“Ambition is your inner voice that tells you, you can, and should, strive to go beyond your circumstances or situation in life.”
- Quote from Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman & CEO, Goldman Sachs, during his commencement speech at LaGuardia Community College.
Every year, some of the biggest accounting and finance firms engage the best college students on the planet to gain experience in the business through summer finance internships or accounting internships. Goldman Sachs carries on this tradition annually and offers internships at its many locations worldwide.
This leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm employs 30,000 people, was founded in 1869 and is based in New York. At the helm is Chairman & CEO Lloyd Blankfein, a graduate of Harvard Law School who eventually made his way into the world of finance and Goldman Sachs.
During the final week of the 2013 summer internship program at Goldman Sachs, Blankfein was invited to sit down with Edith Cooper, Global Head of Human Capital Management at the firm, and answer a few questions from Cooper and a number of interns as well.
From Law to Finance
Cooper started off with Blankfein’s quote above, then inquired about the CEO’s early days in law and how his days are different in the finance world. He remarked that in the finance world, things and priorities could change every day, making it a more interesting lifestyle than his life as a lawyer.
Blankfein went on to talk about his work life today. “There’s aspects of what I do that are a lot of fun, and even some things that I do that are fun can carry a lot of anxiety with it … I have times that I really enjoy and times that I am really stretched … but we are all stretched.” He went on to acknowledge, “Not everything I do has the potential for being fun.”
The CEO also talked about the cooperative atmosphere at Goldman Sachs, and how important the individual players are at the firm. Cooper concurred, “people are our biggest asset.”
Both Blankfein and Cooper stressed the importance of diverse backgrounds at the firm, and how most leaders that young people aspire to be like didn’t necessarily take a straight line to success. “Those people who you want to emulate in the world … what did they do?” asked Blankfein.
Cooper pointed out that she and Blankfein are very different personally and professionally, and their clients are very different and that these different backgrounds and interests are important to the success of the firm. To which the CEO added, “Be a more interesting person.”
One of the interns from Salt Lake City was curious how Blankfein’s upbringing in Brooklyn shaped his view of the world. The CEO seemed to downplay this, saying “Whoever you are, whatever your station in life, you play the cards you’ve had.”
As for his life today, Blankfein is grounded by the circumstances and enormous responsibilities of his role, saying “the goal is to be successful in the job and be thought of well and produce a good legacy and leave the place stronger than when you found it.”
Cooper asked the CEO to close with one piece of advice for the interns as they look forward to careers in finance and beyond. Blankfein said, “people at the age of people in the room can relax a little, too.” He urged them to be less concerned about where they needed to be career wise, adding that they should “try to get it right, but it’s very unlikely that you will, and not highly consequential right away … Work hard, try to get it right, and be a little less anxious.”
His final words? “Lighten up.”
You can view the interview in its entirety at the Goldman Sachs website. Go to:
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