op-eds

If you don’t know what the Fuqua School of Business Master of Management Studies program is, you’re not alone. Neither do recruiters at America’s top consulting firms, investment banks and the whole slew of organizations that descend on campus every Fall to handpick Duke’s annual contribution to the hopeful 1 percent. I admit I came to the MMS program for all the wrong reasons. I wanted a way to not completely waste a year while my girlfriend graduated from that unfortunate school eight miles down the road. I had already decided that I wanted to pursue a consulting career during my four years at Duke, and I landed my dream job at the Boston Consulting Group at the beginning of the program. But for the norm, the MMS program promises big things. The buzz phrases are everywhere. “The program is a jumpstart into the business world and a leg up on the graduating competition,” the MMS website advertises. And that competitive advantage mantra is piped into every nook and cranny of a prospective student’s brain. Simply put, attend the MMS program, and you’ll be better off than you were in undergrad. Fair enough, if only it were true…I was shocked to learn that I was the only MMS student to ever secure a U.S. position at one of the world’s three most prestigious consulting firms—BCG, McKinsey and Bain. On the other hand, the Duke Career Center’s “Senior Exit Survey” reports Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Merill Lynch, Google, Deutsche Bank, BCG, Microsoft, ExxonMobil and Barclays Capital as top employers over the past few years. MMS doesn’t hold a candle to this…Duke and Fuqua administrators need to open their eyes. MMS is hurting the Duke brand. Jonathan Swift once had a modest proposal to solve Ireland’s economic problems. In the spirit of Swift, I have a decidedly less satirical, more modest and utterly simple proposal to fix the MMS program. Make MMS admissions more selective, and overhaul the administration to actually focus on what a business education should be about—empowering students to actually get the jobs they want. If we don’t, we risk irreparably damaging the Duke brand and making this mediocre MMS culture entrenched. And that’s something no Dukie, especially this one, ever wants to see. [Duke Chronicle, related]

  • 14 Mar 2012 at 12:37 PM

Goldman Sachs Was Less Than Thrilled With Times Op-Ed

“By now, many of you have read the submission in today’s New York Times by a former employee of the firm. Needless to say we were disappointed…” Read more »

Greg Smith is a Goldman Sachs “executive director” and “head of equity derivatives” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And, as you may have heard, today is his last day at the firm. Greg had a speech prepared for the big announcement, which he stayed up all night writing and planned to deliver on the trading floor at noon, but assuming security has other ideas, we volunteered to relay his story. A word of advice: brace yourselves.

Why is Greg resigning from Goldman Sachs? To understand why he’s leaving, you have to know what it was like when he got here, twelve years ago.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization.

For a while, Greg loved Goldman Sachs! And the feeling was mutual, otherwise they obviously would not have bestowed him the great honor of being “selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on the recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world.” Shortly after the cameras rolled and he got his star turn, though, things began to change. And not in a good way. Greg suddenly noticed that the culture that made him “love working for this firm” was gone. He no longer had “the pride, or the belief.” The moment of truth? When he realized he “could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.” It didn’t matter how great a performance he gave in those videos. It didn’t matter that audiences would ask if he really worked for Goldman or if they’d hired an actor, as he appeared to have been classically trained. It didn’t matter that his recruiting DVD had been nominated for several trade awards. It didn’t matter because Greg had seen too much. Read more »

As you may have heard, over the last several months, various college newspapers have run opinion pieces by students lamenting the fact that many of their peers take jobs on Wall Street following graduation, where their talents are wasted. Dartmouth kicked things off in August, with others following in suit, particularly at Ivy League universities, from which the financial industry heavily recruits. Not to be left out of the fun, Duke University’s Chronicle Editorial Board today bemoaned the Duke “factory” which “inputs smart and well-intentioned kids, and churns out instruments for the Wall Street machine.” Read more »

Back in August, a Dartmouth undergraduate wrote an editorial taking issue with “faceless hedge funds” and his peers in New Hampshire who “flock to Wall Street to perpetuate class-based systems of power and dominance.” And, as the new semester began, it turned out that Dartmouth boy wasn’t alone. At campuses across the country but particularly at Ivy League schools, those less than thrilled with Wall Street, and the prospect of their fellow students taking jobs there, have let it out. As a result, many would now prefer to disclose a raging case of gonorrhea or being born with only 7 toes, than the dirty little secret that they hope to gain employment in the financial services industry, for fear of mocking and scorn. After a group of Occupy Harvard protesters “attempted to disrupt a Goldman Sachs recruiting event at the Office of Career Services” on Monday, though, the school newspaper had decided it’d had enough. A strongly-worded editorial was in order.

… while many experts agree that Goldman was part of the problematic system that created the financial crisis, Occupy Harvard’s targeting of a Goldman Sachs recruiting event presents a facile and trivializing interpretation of the root causes of the economic catastrophe and debases our national conversation on the issue.

They went on. Read more »

At a party in New Hampshire last week, one Dartmouth undergrad relayed a story to another about Bridgewater Associates. Apparently the former had chosen to abstain from the annual recruiting session that takes place over the summer for rising juniors and as a firm committed to probing the depths of any situation until they find the truth, Bridgewater wanted to know more. The hedge fund offered to pay the coed “$100 to write a statement explaining why she didn’t participate,” she told her friend, a proposition that sickened him.

The sheer arrogance and senselessness of this anecdote made me sick to my stomach, partly because, as planned, the exercise made her second guess her choice. But I had to admit there was a certain conceited logic to it — if this company can pay her $100 just to explain why she did not want to work for them, it’s easy to imagine how much cash she could rake in if she decided to pursue the job.

The exercise also got him thinking.

After I was done vomiting in my mouth, thinking of all the people who desperately need that hundred dollars, I began to think about the depth to which the recruiting culture has permeated our College. It has siphoned off some of our great minds into a dead-end field that sanitizes the intellect, offers almost nothing to human society, and conditions people to act in ways that are decidedly inhuman.

He continued. Read more »