Students explore NYC banking careers.

Barbara Byrne ’76 speaks to students in New York.

By Kristin Balboni

Sophomores and juniors from Mount Holyoke and three other women’s colleges traveled to New York City October 8 to learn about banking from prominent alumnae in the industry.

The trip, organized by the College’s Career Development Center, included stops at Barclays and Goldman Sachs, where alumnae executives shared their experiences and offered advice to the 50 students from Mount Holyoke, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, and Smith colleges. The students also participated in roundtable discussions about what it’s like to work in the banking industry, including interviewing strategies, and took a tour of the trading floor at Barclays.

Two prominent Mount Holyoke alumnae who are executives at Barclays—Claire O’Connor ’78, managing director and head of loan capital markets, and Barbara Byrne ’76, vice chair of investment banking, who recently was named by American Banker as the “third most powerful woman in finance”—addressed the group.

Byrne shared an inspiring message of teamwork and encouraged students not to let failures define them, but instead leverage their “misses” as an invitation to try again and propel themselves even further. She also stressed the importance of human connections.

Mount Holyoke junior Tien Pham said she was inspired by Byrne’s comments about persistence and “the importance of asking questions and teamwork in order to succeed in this fast-paced, competitive corporate environment.”

At Goldman Sachs, MHC alumna Lale Topcuoglu ’99, the managing director and global head of alternative corporate credit, told the students that their liberal arts background is a major selling point in the recruiting process, noting that they will stand out among other candidates for their willingness to try new things.

Topcuoglu also moderated a discussion with alumnae on strategies for handling some of the more challenging aspects of their roles, and on the rewarding career options in the banking industry.

Trier-Lynn Bryant, vice president for Americas diversity recruiting at Goldman Sachs, gave a presentation titled, “Art of Shouting Quietly,”extolling the virtues of building a personal brand. She offered advice to the students about expanding networks and telling their stories in an interesting way so they will stand out in interviews.

Jo Martin, Mount Holyoke’s director of employer relations at the Career Development Center, planned the all-women’s college trip. She described the events as “an opportunity for our students to network with alumnae, staff, and other women’s college students pursuing a similar career path.”

“The students also appreciate the experience of visiting the banks and getting a sense of what the working environment is like,” she noted.

Junior Mahnoor Malik said the site visits helped her to understand how to translate our academics into a professional career.

“It is very encouraging to see Mount Holyoke women in leadership positions and makes me aspire to be like them one day,” she said.

Pham agreed, adding, “Having the opportunity to see alumnae in such high positions on Wall Street, [I] really gained more confidence in myself, and it encouraged me to strive further in career and life.”

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