Jammin' Like Crazy at Goldman

This Indiana grad works really long days and nights in investment banking, but enjoys "the team-oriented culture" and "focus on mentorship"

As an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs (GS) in New York, I work on a multitude of projects, both financial and strategic, involving real-time issues corporations face today. Most notably, investment banks like Goldman offer advisory services, typically focused on mergers and acquisitions and equity/debt issuances. I'm responsible for creating financial analyses. These analyses help determine potential outcomes from various transactions, which are then used in client presentations.

I expected the long hours and intense projects after I completed a summer internship at Goldman in New York's financial district. However, I wasn't fully prepared for the effect the job would have on my personal life. The typical work week is around 80 to 100 hours, including time on weekends. It's tough to manage such a rigorous schedule in addition to relationships with friends and family. On the other hand, I'm exposed to more corporate executives at companies and senior bankers within Goldman than I anticipated, which is a fair trade-off. It also pays off when something I've worked really hard on makes headlines.

Goldman is a great place to learn a lot in a very short period of time. I enjoy the team-oriented culture and appreciate the strong focus on mentorship. Goldman provides each analyst with a "Big Buddy" and a formal mentor. Mine have been helpful in monitoring my progress and ensuring I get the best learning experience possible.

The following is a usual work day:

9:30 a.m. -- I'm rushing out of my apartment to the subway station for a 30-minute commute downtown. Although this might be considered a late start, my industry allows for some flexibility in the morning.

10:00 a.m. -- I grab a bowl of cereal at my desk and check my calendar. What started as a tip from my mentor -- creating a to-do list -- has turned into a daily ritual.

10:30 a.m. -- Quickly I browse the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Finance to get up to speed on the markets and daily happenings. One of the value-added responsibilities of being an analyst is keeping team members aware of recent news and developments with clients.

11:00 a.m. -- It's time to start tackling my ever-growing to-do list. This is the perfect time to revisit financial analyses completed late the night before with a fresh pair of eyes. I open up an integrated merger model I have been working on. A model is a complex Excel workbook that takes into account different financial assumptions in an attempt to predict possible outcomes for a future financial transaction. Once things look good, I shoot the analysis off to my associate, who will review it before sending it to our vice-president or managing director. It's amazing how many times an analysis will be reviewed and revised before it's sent to a client.

1:00 p.m. -- It's already 1:00 and I haven't even thought about lunch yet. I run down to the café to grab a sandwich. A light meal helps to keep me on my toes all afternoon.

1:30 p.m. -- My associate has reviewed my analysis and has some constructive comments. We discuss the changes and I run back to my desk to incorporate them before the 2:30 internal conference call to discuss materials before tomorrow's client meeting. I scramble to get everything done and double-checked before sending it out to the broader team.

2:30 p.m. -- I join my teammates and associate in my VP's office to dial in to the internal conference call. My associate and I walk the team through the analysis and answer questions along the way, which ultimately leads to discussions and new ideas. I'm still amazed by how steep the learning curve is and how quickly I felt comfortable leading portions of these discussions. Many of the skills I gained in school have enabled me to hit the ground running in this field.

3:00 p.m. -- I finish the call and promise to redistribute a revised version soon. I run to my desk to print out materials for my next conference call.

Luckily, this one requires less involvement on my part, but I need to understand the financial assumptions being discussed to create my next analysis.

4:00 p.m. -- In desperate need of a coffee break, I grab a few coworkers and head to the nearest Starbucks for a venti latte with an extra shot of espresso. We use the break to re-energize and catch up on how the weekend was -- the parts not spent in the office.

4:30 p.m.-- Back at the office, I hammer out the revised analysis from the 2:30 conference call. After running some ideas past my associate, I continue "jammin'" -- banker lingo for working so fast the keyboard smokes. This is necessary to meet the 5:30 deadline for redistributing my analysis to the internal team.

5:30 p.m. -- I hit "send" and breathe a sigh of relief. I've bought myself a few hours before the team comes back with what should be the last round of feedback.

6:00 p.m. -- I break out my notes from the 3:00 call and open a blank workbook in Excel. I'm about to embark on the daunting task of creating a new analysis. There are so many things I want to accomplish and so many scenarios to build in. It's a little overwhelming at first, but I know what needs to be accomplished, so I throw on my iPod and start creating a financial model that evaluates a leveraged buyout of a private managed care company. Models can take days or even weeks to complete.

7:30 p.m. -- I take a break and order dinner from "Dining at my Desk," our online food-delivery system. If I'm at work past 7:00 p.m., I'm allowed to spend $25 on dinner. There are more than 80 restaurants to choose from in the system, yet I somehow manage to order from the same 10 to 15 places every time. Often in my group, we have family-style dinners, where we order together and eat in the conference room. This is a welcome break from the work day, which is still far from over.

8:30 p.m. -- I ask around to see if anyone wants to go the gym. Using the company gym close to my building is affordable ($34 per month), especially in New York terms where memberships usually range from $80 to $100 per month. Going for a nice run and spending some time in the steam room reenergizes me for the long night ahead.

10:00 p.m. -- I return from the gym with an urgent voice mail describing some last-minute changes to the book we're preparing for tomorrow's meeting with the client. I take some notes and begin to quickly "turn the comments" -- banker lingo for making changes.

11:00 p.m. -- I think I have successfully made all the changes. I shoot a copy to my associate, who does a quick final review before we send it to the Production Center, where they print and bind the books.

11:15 p.m. -- I reopen the Excel model I left unfinished earlier, throw on my tunes, and continue building the analysis.

12:15 a.m. -- I get a call from Production letting me know my books are ready. I run up to get them and start "flipping the books." It's the usual process of turning each book page by page to make sure no pages are missing and no printing errors have occurred.

12:45 a.m. -- The books are flipped and I sit down at my desk to collect my thoughts before the meeting tomorrow. Because it's my job to know where all the numbers come from, I print out tons of backup materials in case I need to reference something during the meeting. I mark up my copy of the presentation with notes for easy reference.

1:30 a.m. -- I finally wrap things up and call for a car to take me home. I need to snag a few hours of sleep before catching a 9:00 a.m. flight to the client's headquarters. Although my speaking role is minimal in the meeting, I have the satisfaction of knowing most of the material used is my work.

2:00 a.m. -- I jump into bed and set my three alarms. I have to be up on time because tomorrow will be even busier than today.

It can be difficult to break into this industry, but one essential is demonstrating an interest. That can be accomplished through researching, taking relevant classes, and more importantly, networking. Investment banking in particular doesn't require an undergraduate business degree, but I feel my education applies directly to my daily work. I certainly could have benefited from more finance classes focused on theory and corporate strategy.

Overall, my job requires stamina and a passion for working with extremely talented individuals. The unparalleled learning experience and exposure to executive decision-making processes keep me motivated. At the end of the day, it's important to realize that I'm not going to be an analyst for life. These two years will be tough, but I know they help establish a platform that will take me where I want to be in the future.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.