1) Why did you choose this field and what were the other options available during the placement?
Before the shortlist was out, I was never too hopeful for Goldman Sachs. However, I was still primarily targeting firms in the financial sector that hired for jobs in risk or offered similar quantitative roles. This was mainly because of three reasons:
- I found finance, especially the quantitative research and mathematics involved in it, very interesting. My research-cum-internship experience at ISB Hyderabad, where I worked on trading strategies, inculcated in me a desire to work in this field.
- Secondly, I liked Mathematics and being in M&C, I knew it fairly well which would prove to be very helpful as strong mathematical and problem solving abilities are what recruiters look for in candidates aspiring for such jobs.
- Thirdly, finance is a fast paced industry and a long term career in finance could expose one to a variety of roles – ranging from highly technical to purely managerial, client facing opportunities. Because I love honing my people skills, I had been highly involved in PORs and EAAs at KGP and therefore wanted to have a flexibility of switching to roles that demand strong interpersonal skills in case I preferred to stay in the same firm.
Apart from Finance or FinTech firms, options available to me were in consulting/marketing domain like in Auctus Advisors and Abbott that looked for candidates with sound overall performance and strong extra academic presence. Also, firms in Analytics sector like Capital One, Deloitte US-India, Walmart Labs etc. were few other options that hired candidates based on their expertise in Maths, Statistics and problem solving skills.
In total, I had been shortlisted for 8-9 firms on Day 1 and GS was my first preference among them because of the fact that the role they offered was aligned with my interest in addition to the incentive of starting my career at such a powerful brand while having a great remuneration.
2) What was the selection procedure and how did you prepare for it?
(This is from my detailed response to CDC, available on its portal.)
For getting into most firms I was shortlisted in, the process is pretty much the same – clearing initial shortlisting criteria for taking their assessment test, clearing the test and finally clearing the final interviews in December.
For the assessment test, most firms only consider your basic details for initial shortlisting like your CGPA, Department and marks in X & XII. However, some firms do have a look at your resume and/or your pre-assessment scores. Last year, Goldman Sachs allowed all students above 7 CGPA from the departments CS, EC, EE and MA to take its test while only a select few (with CGPA as high as 8.5-9) from the rest of the courses.
Goldman Sachs has a standard test comprising of three sections: Quant, Machine Learning and Computer Science. The test is conducted by Hackerrank and includes MCQs, Subjectives (You needed to enter the final answer for eg. 18.5) and a few (precisely, two last year) coding questions. Each section has a time limit of its own. One needs to do well in at least one of the sections to make it to the interview. However the more you score, the more sections you clear, the better, because your test scores (with some help from your CV) primarily decide the preference order for the interviews. This year, 10 out of a total of 13 students selected by GS had a preference order under 15, which shows why the assessment test is so critical.
For final Interviews, most firms have 2-3 technical rounds which may be followed by an HR round.
Interview rounds in Goldman Sachs are however uncertain. Based on your test scores and CV, multiple internal teams/business units may want to interview you. Some students thus face 5-7 rounds (as these teams try to figure out which role they are most suitable for) while few might be offered a job only after one round of interview. The interview format is also a bit unconventional. The panelists may change a number of times during your interview. For eg, I had four rounds but I was interviewed by a total of 8 executives. Mostly people do not have a separate HR round at GS.
About my preparation: I did the following
- Revised important coursewok through Class notes/Books/Online courses/NPTEL including lectures on Probability and Statistics, Regression and Time Series, Algorithms, Markov Chains and Linear Algebra (Matrices).
- Went through the basics of Machine Learning (First 5 weeks of Andrew Ng’s Coursera series)
- Solved a lot of puzzles from Heard on the Street, Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability, A Practical Guide To Quantitative Finance Interviews, CSE Blog and Gurmeet Singh’s collection
- Revised a bit of finance, mostly related to the work during my intern or the courses I had taken up at VGSOM in addition to the corresponding basics and current affairs
- Prepared thoroughly for interviews including being able to speak confidently about anything on my CV and explain even the most complicated bits in the simplest of ways.
3) Can you describe your work profile at GS? What had you expected?
I have been selected as an analyst in the Market Risk Technology team. My team is responsible for orchestrating the market risk of entire firm including assessment of Value at Risk, backtesting the accuracy of predicted VaR based on realized returns and determining the Capital the firm needs to keep aside for taking risk, which is very critical for regulatory reporting. Being in Technology division, our work is mostly technical where we deal with millions of portfolios and market positions daily which make the work challenging from computation and data management point of view. However, since it deals with financial instruments and regulations, it is important to have a sound business understanding as well.
Expectations: Goldman Sachs has many diverse teams that come for recruitment and thus it is actually improbable to exactly predict which team is going to interview / hire. Interestingly, I had a strong feeling that I’d be selected for a role involving finance with minor tech/coding, given my prior experiences. However I was selected in a Tech team, even after I explicitly mentioned during my interviews that I had very limited experience in coding. Later, I came to know that being satisfied with my problem solving skills, the interviewers believed that I would learn the required coding stuff on the way and more importantly thought that my experiences and interest in finance would be very useful for the business perspective the role demanded.
4) How do you describe the work culture and work life balance?
I am extremely happy with the work-life balance and the culture at GS. The overall environment is very conducive to personal and professional growth. The firms invests a lot in its people which is evident from its global orientation programme which is held at the firm’s headquarters at New York for all new campus hires across the globe, providing them a chance to engage with senior leadership in addition to meeting their regional teammates and learning the basics of firm’s businesses.
Additionally, the kind of projects I got, the on-the-job-training and mentorship I received –have all been amazing. It is very inspiring to be working along a set of highly dedicated and motivated professionals who are very approachable and helpful. At the same time, project-ownership from day one and the expectations from work make it equally challenging.
GS is somewhat infamous for stretched working hours and poor work-life balance but surprisingly my experience has been pretty good. The working hours are flexible and one can choose whatever seems most suitable. I believe, the balance is pretty decent for people in Technology and Compliance divisions that are majorly tech-focused. Divisions like Risk (Finance), Securities, IBD etc. tend to have long working hours and relatively higher work pressure. But overall, there is a lot of focus on staying fit and numerous sports and cultural events are regularly organized to keep up with the work-life balance.
5) What are your long term goals and how does working at GS help you achieve them?
I’m not very sure of this at the moment. Though throughout my career, I would love to transition between tech roles and client-facing, managerial positions. Thankfully there is a strong internal mobility channel in GS which helps employees to transition internally from one role to another, even changing the region they work in. The transition can be to any role and not limited just to the department one works with.
Also, in case I decide to go for higher studies, my work at GS would be a strong, positive impact point on my resume. The global recognition of GS in terms of its work culture, brand and the bright talent pool it attracts, would be immensely helpful in my application to universities.
6) Any specific advice you would like to give to the students aspiring for GS this year?
(This is also from my response to CDC)
Do not underestimate yourself. There is no time to be disheartened by what you could not accomplish. Focus on your strengths and aspirations.
My CG dropped from 9.0 in my 1st sem to 7.90 after 8th (before placements). I was a below average coder in M&C. Interestingly, 3 of the 4 students selected in GS from M&C had more or less the same story – we were not among top 10-20% of the class either in terms of CG or coding skills.
Do not be demotivated by your failures.
Including me, 3 of the 4 students selected in GS from M&C did not get a CDC intern. I had applied for at least 10 companies and failed. One of the companies rejecting me in its final round was Credit Suisse. Interestingly, during my placements, it was the only other firm for whose interviews I appeared (other than GS of course) and this time they said I was overqualified for their job.
Practice well for your interviews. You may think that how you present yourself won’t matter much to firms like GS but in reality it makes a huge difference. How well and interestingly you can communicate with the interviewers and explain your work to them is a critical parameter in getting you selected. Don’t include intricate details like complicated algorithms and tools in order to sound smart, unless the interviewer specifically asks for it. Keep it simple and compact. You should be able to talk about your previous projects as if you are explaining it to your grandparents. (Trust me I was asked to do this, and I did!)
Be honest. Be confident. Have a good reason to be interested in working at GS.