Investment banking is a team sport: IBI’s Leadership Day

By: Brian Guo, Two-Year MBA ’19
Photo of Investment Banking Immersion students at the rockwall on Leadership Day

By Brian Guo, Two-Year MBA ’19
Investment Banking Immersion

Approximately 50 Johnson students clustered into small groups, exchanging winter break stories about travel and recruiting. Congratulations were in order, as this was the first time many classmates were seeing each other since receiving offers during Johnson’s Superday Week. With our exhilarating/stressful first semester over, it was finally time for us to settle in because the real fun and hard work was about to begin.

Our kickoff to the Investment Banking Immersion was underway. There were no handouts or laptops, and people were dressed in sweats not suits. Instead of a classroom, Drew Pascarella, lecturer of finance, organized us in a gymnasium, and instead of 10-ks, we were running through a series of teambuilding exercises for our “Leadership Day.” Our Cornell Outdoor Education facilitators were with us all day. Having worked with them before, I knew we would have an entertaining and engaging day.

Photo of the Investment Banking Immersion students at the rockwall at the Lindseth Climbing Center
Students in the Investment Banking Immersion take on the wall at the Lindseth Climbing Center

First, we broke into teams of five and headed to the revamped Lindseth Climbing Center, where variously priced “revenue contracts” were scattered across the climbing wall. Teams had several minutes to both set revenue goals and devise a strategy, given constraints around time and resources (only one belayer). For 30 minutes, the rockwall was dotted with students scurrying up and down, and the gym was roaring with teammates shouting directions and encouragements. With 90 percent of the students having never climbed before, it was a great way to push people out of their comfort zones first thing on a Sunday morning.

We shifted back to Newman Arena for our next activity. As a 25-person group, we were tasked with using halved cylindrical pipes to transfer a golf ball through a series of obstacles. After two minutes of planning, we were immediately thrown into the fire. Twenty minutes of chaos ensued and the team limped to the finish line, given our lack of organization.

Our final activity was the “calculator game,” where two teams had to simultaneously press scrambled numbers, scattered all over the gymnasium floor, in sequential order. We had several opportunities to improve our times, allowing us to make adjustments and drastically change our approach. Our team was not afraid to embrace risk because we made major adjustments to our last run, instead of taking the conservative approach, merely optimizing on the fringes and pushing the pace. Our communication skills were tested and creativity pushed, and ultimately, the result was a more than 40 percent reduction from our original time.

Photo of Investment Banking Immersion students doing the calculator game
Students figure out the “calculator game”

Even with the NFL’s conference championships on TV, Johnson’s IBI cohort was physically and mentally present. Days like that continue to solidify the strong bonds we’ve made with one another during the countless hours recruiting together. The drives to and from New York City, interview prep sessions, and late-night email drafting (over pizza), will forever connect us as friends.

After each activity we debriefed as a team with our facilitators. What worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved. These moments of self-reflection are important for team norming and overall self-improvement. Although we won’t be climbing in the office, we will definitely encounter stressful scenarios, bound by time constraints, where the chance for miscommunication will be high – tempers will flare and teammates will be frustrated. However, throughout my (many…) informational interviews, there was one consistently important theme and that was “cultural fit.” Everyone says that Investment Banking is a team sport. Can you be a phenomenal teammate after 15+ hours in the office? At Johnson, we emphasize team. We prepare as a team, we recruit as a team, and we succeed as a team. It is one of the keys to our success, and a major reason why this year we are sending our largest class to Wall Street in school history.

Button: Learn more about the Investment Banking Immersion