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Looking for a career in finance?

04/1/2013

 Ethan Powell ’04 with his wife, Angela Campbell ’02

Ethan Powell ’04 with his wife, Angela Campbell ’02

Ethan Powell ’04, a vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH) in New York, might not have been your typical college senior. He relished the job search he undertook that year and attacked it like a problem to be solved.

But then, he doesn’t mind getting out of his comfort zone. That tells you something about the personality and sense of humor that helped get Powell, an economics and government major who’s now a commodity banker, where he is today.

A Connecticut College connection helped, too. Cheryl Banker, a counselor in the career services office, knew Powell was looking for a job in finance and gave him the names of some alumni in the field. One was W. Carter Sullivan III ’79 P’16, a partner at BBH. Powell contacted him and sent his resume.

You might think you know the rest of the story, but there’s more. John Lyons ’13, who hosted Powell while he was on campus in February to talk with students about careers in finance, has since been hired by the same firm. He’ll start his new job after graduation in May.

Ask Powell what he learned at Connecticut College that helps him most today, and he talks about art history and dance – not just economics. We followed up with him after his visit to campus.

Why did you go into finance?

I've always liked solving problems and being analytical, and working in finance offers plenty of opportunities for both. And the more I learned about the field, the more I realized that a solid background in finance would open up opportunities to do any number of things in the future.

What skills were most transferable from college to your work? 
Working under the pressure of deadlines and being able to express yourself in writing are both extremely important. Frequently, your only opportunity to communicate something is via some form of writing. Being able to admit you're wrong, or that someone else’s idea is better than yours, is also absolutely critical.

What advice do you have for students when it comes to developing a positive attitude? 
1) You’re not always going to love what you're doing. Don't get caught up in the moment when you're likely to weigh short-term circumstances over long-term opportunities.
2) Be ambitious, but also be patient.
3) Find a mentor who will challenge you and be a sounding board when you need objective advice. You can’t count on yourself to remain objective about yourself. 
4) Most importantly, make sure you have a life outside of work.

How exactly did the liberal arts prepare you for your career? 
Had it not been for the core curriculum requirements, I probably would not have taken classes in art history, chemistry or English, and I never would have taken a dance class. But I'm glad I did. Each of those classes exposed me to new things and challenged me in ways that my econ classes did not. This was important because at the end of the day, if you can think creatively, remain open to new ideas and experiences, and handle yourself with composure when you’re outside your comfort zone, then you can succeed in a lot of things.

 



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