Srijith Rajagopalan is a Chemical Engineering alumnus of 2017. He talks about his insti life, his PoRs, his academic life and his ‘accidental’ landing in Goldman Sachs. Read on for a first-hand experience of the ‘stressful’ and ‘serious’ interview at Goldman Sachs and for some insightful placement gyan. Srijith has also provided a link to the detailed interview expectations and questions which you can find with this article.
Every Finance Analyst’s Dream Job
My experience with Goldman Sachs so far has been pretty amazing. It is a step up from the peer group you find in insti. You get to meet people who are smarter than you, which seems to intimidate initially but never fails to inspire you. You find people whom you can look up to as role models. This is a crucial aspect in the initial phase of any career. Your peer group affects your performance more than you think and Goldman Sachs offers a peer group that will make you push your limits and reach your true potential.
When you walk into the company, there is a lot of knowledge thrown at you. You feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of knowledge you need to ingest. The best thing is they understand this. They ensure that you are constantly improving and have a teamwork oriented culture that nurtures this. Their understanding of new recruit’s feelings is remarkable. They give you a good amount of impactful and technical work, but understand that you would need guidance to pick up new concepts and are always willing to help you in case of difficulties. Goldman Sachs ensures that this guidance doesn’t cross into hand-holding.
What I do in Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs has a lot of divisions and I work under the Risk division. Our job, as you may have guessed, is to manage the risks faced by the company. There are several types of risks: market risks, where there is a risk of losing investor’s money due to poor performance of the markets; credit risk, where a customer may not repay your money; operational risks, like technical failures or even natural disasters; interest rate risks; liquidity risks and many more. I work in a risk management which has gained much prominence in recent years called Model Risk Management. Goldman Sachs uses a lot of models to price financial instruments and place trades. There is an inherent risk associated with the use of the model. So, we analyse how bad the model can perform, how valid our assumptions are and how the model meets our benchmarks. It is an interesting and challenging job.
Why Goldman Sachs?
If you are a person without much coding skills from a non-electrical and non-CS background, Goldman Sachs is the best place you can be in. All you need for a career in Goldman Sachs are good math skills and common sense. After my 7th semester, I had actually decided to app. I attended very few placements presentations and Goldman Sachs was one of them. What I experienced there changed my mind completely. Unlike other companies, the presentation was not about the company, but about the work, they do there and went into the technical details. I found this impressive because they understood their target audience. They had realised that they were not talking to a bunch of ‘idiots’, but rather to a set of technically skilled people and sincerely wanted to engage them. This sentiment is reflected in their workplace culture too, where everyone in the company is constantly engaged in technical discussions.
From a Chemical Engineer to an Analyst at Goldman Sachs.
This was not a calculated decision. In my 7th semester, I took a course on Time Series. This was the first course I took in Analytics and is infamous for being really hard. I did suffer but it gave me a nice perspective I was previously unaware of. It was my window into proper analytics and introduced me to Machine Learning, Data Mining and Data-Based Modelling. In my later semesters, I took Multivariate Data Analysis, Modern Control Theory, Modelling and Simulation of Particulate Matter and many such analytics courses. My focus without my knowledge had completely shifted to Probability, Stochastic Processes and Analytics. I just went into this field to explore got carried away too far into it that I decided to app in it! However, as I said, I ended up getting placed in a similar profile. I am actually still interested in this and I am working on a couple of analytics related projects.
My Placement Experience
There is a general opinion that Goldman Sachs interviews are stressful and that everybody is serious. This is completely baseless. They do not want to test how you work under stress. The whole point of the company is to put you out of stress so that you can perform better. My interview experience was a very different to what one might expect. My interview slot was supposed to be at 11. I reached there by 7:45, hoping to find someone who has finished the interview and ask them about it. A placement coordinator asked me if I was waiting for an interview for that company. When I said I was she called me in first! This was my first placement interview and I was scared.
Breaking the Ice
But I was really surprised by the way Goldman Sachs make you feel welcome, even at the interviews. Generally, during interviews, they ask you to tell about yourself. But, the person that interviewed me started talking about her work at Goldman Sachs, what she did in her institute life and so on. The scary interview suddenly became interactive. I stopped her at times to ask her questions and began to communicate with ease. The ice was literally shattered. So, breaking the ice is not a difficult thing, especially with Goldman Sachs. They appreciate good humour and light talk. Obviously, you cannot do these between the interview. But as a conversation starter, they work miracles. So, when they did ask about myself, I clearly told them about my journey through insti and how my focus shifted from Chemical Engineering to applying for Goldman Sachs. The only thing required is to put forth your ideas logically and with a proper flow.
The one thing I am happy that I did was to ask a lot of questions in my interview. I interrupted them often and asked them about specifics. This helped me gain a lot of knowledge about the company. My last interviewer asked me what I thought the company did. I actually had little knowledge about Goldman Sachs. But, from what I had learnt from my previous interviews I could answer this with ease. I told him that I had asked his colleagues about the same and gained those insights from them. He appreciated this and elaborated more about what they do. One important thing is to try and call yourself down. The interviewers usually do their best to make you feel comfortable and once the ice is broken, it will be smooth sailing from them on.
Goldman Sachs looks for strong mathematics and logic. You obviously need to be very good at your math. You can find the technical questions from the interview in this link – https://ambitionbox.com/goldman-sachs-interview-questions?rid=14662
When you sit for placements you should realize that you are trying to get your first job. That’s all it is. You have a long corporate life ahead of you and you are just a fresh graduate with a lot of opportunities. If you do not get a ‘good job’ understand that there is nothing like a bad job. All these are just experiences. You always have an option to shift jobs and aspire to something better. After all, you are an IITian and you are highly employable. If you have this mentality while preparing for placements, it will really help you a lot.
The POR connection
I was a Saarang Informals Super-coord and Saarang Events Core. These PORs taught me much-needed social skills. In my first-year, I was kind of a recluse. I used to sit in my room or go to the library and study all day. I did not have people skills never socialized much. But through these PORs I learnt how to talk to people and get work done. I learnt crisis management, work delegation and how to take the responsibility if things go wrong. They actually helped me in interviews too. In interviews, improvisation is more important than preparation and my PORs taught me this improvisation.
The CGPA Factor
When I sat for placements Goldman Sachs imposed a CGPA cut-off of 9 for non-Electrical and non-CS branches. But now I guess it has been removed. CGPAs do matter to an extent. As long as you have a relevant resume, an 8+ CGPA is fine. They look more at your internships and courses. But this again is only for the test shortlisting. Once you have been shortlisted, your CGPA and resume do not matter.
Throughout my insti life, I wasn’t sure about anything. Until my 6th semester, I had no clue what I was going to do. To be frank, in insti 4 years is not enough to explore and find your interest. Being a dual degree student helps you here. You need to diversify and try to find out what you like. I took some courses like Multivariate Data Analysis, Time Series and Graph Theory and these helped me a lot in making this decision. I took a course on Financial Mathematics which helped me in the interview. You basically need to widen your horizon (quoting the cliché!) and know most of the options that are available before you take a decision. You need to get a lot of exposure if you want to find your interest. But you need to go and fight for that exposure. Nobody is going to come and hand it out to you on a platter. There are a lot of things to explore in insti but this often gets diluted due to the resume-focused nature of doing things. This might seem pretentious coming from me (laughs), I have graduated and had a good CGPA, but this is exactly what I did with my insti life. I took some research-oriented courses, started a research project (which I didn’t complete), went for a research intern (not through any scholarships, but through a professor’s contact), and even did a corporate intern. Most of the time you think you like something but when you try it out you might change your mind about it. The important thing is to realize that that is completely okay.
Living in The Present
You should have an open mind and shouldn’t be rigid about things. Your thinking should be ‘Does this interest me now?’ And if it does, you should do it without thinking much about the future. It might seem like a good thing to plan far ahead, but it won’t help you. You need to think and live in the present. But of course, always do something productive with the present. Don’t be ‘vetti’ and say “Hey! This is the present”. Do things that you like and never do things because others are doing it. If you have a goal it is great, but if you don’t have one it is perfectly fine too. You need not freak out. First and foremost, believe in yourself and trust yourself. Long-term goals are good to have but don’t often work out and my case is a classic example.
Authors: Renganathan S (BT-CH ’20) & Hari Ramachandran (DD-MM ’20)