Alumni offer students insight into launching a career in finance – St. Olaf College
Steph Wissink ’02’s work in the beauty and financial industries for more than 20 years was so renowned that a profile Everyday clothing for women It was titled “Inside the Brain of Beauty’s Sharpest Analyst.”
St. Olaf classmate Sydney Wagner ’21 followed in his footsteps, joining Wissink as a colleague in the same department at the financial services company Jeffries. In their roles, they conducted research and gathered data on the beauty and consumer industries, advising investors on whether to buy, sell or hold stocks. This expertise led WalMart to hire Wissink last fall for a new role as senior vice president and investor relations officer, where he is further sharpening his skills.
Wagner and Wissink visited the campus to share their vision with current students In Ole Career Launcher Alumni in Residence Program. They met individually with students interested in finance to talk about their experiences and provide career advice.
This program is offered through the Piper Center for Vocation and Career. The Ole Career Launcher is designed to help students apply the skills they learn in the classroom to real-world situations they will encounter when they enter the workforce. Part of this experience involves connecting directly with experts in certain career fields.
Wissink, an economics major, found her work calling as an analyst in a class at St. Olaf.
“I was interested in the stock market, and the idea of connecting capital with ideas intrigued me,” he says. “A stock analysis course my junior year provided a moment of clarity that was almost visceral.”
St. At Olaf, Wissink made connections within student government, which led to an internship at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray (now Piper Sandler, based in Minneapolis). He later joined Piper Jaffray full-time and worked alongside fellow Ole Jeff Klinefelter ’90.
“I learned a lot from Jeff about managing and motivating people, leadership and the value of relationships,” she says. “I still carry so much of that learning with me today.”
Wagner, who majored in economics with an emphasis in finance, met Wissink when she interned at Jeffries, St. After Olaf’s junior year. He landed a full-time role at the company as an equity researcher, where he now works with companies and helps them predict their performance. These forecasts are then analyzed to provide investment recommendations for clients to buy, sell or hold.
“The liberal arts at St. Olaf prepared me well for a career that requires many different hats,” says Wagner. “I learned how to think critically, ask questions, and communicate my thoughts and opinions effectively.”
The liberal arts at St. Olaf prepared me well for a career that requires many different hats. I learned how to think critically, ask questions, and communicate my thoughts and opinions effectively.Sydney Wagner ’21
At the Ole Career Launcher event, Wagner and Wissink offered some advice to students interested in interviewing for finance positions, noting that “the energy level can’t be underestimated.” While skill and knowledge can be taught, enthusiasm cannot. “You can close the skills gap, but you can’t close the energy gap,” says Wissink.
She offers four additional tips for St. Olaf students:
- Cultivate persistent curiosity. Constantly ask questions, and when you find an answer, challenge it, dig deeper into its implications, and seek broad knowledge. Take a class that puts you outside of your comfort zone.
- Listen carefully. Listening is a whole-body experience: lean in, pay attention to your instincts, and pay attention to how others are listening. Don’t listen just to talk. Also listen to note. What are some non-audible cues that you might miss if you’re not fully listening? Try this when working in groups: talk less, listen more, help better.
- Turn the lens and strive for non-consensual thoughts. Using the same information, direction and resources, how can you achieve a more creative, tailored and differentiated output? Ditch being predictable and pleasant, and instead be insightful and memorable. Take advantage of your professors: they are some of the highest thinkers and most credentialed in their fields.
- Communicate clearly and simply, and tailor your message to your audience. The ability to quickly synthesize and digest complex information, distilling it into action-oriented plans are skills that come from preparation and repetition. Practice these now with your friends/teammates/classmates and you will be mentally prepared for a fast paced and impactful graduate culture.