Saim Ali is a senior at the Haas School of Business. Born and raised in Southern California, he transferred to UC Berkeley from Mount San Antonio College and began his journey in investment banking. After struggling for months to find an internship, he was able to lock one down at Stifel. He did not receive a return offer from them because they did not have any openings. So then his full-time hunt began, in which he received an investment banking offer at Wells Fargo. This interview will be especially beneficial to those who are searching for investment banking opportunities or those who want to transition smoothly into the Haas School of Business as transfers. Enjoy!
Saim Ali, thank you for your time.
It’s my pleasure.
Can you start off by telling me a little bit about yourself?
I’m from a town called Chino Hills in Southern California where I was born and raised for twenty years of my life. I went to Mt. SAC community college for two years which is located in Walnut California, and I completed my requirements there. Then I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity of transferring to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Right away when I got here, I knew investment banking was going to be my path since it offered an array of experiences. So I jumped right into recruiting for internships last year, and I was able to land a position at a middle-market bank called Stifel. It took a lot of patience and persistence, but by the end of spring, I finally got the internship. Had an amazing experience there, and then I recruited for full-time this fall and will be joining Wells Fargo for that.
Great! What advice would you give to incoming transfers for them to transition smoothly?
The advice that I would give is that they should start thinking about the careers they want to get into because although they got into Haas and they are really excited about that, the hard work needed only increases from there. People need to realize that life does not magically become easier once you enter Haas. This, “We made it” type of mentality that transfers come in with can really hinder their opportunities. Instead, they need to think about the next step forward because that will make their transition much easier. It will also make it much easier if they have an internship the summer before coming into Haas so they have a stronger resume and more experiences. It’s extremely crucial to have your resume and cover letter ready and reviewed before coming in because recruiting season starts within the first weeks of the semester. Haas students are very helpful so you can always send them those documents to review. I also think before coming into Haas they should start networking with professionals from the field they want to go into, as well as with Haas students just to get advice on the recruiting process and ask about the adjustments, coursework, and stuff like that so their transition is easier.
What do you think is the best way to go about getting that position?
First and foremost is to not be discouraged. I think it’s a learning process, and failure is a part of that process. Rarely do you ever hear of someone who comes in and gets there dream position on the first try. You also barely hear of anyone walking out of their Haas graduation without any position. So being hopeful throughout the process is necessary. You may be having a tough time getting the position, but have conviction that you will come out with something as long as you stay persistent. I went through a lot of interviews, and I failed over and over again and didn’t get calls. Each failure was a step to success, and I think I was learning along the way. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice so that’s one of the big things. Be persistent and optimistic about the process. Each interview is a fresh new start. If you have a bad interview, it will not roll over into the next interview.
On top of that, one of the main things is don’t limit your job outlook to Handshake. It is super important to branch out to great resources such as LinkedIn. Try connecting with people who are where you want to be to learn about how they like it. These conversations can go a long way. This was the case with both my internship and full-time process. I reached out to people, and they were very helpful and generous in connecting me to the recruiting process. They told us in the Haas orientation that Handshake has less than 10 percent of the jobs that are out there. So definitely apply on Handshake, but also look outside of it.
You will soon be graduating; how will you look back at your Haas experience?
I definitely learned the most in the shortest amount of time when I came to Berkeley. It really launched me into the professional world and taught me a lot about the professional environment, but then I also gained skills here that I couldn’t gain anywhere else. Now I think about everything from a business point of view which is very interesting because I never thought like that before. Haas was just such a great place for me to build relationships not only with employers but also with fellow classmates. I would say that is probably the most important thing I am taking away from this institution. The relationships I have formed here are going to be life-lasting, and I really value everyone I have met. That’s also very helpful to have in the future when we are working. It’s nice to know that there is a strong network even then.
Thank you for participating in this interview.
Make sure to subscribe at the top right to stay updated on life at Haas!