Senior Jerome Hughes takes on Wall Street
Photo by Ian Shannon '10
For UNC Asheville senior Jerome Hughes the summer of 2009 was culture shock.
Last May, he was saying goodbye for the summer to his classmates in computer science. The next day he was on the 32nd floor of the Goldman Sachs tower in lower Manhattan with a view of the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River.
He was living the dream, for sure.
Hughes' was not your ordinary UNC Asheville summer break. After scouring the Internet for the perfect summer internship, he found Sponsors for Educational Opportunities (SEO). The non-profit organization enables talented students of color to pursue their dreams and land top jobs in some of the most competitive career paths imaginable, including corporate law, asset management and investment banking.
"It was just a wild world," said Hughes of his summer internship at Goldman Sachs in New York City. "Every day it was a faster pace. The trading floor of the Stock Exchange was like I had imagined it, only more chaotic. I don't see how people can get their work done with all the stuff that's going on, all the shouting and people running around. It was an unreal experience, and I couldn't believe I was a very small part of something so big."
Hughes used his computer science background to work on a team at Goldman Sachs in the Private Wealth Management Division. "People don't realize how much investment banking depends on the technology side. And I found out that in the finance world you need a good understanding of the business side of things even before you learn how to apply the technology to business. It's the combination of that kind of knowledge that leads to success."
Indeed, it was a set of combined skills that Hughes thinks gave him an advantage in securing the internship. "I'd done an internship with NEMAC (the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center) at UNC Asheville last semester and learned a lot about data and databases so that was a great foundation for this Goldman internship."
And what was Hughes' most memorable experience in the Big Apple? It wasn't the 90-minute bus and subway commute from New Jersey every morning, and it wasn't the bustle of midtown. It was the people.
"Talking directly to senior managers at Goldman, at some of the other big companies like UBS, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, they were so approachable and so helpful. They really cared."
Fortunately, Hughes will have many more opportunities to interact with Wall Street leaders. He already has received and accepted a job offer from Goldman Sachs. He will begin his career right after commencement in May.
"I can't wait to get back to New York. But someday I really want to come back to my hometown—I love Asheville."