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Business & Entrepreneurship

A Finance Student Flourishes at Goldman Sachs After Changing His Path

By: Ben Seal

May 18, 2017

Goldman Sachs' New York headquarters.

Goldman Sachs' New York headquarters.

This is one of a regular series profiling Drexel students and their co-ops. 

It was sometime during organic chemistry, or maybe it was biochemistry, when Calvin Kim realized he was in the wrong place. He was two-and-a-half years into a pre-dentistry program at the University of Pittsburgh, spurred on by his parents’ encouragement, and he finally realized he didn’t want to be there. Other than job security, the future before him offered nothing particularly appealing.

So Kim changed his path, enrolling at Drexel University in the fall of 2015 to study finance in the LeBow College of Business. Two years later, he just completed his first and only co-op at Goldman Sachs, the global investment and banking titan, and is set to graduate this summer and head off into a future entirely free of cavities, cleanings and crowns.

“I couldn’t relate to the sciences,” said Kim. “No one in my family was in health care or the medical industry. I just didn’t have any interest in it. So I decided to take a step back. I wanted to pursue something I was passionate about.”

Kim had always admired his charismatic father — the suits he wore to meet with clients of his Korean bank, his air of professionalism. Plus, he was good at math and had long been interested in business. Drexel proved to be just the right fit. It’s required a jam-packed series of finance classes to get up to speed, but hard work delivered the co-op opportunity at Goldman Sachs, a company that typically only takes students who have already completed one or two co-ops and have some business experience on their resumes.

For six months, Kim worked in the company’s private wealth management division in Washington, D.C., helping ultra-high-net-worth clients manage and grow their wealth. As the only co-op in the office, he worked with his colleagues to analyze the performance of investment vehicles, create portfolio reviews and research new spaces and markets to invest in. He had already taken a few finance classes before going to Goldman Sachs, so he had a strong foundation to build on. There was still plenty to learn, though, and he made sure to soak it all up.

“My co-op experience exceeded all my expectations,” said Kim. “Because it was a six-month program, I learned so much and I feel like I’m ready to take on the real world.”

Because of his office’s relatively small size, Kim managed to get wide exposure to how everything runs, from the financial analysts to the private wealth advisers and investment professionals. While many of his peers from other universities worked 10- or 12-week internships at the company and faced steep learning curves, the co-op’s longer format gave him a distinct advantage.

“By month three or four you’ve got a handle on things, the learning curve started to steepen less, and I felt like I was very valued and not just some mere intern,” said Kim.

Kim is set to graduate this August, which means he won’t be able to make it into Goldman Sachs’ 2017 class of financial analysts and will have to wait until the following year for the firm to begin recruiting for its two-year program, but he feels confident about his future. He was able to get to know every member of his office and received feedback that should help him going forward. And after working long hours during his co-op, there’s no question he’s got the work ethic for the job.

“What they all told me was you can teach anyone financial markets and investment strategies, but you can’t teach anyone hard work, and that’s what they saw out of Drexel students,” said Kim.

Kim sees an MBA in his future, and he’s eager to fill in any gaps created by his mid-college shift. He wants to know more about how current events affect financial markets, and how to balance risk. Mostly, he wants to help people grow their investment portfolios and plan for their futures.

“There’s so much to learn,” he said, “and I love learning about it all.”

About the Drexel Co-op program: More than 98 percent of eligible undergraduate students at Drexel University participate in the co-op program, balancing full-time classes and up to three different internships during their time at Drexel. Students can choose from more than 1,700 employers in 33 states and 48 international locations — plus endless possibilities through self-arranged placements.