to always be able to do the same, particularly  for the underprivileged, on a larger scale one day.

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