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Real Humans of Bank of America: Chris Shoemaker, Carnegie Mellon Tepper MBA ’16, Investment Banking VP

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Get a glimpse into the lifestyle of investment banking, as Chris Shoemaker, CMU Tepper MBA ’16, shares his story of pursuing a role at Bank of America (BofA) through business school in this edition of Real Humans – Alumni. BofA is the second largest banking institution in the U.S. It was founded in San Francisco, though Chris works at the New York headquarters. Read on for his account of the dedication a profession in investment banking takes, tips on landing a role in the industry, how Tepper prepared him for his position and more.

Chris Shoemaker, Carnegie Mellon Tepper MBA ’16, Investment Banking Vice President at Bank of America

Age: 36
Hometown: Vandergrift, Pennsylvania 
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Case Western Reserve University, Electrical Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business Class of 2016
Pre-MBA Work Experience:  Four years in digital marketing
Post-MBA Work Experience: Six years in investment banking

Why did you choose to attend business school?
This is an easy one. I knew I wanted to be a banker, and business school is an opportunity to hit the reset switch on your career. For me, it meant an opportunity to change careers and pursue the field of investment banking.

Why Tepper? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Like most candidates, I had my selection criteria (e.g. program size, ranking, location, etc.). Obviously, those are very important. But when I actually started looking at programs, the most important criteria for me was, “Will this program get me where I want to be?” I was coming from a non-traditional, non-finance background, so I needed a firm financial foundation. I knew I would also need an extensive network of alumni willing to help me become a banker. Tepper’s strong quantitative program and powerful student and alumni network offered me exactly what I was looking for. It checked all the boxes for me and definitely got me to where I wanted to be.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Tepper absolutely provides the analytical rigor and technical foundation necessary for a career in financial services. More importantly, Tepper helped me develop many of the soft skills that are necessary to many post-business school careers, especially investment banking. A lot of business school happens outside the classroom. Tepper’s program was filled with opportunities beyond classes to really learn, grow and develop personally and professionally.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
During the summer, I interned with BofA in the Global TMT group, which is the same group I have been with since I graduated. Naturally, my internship provided me with a great deal of exposure. However, I also used my 10 weeks as an intern to gain a clear picture of the demanding life of an investment banker, and it helped to reaffirm my decision to pursue the career and the lifestyle. Investment banking really is not for everyone. I always recommend candidates take the opportunity to experience it and use that experience to make an informed decision before really signing up.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I selected BofA as much as they selected me because where you work is an important decision. You need to go to an organization that will give you the learning, growth, and experience opportunities that are valuable to you. Those are different for everyone so it takes some time and effort to find what you are looking for.

I also always like to find out the personality of the organization and get to know the team.  Not all jobs have 15-hour days like investment banking, but even a standard workday means you are around the people you work with for 8+ hours a day. You really have to like them. You need to enjoy being around them and enjoy working with them. If you do not love what you do and enjoy who you work with, you really just are not going to have a good time.

How has COVID–19 impacted your industry/career plans?
Like many jobs, a huge part of investment banking is networking and interacting with clients. Even more than that though, there is a mentorship, or apprenticeship, aspect to being a banker. I had just been promoted to Vice President when COVID-19 hit.  At a time when I needed to interact with and learn from senior bankers as well as get in front of clients, we were shutting everything down and working remotely. The timing could not have been worse. I had to adjust to a new role at the same time we were all learning how to work remotely. Not sure it necessarily impacted my plans or my trajectory, but it definitely introduced some variables that have made this period in my career much more challenging.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I would do the networking trips to New York again. They were grueling at the time, but I really did enjoy the experience. All of us that were making the trips every week bonded a lot. I still stay in touch with most of the other bankers from my class. We became good friends through the experience.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have networked even more. When I am speaking with current Tepper students that are recruiting, I always tell them to network more. Do not just go to the bulge brackets, look at middle market and boutiques. Tepper has a huge alumni base at banks across The Street.  When you are interviewing, you should make it your goal to meet with every one of us. And most importantly, no matter how many emails you have sent and meetings you have scheduled, definitely send more and schedule more. I cannot emphasize that enough.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Not really. BofA has a pretty standard investment banking recruiting process. The large banks all have very regimented processes. The smaller you go the less they will have formal processes in place. The process, especially for the larger banks, is super competitive and seems to move earlier every year. Many middle market and boutique banks, will run their processes later, some even will do just-in-time recruiting. That is important for many candidates to know. We had an outstanding candidate at BofA that was unfortunately put on hold this past year. I suggested he immediately reach out to a friend, another Tepper alum, at a smaller bank that he had not originally considered. Even though all of the large banks had effectively completed their recruiting, he was able to get himself an interview and scored an outstanding internship next summer. When you are recruiting, you really need to leave no stone unturned, that amazing internship opportunity may not be where you expect to find it.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Use this time to explore. This is a pretty common piece of advice for MBA candidates, but it is often said because it really is important to do so. I think some candidates hesitate on this one a little.… I know I did when I first started. But seriously, go travel, go to events, sign up for things that you are not sure about but just go try it anyway. Business school is really your last chance to do these things for a long time. For many MBA grads, career/family/life will quickly take control, and you will not have the opportunities to go explore anymore. Use it while you can.

Alexandra Markovich
Alexandra (Alex) Markovich was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Florida State University (FSU), where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English. After her time at FSU, she has continued to pursue learning more about the writing industry by enrolling herself in editing certificate programs provided by Poynter Institute and the University of Chicago. In her spare time, you can find Alex working out her local gym, perusing local book stores, taking her dogs to the local dog park, and soaking up the Miami sun!