Congratulations on your internship at MetLife! What is your position?
Thank you, the position I was giving was called Business Planning & Strategy, which was essentially an Operations function within MetLife’s Global Employee Benefits (GEB) division who – after the acquisition of Alico – leveraged its insurance capabilities to sell insurance products to multinationals.
What are your responsibilities?
The day-to-day consisted overwhelmingly in handling big data and working in tandem with upper management to create dashboards and/or reports that would help them efficiently complete their daily functions. After meeting people within the company, I was put on bigger projects which aimed to enhance division-wide efficiency. These projects were the most rewarding, as they allowed me to get a better feel for how the division worked, gain a deeper understanding of the products, and work with cross-functional teams which gave me insight into other positions available within MetLife.
How did you get this job?
Getting the job was not the hardest part, it was the work that led up to getting the job that was difficult. Finding the first internship or job is always the most difficult part because companies are increasingly looking for applicants with prior experience. Personally, I had no prior corporate experience which definitely did not help the situation. What I did have were consistently strong grades, membership in honor organizations, membership is the INROADS program and a CV that showed that I was hard working at Baruch College, I think that’s what got my foot in the door. After that, the interview was just a matter on being flexible and demonstrating the willingness to learn. If you go in thinking you know everything – you know nothing.
If you could pinpoint one thing that has helped you to succeed in your career, what would it be? (Ex: Internships, academics, mentors, connections, work experience…)
One specific thing is hard, I think the top two are consistency and being realistic. Companies measure consistency by looking at GPA. The truth is that almost anyone can get a 4.0 for one or two semesters here and there, but if you have good GPA overall, that usually shows that you’ve consistently worked hard. Being a realist goes hand in hand, thousands of people have the same grades as you and that means you have to find a way to differentiate yourself, whether it be student organizations, sports or whatever else you can think of. Any line on a CV should be calculated, and you should be able to talk about it in a manner that shows that it’s meaningful in some way and that shows some form of personal progression. After that, luck and connections are definitely fair game, but I was able to get good opportunities without knowing anybody inside so it’s very possible, just a little harder.
With so many competitive business schools like Wharton and NYU Stern, what makes Baruch special that others may not know about?
An undergraduate degree is valuable but you do not need to be a business major to find a job in the business world. Baruch College is full of students who already have jobs and experience; that mixed with diversity and being at the heart of the city makes it pretty attractive in terms of what it has to offer. The school is affordable, has a very good reputation in the business community and has many resources for career development which are not given to every school. I’d say for undergrad it’s a strong choice for doing something business related. The schools you’ve mentioned carry a lot of weight for MBA programs though and therefore you should work accordingly in undergrad to achieve your goals.
What is your advice to BSGE seniors who want to excel in business and are attending Baruch College in the Fall?
Leaving BSGE I wasn’t the best student, the teachers’ favorite feedback during parent teacher conferences were: “if he just spent 15 min more per class he could do so much better.” Entering college I was slightly fed up hearing it, so I just did the work… And the more I did the easier it got and the more interesting it became. My biggest advice is to enter college with strong goals, and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. When asking a senior VP of MetLife and a mentor of mine, how he’d reached his position, he answered simply: “life is an opportunist”. This means that although having goals and doing well is important, an important skill is to be able to recognize opportunities…and make the most of them.
So what were you doing in China last year?
I spent a semester abroad in Beijing at the University of International Business & Economics. As an International Business major at Baruch, it is a requirement to study abroad in order to complete the major. Having taken Chinese throughout all my years at BSGE with Ms.Shen, I took the opportunity to reinforce the Mandarin that I had learned but most importantly experience something drastically different than what I already knew, which was European and American culture.
What challenges did you face while studying abroad?
The language was a huge obstacle, as I’m not sure any amount of classroom discussion can prepare you for the amount of different accents Chinese from different regions have. After I had finished the 4 months abroad I’d say I got a little better, but it was still very difficult to understand what I was being told. Living conditions were also quite different from what we are used to here in the U.S., and so is the food. Part of the reason I had gone to China in the first place was to experience these differences, so being faced with them was challenging at first, but I think it enhanced the learning and integration process.
What are some unexpected lessons you learned while living in China?
Negotiating and persistence. Almost everything in China is negotiable; it’s an art that the Chinese practice well, but that they also appreciate in others. For example towards the end of the stay I was able to negotiate pretty well, and ended up having great conversations with store owners afterwards. Persistence was also key to getting anything done, there are so many people that to get anything done takes time and constant reminding.
Do you feel that this experience helped you grow as a person? If so, how?
Tremendously. I think I came back so much more aware about certain things that go on in our world. Living in another country not knowing anyone also made me a lot more independent in the way I handled situations.
What is some advice you would give to those thinking about studying abroad?
Just do it.
Walk us through some of the emotions you’re having about finally completing your undergraduate career.
Just as happy as I was when I left elementary school and BSGE after that. Baruch was a stepping stone like everything else, so I’m very excited to move forward. I’ve made great friends and contacts along the way which will stay with me for years to come, maybe the only regret is that I couldn’t have made more.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’m taking a trip with my girlfriend for a few weeks to visit Italy and Croatia, and then it’ll be time to get to work.
Could you tell us about your upcoming job at Goldman Sachs? How did you get it? What will you be doing there?
I was sought out by Goldman Sachs by one of their recruiters. I originally received the email in China and thought it was either spam or a mistake. The email came with a direct link to apply to an Operations Analyst position, so I just did it thinking it wouldn’t hurt. A couple weeks after coming back to NYC I had an interview session they call a SuperDay with four back to back interviews with senior staff. A week after that, I had a full time job offer after graduation. I was extremely surprised about how passive the process seemed, but infinitely grateful for having this opportunity.
Do you have any upcoming projects/plans that you’re excited about?
Everyday brings its own excitement, good or bad!
What is your advice to current BSGE students?
Work hard, play hard, enjoy life but stay focused on what matters in the long term. It’s different for everyone I think. What’s helped me is to create routines to balance the time I have in a day between work and activities that I’m interested in, and sports. At some point in the day you need to “out” something to clear your mind.
I think BSGE did a great job preparing me, so every student should enter college ahead of the game and build on the foundations that were built.
One reply on “From BSGE, to Baruch, to Goldman Sachs: Alumnus Gautier Godard”
One of the more interesting interviews I’ve seen here.