Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy ending of my summer internship

It's time to take a rest. After 10 weeks of getting up at 6am in the morning and spending my days on the trading floor, I am officially on my well-deserved holiday!! I got a fantastic full-time offer, which has surprised me quite a bit in terms of the bonuses offered. Definitely very tempting! I do not want to make the same mistake as with McKinsey and sign something because of the money, but when you are in the situation, it is not that easy, especially when the tuition fees are due in October! But let's see, I will go on holiday, think, relax, meditate, and then take a good decision. I have another trick up my sleeve but I will not share it till September. More on that later :-).

The summer has been fantastic. I have learned about leveraged buyouts, infrastructure, commodities, credit markets, and derivatives. I have made friends with my lovely fellow Summer Associates. I have had amazingly friendly, helpful, cheerful, smart, funny and diverse colleagues from all over the world (yes - even one real English person was among them!!!). I have been invited for drinks and dinners over and over again. I have been able to watch the market action live. Especially this week has been amazing. Imagine sitting next to the FX traders in the bank that is the biggest FX house in the world in London, the global centre of the foreign exchange markets, during the week that the carry trades unwind. To see the action among the traders when the ozzie dollar plunged yesterday has been unprecedented. Some people have lost a lot of money, and others have made a lot of money. I don't know if it is true or not - one trader on my floor is supposed to have made $40 million yesterday. At least the whole desk was clapping and cheering (that was when the yen rose and the high yielding currencies plunged), and that was the number I picked up, but I cannot be sure.

But overall people on the trading floor are worried. During the last weeks, nobody was too worried and everybody seemed to be making money happily. But this week has been different. They have seen their clients lose a lot of money, and this eventually comes back to hit you if you are a financial services firm, no matter how good your proprietary traders are. I know the emerging markets and credit people weren't too happy. I guess only the Distressed desk is open for business now. Commodities also seemed to be going well so far. Nobody knows how it's going to evolve, which is exciting but also worrying.

Tonight I will celebrate with my best friends with a dinner and drinks (even though many of them have another week to go in their internships with other banks), and tomorrow I'm off on holiday for two weeks. I just noticed this has been my 100th post. It's nice I kept the 100th post for special news!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Advice for incoming first years

Well, the admits are arriving now and there can be no denying it anymore: yesterday, I had breakfast on Baker Street with a friend, when a girl I knew from admits weekend passed, and I think she introduced herself to my friend saying that she was a first year, and that's when we realized: we are second years now. How fast time passes! How can we be second years already? Now there are other people who are first years who don't care about us, because they know we'll be gone soon :-(. And in our class people will be going on exchange, working part-time and finishing early, so it won't be the same.

The good part is that now that I count as a wise old second year, I can pass on advice :-). There's quite a few things I wish I had known, and I wouldn't be able to call myself an angel if I wasn't there to make other people happy in their lives - while suffering the grave consequences of my mistakes ;-) - just kidding, I'm pretty happy right now, and the only thing that worries me is that somehow I know that one cannot be that happy forever, right now is probably the luckiest period in my life, so I better enjoy it. Okay, back to my advice:

Flathunting/flatmates: First of all, sorry to say that rental prices have skyrocketed this year (and you thought they couldn't go any higher...), so expect to pay a bit more than the '08s who may have quoted you what they pay. Sharing with 2 others is the best if you want to be economical (around 200 GBP per week), while living on your on will cost you around 300 GBP pw if you want to stay close to school, which is what you should in the first year. Even more important than money is happiness (can you feel the wisdom flowing through my words???), and for that I really urge you to choose your flatmates wisely. At the flathunter's pub crawl, you might sometimes think you just want to get it over with, and just agree to live with the first person who asks you, but I can tell you from experience this can turn out to be a nightmare. Make sure your ideas of how to live more or less match, and stay away from people who seem to try and shift all the responsibility of payments, contractual obligations etc. on you. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good personality match, otherwise it can turn out to be very nasty, and unfortunately in my case I had to live with one of the nastiest guys in the MBA for a year. Luckily that's over now. But don't expect all people to be decent and honest, just because they are in your MBA programme. Most people are very nice but there are a few outliers, and you don't want to end up sharing the bathroom with them by mistake.

Study Group: don't worry about this, and don't freak out. At Orientation, they will make it sound as if you will see your study group more than you will see you boyfriend or best friends, so you will freak out and look at these new people and think "but I don't want to spend more time with them than with my boyfriend!", and everybody will be tense and unhappy and have very high expectations which are bound to be disappointed. Luckily, it will turn out to be nothing like that after the first one or two months, it's not a big deal, and it has its advantages, in my case all people in my study group happened to be some who I might not have become friends with otherwise, but because we spent time working together on projects, having lunches and dinner together etc., actually these are people I know very well now, people I can trust, and people I am always happy to bump into now that our study group ceases to exist (just last night it happened I was stranded in a club in Shoreditch and bumped into my Egyptian study group mate who was also stranded there, since both our partners have gone on holiday already leaving us to finish the investment banking internships alone, which obviously makes a lot of sense). So, see it as a chance to get to know some people you might otherwise not have known, and try to stay relaxed about the whole thing, people freak out and are very tense at the beginning because of high expectations, and this can create a lot of conflict.

Parties: yes, there will be many parties. All I can advise is to go everywhere almost every day in the first term, particularly if you're single (if you have a partner, just take them along every time, or sometimes spend a quiet evening with them instead, which is also very relaxing), because the first term really is when all the things are going on. I was quite active in September, but then a bit more relaxed thinking "well, this will go on for two years, so I don't have to go to each and every event, I can go next term", but actually you will notice that suddenly starting in January recruiting will start, and cliques will form, and there will be less and less big parties involving the whole class. So my advice is for you to party as much as possible in the first term and meet all your classmates, because later people become absorbed in their own world and it is harder to get through to them.

Jobsearch: I was one to spend months trying to decide what to do - though in the end I decided on Sales & Trading, which had been my plan when I came to London Business School and long before. But all I can say is try to know as fast as possible and get ready. I think I've said this before: most of the people who knew what they wanted got great jobs, but the people who were clueless and didn't know what to do with themselves even in February and randomly applied to McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Google and everyone else in the universe, usually didn't make it and were less lucky (though they found good things later). But try to be focused early, talk to all the 2nd years who will be a great help, and also, don't confine yourself only to companies that come on campus. Some of my classmates are interning now with really good private equity firms, such as Terra Firma and Actis Capital, and believe me it is not because they came on campus! Some people say "but they don't come on campus" as if that meant you are not allowed to apply, while actually you are. UBS Asset Management also didn't recruit on campus but somehow two of my classmates are interning there. Quite a few of my classmates are working at some hedge funds here in London, and none of them were on campus. So check out alumni and other contacts, go to all the speaker events and conferences, and you will have a much broader view of what you can do.

So much for my advice, I hope it helps! Enjoy the first weeks of your programme!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Finally a sunny weekend in London

Hi strangers! Not much time to write recently. I am too busy enjoying myself to switch on the computer these days. I had another great weekend in London, such weekends that I don't think you can get in Fountainebleu or wherever others choose to go :-).

On Friday, all the Summer Associates from my bank spent the day volunteering at a primary school in South London, and it was a great way to spend the day outside in the sun catching up with my new friends. The other Summer Associates are a very sweet bunch and I have found some very special friends this summer. At night, I went to a Thai restaurant with Genie and two other Indian friends and we talked so much in the end it was 10pm when we finished (we got there at 7) - so I went straight home and off to bed (with a bit Harry Potter reading squeezed in between), since I had spent most of the day shovelling sand.

On Saturday, I went to the gym and then a bit shopping. Then I chilled for most of the day. But the evening was the best, I went with a Basque and a Mexican, two Brazilian friends and another German/Spanish couple to the Japanese restaurant called Abeno near Tottenham Court Road, it was delicious. I had never had Japanese food before (beside sushi). The I went with my Basque and Mexican friend to a salsa club in SOHO called Floridita, it is pretty cool. The music is nice to dance but not too loud, so one could actually talk to people. I met some very nice new people - mostly bankers of course since this is London, but very friendly. We stayed there till 3:30am, which I haven't done in a while, but time really passed very quickly.

This morning I still got up at 10 because the weather was so beautiful, and I went roller blading in Hyde Park. Blading is such a great way to appreciate the beauty of London. Just racing by the lakes and the trees and the meadows is amazing. Afterwards I cooked myself a nice vegetable thai curry and read some more Harry Potter, but again fell asleep and had a well-deserved siesta. Now I'm off to Notting Hill to have dinner with my sister and some of her friends in a very nice pub called THE COW, they have very good fish there and the atmosphere is great.

The week ahead is quite important in the summer programme, our final evaluations will be submitted tomorrow and on Thursday I have to hold a presentation to three Managing Directors, based on which I will get an offer the following week or not. I don't mind holding presentations in front of anyone though, that's where my McKinsey experience comes in handy, I don't really get nervous and enjoy talking :-). Hopefully good news will come out of this week, though I won't know till afterwards.