Singaporean intern on Wall Street says being made to brownnose hardest part of the program

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Writing under the pseudonym Genevieve Goh, a Singaporean woman recounts her experiences as an intern on Wall Street on the website efinancialacareers. Her biggest pet peeve, the other interns whom she described at “bootlickers” to the bank’s managing directors (MD).

Ms. Goh, now a first-year analyst at a US bank, spent one summer interning at a US investment bank on Wall Street, where she did very well.

However, one task that she found irksome was to talk to “as many MDs as possible – not just in our teams, but across the bank.” The purpose of this task was to prove the interns’ proactiveness and initiative on the job by putting themselves out there.

Md. Goh felt that this task turned the internship “into a dog-eat-dog environment,” with her fellow interns falling over themselves trying to connect to the MDs they had nothing to do with. These interns would sidle up to the officers to make small talk, or even buy them coffee or food,  unasked, just for an opportunity to talk to these managers.

As a Singaporean, Ms. Goh was shocked and refused to participate, even as in her own personality, she is not the shy and retiring type. “I couldn’t take part in this Wall Street-style brown-nosing, because it seemed so weird to me as a Singaporean (I was the only intern in my team from an Asian country). I’ve got quite a bubbly personality and I don’t conform to the crass American stereotype of the ‘introverted Asian woman’.  But in my country – no matter how outgoing you are – it’s simply rude and disrespectful to walk up to someone senior for no real reason.”

At her actual job, however, she excelled. She met deadlines and outdid her fellow interns in technical ability and productivity. But she was afraid that a full time employment opportunity would not come her way because she might come across as lacking in her communication skills.

Ms. Goh wrote that her biggest struggle was the specific task of talking to MDs without a reason, “It was never on the agenda at previous Singapore-based internships I’d done. Who was I to start asking a middle-aged banker how their kids were doing or what they had planned for the weekend? Unlike my American counterparts, I struggled to have these kind of contrived conversations.”

But she did, however, end up employed. She was aided by a helpful mid-manager on her team, who told her that she should talk to MDs after she had done work that would affect them or that they would be interested in.

She was comfortable doing this, since it was not contrived, and it garnered respect for Ms. Goh. Although she went at a slower pace than the other interns, since she had to finish doing real work first, she did end up speaking to a sufficient number of Managing Directors, which is how she got her job as a bank analyst.

However, as Ms. Goh writes, “There were still no random conversations with senior bankers by the water cooler.”