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Summer Internship at AllianceBernstein, Part II

Aziza Sultan is a current NYU student in the accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s program. She is studying politics for her Bachelor’s degree and concentrating on political economy for her Master’s. She is currently a summer intern at AllianceBernstein’s New York City midtown offices in the Technology and Operations Program. Some interesting internships she has done in the past include interning on location in Kabul, Afghanistan with a firm on a U.S. military literacy contract for Afghan National Police and Army, and at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office under District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Here, she offers forth some thoughts on the second half of her experience at AllianceBernstein. Click here to read her earlier post.

In my final few days interning at AllianceBernstein, I am surprised at how quickly ten weeks have gone by. In that time, I have learned a lot about derivatives and about operations and have been mentored both officially and unofficially by people in the organization. This spirit of unofficial mentorship was present both among people who were in groups different from mine and also across various positions of seniority throughout the firm.  Most people don’t get to describe their internship as interesting or inspiring. Mine was both.

Since I last wrote part one of my blog about a month ago, I have attended a plethora of events – some catered to interns and others for everyone at the firm. One skill that the program has focused on refining for the interns is presenting and public speaking. The Technology and Operations internship program hosted a multi-hour class led by a professional coach and a Broadway theater actress who comes to the firm to work with employees about connecting with audiences, building content, and the various psychological elements of delivering a speech. This was followed by multiple drills where we exercised what we had just learned. This was especially helpful to myself, as someone who had joined the firm’s Toastmaster’s Club, which aims to improve the communication, public speaking and leadership skills of its members. The club warmly welcomed me, and I signed up to deliver an ice breaker speech at one of their bi-monthly meetings. Not only was this was a great way to meet other people at the firm but it also gave me a chance to exercise my newly learned skills from the course and have the people I worked amongst learn a little more about me on a personal level. I also got written feedback from each person in attendance which was a helpful way to learn about what I needed to work on as a public speaker, in addition to my strengths.

Interns and incoming associates were also treated to a networking reception with senior leaders at AllianceBernstein. It has been really useful to meet with people who work in the different moving parts of the firm because I’ve come to realize that though the organizational structure of the firm is such that there are different divisions that may not work together day to day, collaboration from time to time with people from different divisions on larger projects is necessary and adds variety to the type of work people do. Also, just as a curious person who has a vested interest in the larger organization and workings of the company, it’s useful to know people who do different things than myself. This curiosity led me to schedule meetings with dozens of people across the firm (in groups including Equities, Private Client, Sanford C. Bernstein research roles, Multi Asset Solutions, Fixed Income and more) to learn more about what they do and how their work is important, interesting and makes a difference.

In my group, I was trained and in contact regularly with my mentor and manager, both of whom gave me increasing responsibility on a day to day basis within my group. A moment in which I recognized that my work within our group was meaningful was when my train was stalled in a station as a result of an investigation and I became increasingly worried as each minute passed that I wouldn’t be able to send the early morning email to one of the brokers who I was working with on a daily basis to reconcile company business. (I emailed my mentor and manager as I was on the train to let them know of the situation).  One of the interesting projects our team was involved in was planning the switching of the software system that the derivative operations team would be using in regards to collateral.

Overall, the internship was valuable because I not only learned about the work of the company, but I learned that the people here are proud of what they do and care about each other. A nice end to the summer program was seeing the rotational associates, whom with interns worked closely, graduate to their next positions. The program included a presentation and graduation ceremony for the associates, as well as a reception afterwards.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank the people I’ve come in contact with throughout the course of the internship. In particular, the people who I’ve worked closely with – my manager Brian Mullen, mentor May Hu, and an associate in my group Darren Breda. I’d also like to thank the people I sit by (specifically Christian Paine, Mark Tarnok, Walter Kowalewski and Amro Shabaan) for being so encouraging and welcoming. Thanks to Gaetano DiMiceli, for allowing me to a part of his incredible team. Last but not least, a very special thanks to Erinn Goldenberg and Eshrat Jahan for making this internship experience as seamless and fulfilling as they did!

Summer Internship at AllianceBernstein, Part I

Aziza Sultan is a current NYU student in the accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s program. She is studying politics for her Bachelor’s degree and concentrating on political economy for her Master’s. She is currently a summer intern at AllianceBernstein’s New York City midtown offices in the Technology and Operations Program.Here, she offers forth some thoughts on the first half of her experiences. Stay tuned for an update later this summer.

When I first decided I wanted to do a summer internship in finance, many of my friends at school wondered why a student of politics would go into a seemingly irrelevant field of work. After getting through this initial question, they wondered why I wanted to spend most of my summer working in a notoriously tough field, where people are portrayed as overly-aggressive, overworked and cut-throat. Rather than inspire me, these characterizations led me to become a little hesitant at the decision to accept my summer internship.

As the first half of my internship is behind me, I can honestly say that my experience at AllianceBernstein has been nothing similar to what my friends had described the dark scary world of finance to be like. If I had to use one word to describe the social and developmental aspect of my internship thus far, I would have to choose nurturing. I am surprised that even at a large, reputable firm, people are really willing to go out of their way to make sure you are noticed when you do good work, to say hello, or to answer career questions you may have. This culture of openness and warmth is practiced by people at all levels of the organization. At the end of our first week, interns were treated to a picnic in Central Park with the associates, and just last week I met with the managing director of a division different from mine over coffee. He has been with the firm for almost two decades and he gave me a lot of worthwhile advice.

The firm and the internship program really make it a point to foster their interns in an environment that is not only educational in terms of the work I have been learning to do, but also seeks to develop crucial soft skills that are necessary in this industry. There have been a plethora of events – ranging from “How to Network Effectively” where four veterans of the firm spoke about networking strategies, and how networking has aided them in their careers, to “Communicating with Impact” where the director of Learning and Development for the firm gave us pointers on presenting information to people during work presentations.  We even had a presentation by a managing director who spoke to us about her work with Congress and the state of Rhode Island regarding the 529k plan. Next week the Senior Vice President of one of the divisions invited myself and two other interns to lunch at the café in our building. These are just a few of the ways in which my internship experience so far has been a much more vibrant experience than just working on a computer the whole day, and being the token office intern.

This is not to say that my work has been completely easy and without its own set of challenges. It is nice, however, to learn new things from people who are both willing to teach you and to be patient when doing so, and also to be around people who want you to do well. Daily, I have three people at the firm with whom I work directly. These include my manager, my mentor and the associate in my department. Almost all of my training was done on the job, and I have taken on parts of projects from all three of these people. One of the things that was unexpected to me was that I do routine daily work in my division, some of it revolving around regular communication with people in other banks. In this sense I feel that I am an integral part of my team.

In the next half of my internship I look forward to the upcoming scheduled events, learning more about finance and interacting more with people in the firm. I also will be working on testing for a new system platform through which my division is going to be working, so I will be busy with that transition.

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Mukul, a 2012 NYU Poly graduate and current Associate at Alliance Bernstein tweets about his day in the Technology Associate Program. Alliance Bernstein is a research-driven asset management firm that is global in scope and client-centered in its mission. Read about Mukul’s day by clicking on the logo below!

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