Arjun Narayan ’10 worked for me three summer ago. He sent this lovely e-mail.

Now that it is coming to that time of the year where I look back fondly on my 4 years at Williams and ponder about what went right/what went wrong/simply being nostalgic, I thought for a while about my internship at Kane Cap, and had some things I wanted to share with you. I think this is reasonable, also because I wish Williams asked for a second round of course evaluations at graduation (and another one 5 years hence! And another one 20 years hence! I have so much more appreciation for some classes now that I had earlier complained about as bitter drudgery.) I will probably write to some of my favorite professors anyway, but this sort of information really should be collected.

Indeed. Although the teaching at Williams is wonderful, it could be better. And the first step in making it better is to collect better data. Why not ask seniors to report their 3 favorite professors or the one professor who they think is most underrated by other students, perhaps in conjunction with the awarding of Ephraim Williams Teaching Awards?

Arjun offers further thoughts in my internship below the break. I appreciate his comments and agree with many of his suggestions.

But, even better, Arjun is sending similar e-mails to his Williams professors. If you are a senior, you should do the same.

Well. On to my thoughts about your internships. I don’t know if you plan to have more interns in the future, but as an older man who has mentored so many young finance minded kids, I’m sure you will doubtless have the opportunity to do so in the future. My thoughts are rather unorganized, but let me just dive into it straight away:

First, you recruit interns exceptionally young. By the structure of your recruiting, you end up with kids who have zero, or near zero experience with a real job, and with real projects. Typically, whatever project they will work with during the 12 weeks will be the largest project they will have encountered. I think you should be more aware of this fact. Second, they will have little experience working in R. I think the R reading list should be longer, but the main problem is the R experience. I think your idea of a winter study project to aid in recruiting is a step in the right direction (and nobody can complain if you set work as a hiring requirement during winter study.) Its the work that interferes with classes (by imposing requirements on the classes taken, and/or what is done within that class) that might annoy some profs.

However, I think this doesn’t go far enough. I think you need to structure the work in terms of 3 or 4 problem sets, each with required readings (such as this: http://www.johndcook.com/R_language_for_programmers.html ) and smaller bite sized programs. (Increasing in size and scope, of course) If this is well structured, I think that people will be far more prepared. The single large project is too swamping. Don’t forget, this will be the largest sized work they will have dealt with. Don’t throw them into the pool – my dad did that, and yes, I did end up learning to swim – but surely there are better educational pedagogies today. An additional idea is to require a 13 week internship, but paid only for 12 (so this doesn’t cost you more), with the first week merely as time within which the 4 problem sets should be submitted. (You could design them so that they can be mostly checked by grading scripts, and a cursory evaluation of the code for style.)

Finally, I think, in retrospect, that your internship was excellent training for me, even if I was slightly swamped due to my own inexperience, and lack of preparation due to a crappy class (Econ 255). I think by the end I had gained valuable experience.

I do think that you offer kids who want to get into finance probably the best introduction/guidance available. For that, its a no brainer to me to recommend anyone who wants to get into quantitative finance to go talk to you! However, I do want to stress that kids who come to elite liberal arts colleges such as Williams, especially in their freshman years, by definition pretty much self-select into kids who do not have that kind of focused desires and are often confused. I went from thinking about finance to software engineering to now a PhD and possibly academia/industrial research in large scale distributed computing. And thats not even the surface of the puzzling choices presented to liberal arts kids!

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