Investment banking is a popular career path for MBA candidates and in this Real Humans: Alumni, Avery Adams, Cornell Johnson MBA ’20, illuminates how business school prepared her to join a leader in the industry, Morgan Stanley. Read on for her insights into Cornell Johnson’s useful offerings as well as the culture that drew her to the prominent investment bank.
Avery Adams, Cornell Johnson MBA ’20, Technology Investment Banking Associate at Morgan Stanley
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Fairfield University, International Business & Finance
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, 2020, Investment Banking Immersion
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 4 years, Financial Services – Human Capital Analytics
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1.5 years, Investment Banking
Why did you choose to attend business school?
Even during undergrad, business school had always been on my radar as something I may want to pursue as I saw the benefits in not only a graduate education, but also the network and relationships you can develop. After spending a year in compensation consulting and another two in human capital data analytics, I felt I’d reached a turning point in my early career and started considering other paths. I knew I wanted to stay within the broader financial services industry, but felt inclined towards a role that was more finance-focused while also people and relationship driven. That combination led me to investment banking, and I knew business school was the logical next step in making that pivot.
Why Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Like many career switchers applying to Cornell’s program, the industry-specific immersions were a huge driver for me. I felt the investment banking immersion would provide me with a practical understanding of the industry and help prepare me for my summer internship with applicable coursework. I also attended a “Sage Social” happy hour during a visit to campus and felt I would be a good fit with the tight-knit Johnson community.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The Old Ezra Finance Club, investment banking (IB) immersion, and my classmates. Old Ezra is run by the second-year students, who are instrumental through the first-years’ preparation for IB recruiting. The Club also provides access to an invaluable network of Johnson alumni across Wall Street.
In the second half of your first year, the IB immersion provided context and applicable technical skills to the various aspects of the role of an associate in banking. Each week you’re given an assignment (a merger model, an LBO analysis, etc.) that you work with a team to complete before presenting your final product to a group of professors and alumni. I found this useful in preparing for my internship as I learned not only from the assigned coursework, but also from working with my classmates and seeing the various approaches taken for each assignment. It was also helpful to hear the professor (a previous banker) and alumni (current bankers) ask questions during the presentations, offering insight into how they would have approached the assignment or analysis.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at Morgan Stanley as a summer associate in the generalist pool. I had a great experience working on various projects that reaffirmed my decision to pursue investment banking following graduation, specifically at Morgan Stanley as I really enjoyed the generalist experience and the people I worked with during my summer.
Why did you choose Morgan Stanley after your MBA? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
The people. Throughout the recruiting process, Morgan Stanley bankers demonstrated a clear priority in maintaining a consistent firm culture. As with any investment banking interview, there was a high bar for the technical aspect of the interviews, but Morgan Stanley differentiated itself in the emphasis that every banker I met placed on cultural fit and future potential, both in terms of building client relationships and developing technical skills.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
An impact I’ve felt from COVID while working in banking is the balance between efficiencies gained from remote work and virtual meetings (no travel time, broader audience included, etc.) and advantages of in-person interactions, whether it’s a client meeting or just learning from others in the office. I think a lot of what you learn from any job is situational and, in my experience, it’s easier to pick up these new learnings (whether directly or indirectly) through in-person interactions. Additionally, having started in a virtual environment and been a part of the MBA recruiting cycle last fall, I can attest that “coffee chats” are indeed better (and more natural) when you actually participate and get coffee with the other person.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Talk to everyone who’s willing to speak with you and come with thoughtful questions. I found the way I could be most memorable through recruiting was asking insightful questions gleaned from previous conversations that I couldn’t answer myself from a Google search. This helped me demonstrate my interest in the firm I was interviewing with without explicitly saying it.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Take more classes outside of the traditional Johnson courses. I took a course on managing family-owned and privately held businesses within the Smith Family Business Initiative during my second semester and second year. It turned out to be one of the most interesting and useful classes during my time at Cornell.
—Were there any surprises regarding your Morgan Stanley’s recruiting process during the MBA?
The willingness of current employees to help in recruiting efforts. I think this also speaks to the emphasis Morgan Stanley places on cultural fit during recruiting – both junior and senior bankers understand that recruiting is crucial to firm culture and they make time to help with the process, even while working extremely demanding jobs.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Take more control of your learning earlier on. One aspect I really appreciated about Johnson was the professors’ willingness to help you pursue your interests, even when they were outside the traditional course offerings. I found that Johnson professors and others on the academic team would rarely outright tell me “no” versus “how can we make that happen” – I took advantage of this with an entrepreneurial project during the last semester of my second year (thank you Drew!) and wish I had done this far earlier in the program.