3 key lessons from my internship at Credit Suisse


I spent Summer 2014 interning in Fixed Income (Investment Banking) at Credit Suisse. The internship was structured as a week training followed by rotations on 4 different desks on the Fixed Income trading floor (mine were FX Forwards Trading, FX Options Trading, Credit Sales, Rates Sales).

During the internship I learnt a lot about the financial markets and the intricacies of the products on these desks – certainly more than you would learn by just reading/studying these things. However, the three biggest lessons from my experience are far more widely applicable than just the realm of finance, but to life and work in general.

1. Say what you’re going to do and then do it

Simple but so important. When you say you are going to do something, you must always follow through and stay true to your word. This is a hugely important characteristic of successful people in general. If you say you will complete Project A by Tuesday, make sure it is on their desk by Tuesday 8am – or even better, Monday night. If you take someone’s business card and say you’ll send them an email, don’t let it “slip your mind”. Follow up as soon as you get the opportunity. Being true to your word – with attention to detail – is being authentic and integral.

If you want to earn trust, be true.

2. Execute everything like it was the best piece of work you ever produced

You should take pride in every single piece of work. If you produce something that is sub-standard, you are sub-standard. There should never be an excuse for submitting something that you know you didn’t complete to your best ability. Put it this way, if you’ve just finished a piece of work and you’re not genuinely proud of the final result, you need to go back and improve it or seriously question what you are doing. Attention to detail is often what differentiates mediocre from extraordinary.

3. Punctuality is not optional

It’s required. Punctuality can never be sacrificed. Never be late. Not once. Not even by a minute. At CS, they drilled this into us in the first few days of training, but I noticed in the subsequent weeks how making this part of the culture of the organisation has had a phenomenal impact on how effectively they operate. Additionally, it is quite simply insulting to be late. It demonstrates that consciously or subconsciously you value other people’s time less than your own.  Young people tend to have lost sight of punctuality since terms like ‘fashionably late’ became the norm. It is crucial that we re-establish it.

There is no substitute for hard work


Imperial courses are extremely heavy on theory. In Mechanical Engineering, you have a tonne of material to cover and learn in depth – more than is possible to realistically cope with. It means you have to work incredibly hard just to keep your head above water or even remotely close to the surface. My peers often ask why the hell are we tortured into learning all these derivations and theories we won’t actually apply in engineering jobs in the future? But there is a method in the madness…

Engineers are problem solvers. An engineering degree develops the ability of the student to solve problems. Consequently, this is a skill expected of every engineer. The unique advantage of Imperial is that the excessively content-heavy approach develops you not only into a problem solver, but into an engineer that can solve problems BEFORE they even arise – an expert problem solver.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours to achieve mastery in a field. A 4-year degree from Imperial gives you your first seven and a half thousand, taking you the vast majority of the way towards being a master in problem solving.

You can apply this example to any field. If there is a particular skill, experience or knowledge you wish to gain more of, dedicate time to it. But let’s make this practical. Don’t just make a mental note of needing to spend more time on your interest. Start it immediately, right now. Stop reading and put in your first 5 minutes. If that’s not possible, schedule it in. Put an hour block into your Outlook Calendar immediately where you will focus on development in this specific interest. You have to push to get started, because just 1 hour is an infinite percentage improvement on zero.

Note: This is not to say you shouldn’t be ‘working smart’ too. But remember, anyone who’s smart can find the right way to ‘work smart’. You can usually differentiate yourself by working both smart AND hard.

Lessons from 2014

  1. Quickly affirm or rule-out areas of interest through experimentation. If you think you want to do something as a career, get experience in that area immediately. Whether it’s a day, a week, a month; try it out.
  2. If it feels like you don’t have enough time for everything, you don’t manage your time effectively. If you manage your time effectively, you will know how many hours you have and how many hours you waste. Step 1: Work out how you want to spend your time on a weekly basis (make a list of the activities). Step 2: Implement a time management strategy to ensure you consistently spend your time that way. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, but the improvement to your life will be phenomenal. You need to monitor precisely how you spend each hour of the day and how this is aligned with your goals/desired activities. If you do this efficiently, you will never worry about being too busy ever again. You will achieve total balance.
  3. Focus on getting depth, meaning and breadth with your relationships. Connect as deeply as possible with as many people as possible who are aligned with your vision, purpose and/or interests.
  4. Expose yourself to as many things out of the norm of your everyday life as possible. Your knowledge/experience bank consists of what you have consumed from the environment that surrounds you. Tailor this environment so that the stimuli are new and diverse.