The Ten Question series interviews Williams alumni involved in finance. My name is Charlotte Scott ’19, and I am eager to hear your suggestions. Today’s interview is with David Kane ’88, a portfolio manager at Hutchin Hill.


  1. What made you decide to attend Williams College?

This was 30 plus years ago, and the college process was much simpler back then. I knew I wanted to attend a good school and I also thought I wanted to attend a small school because I was a high school soccer player and was aware enough that I couldn’t play at a D1 school. Williams was a good school and my father had gone there, so that was a good enough reason for me to apply. I applied early and got in, and never visited another school.

  1. What was your favourite class that you took during your time at Williams?

I did a senior thesis with Mike McPherson, who was the chair of the Economics department at the time and went on to become the president of Macalester and that was a great experience. Working with Mike and getting his guidance and advice about what to read was probably one of the best intellectual experiences for me at Williams. I also took a course with James MacGregor Burns, who was probably the most famous Political Science professor at Williams, and it was the last class he taught. That was another amazing experience – this was probably the fall of ‘86 in the old Stetson building – and Professor Burns walked in and said something along the lines of, “50 years ago, I walked into my freshman Political Science 1 class in this building” and that always stuck with me because even then I could ask myself, where am I going to be in 2036 and to whom am I going to say the same thing to? That brought home to me in a very visceral way that when you’re at Williams, you’re part of something that’s much greater than your 4 years.


  1. Who was your favourite professor and why?

I loved all my professors. Alan White, who still teaches in the Philosophy department, was a great professor. I took a couple of classes with him and loved arguing with him. I also had Gary Jacobson. I often talk to students about the difference between Harvard and Williams, and a lot of people think that Williams is like Harvard but with less famous professors. They think that Williams has graduate students that grade your essays or that the professors don’t know your names because this is certainly the case at Harvard. But my freshman fall at Williams, my Economics 101 was taught my Steve Lewis, who was chair of the Economics department and went on to become president of Carlton, and my Political Science course was with Gary Jacobson, who went on to teach at the University of Texas and was chair of the department. For me that was a great introduction to Williams where the two chairs of the departments knew my name and were looking at my work and telling me when I was being stupid!


  1. Was there any notable experience at Williams that influenced your decision to enter the field of finance?

At Williams, I fell in love with the idea of being a philosophy professor. This was 30 plus years ago, and I didn’t know what that really meant, but I knew it meant that I had to get a PhD. So that’s what led me to a PhD program, and after that I figured out that academia was probably not a good choice for me, and then the natural choice became finance. But not a lot of classes at Williams covered finance in the way that its practiced in the real world so there wasn’t anything in particular that pointed me towards finance at Williams. In terms of going from philosophy to finance, finance is a job that is best for a particular type of personality. It helps to be competitive, to appreciate a very clear score card for how your performance is, and it helps to have the sort of personality where you don’t care too much what other people think. I’m wired on all those dimensions in that way, so I thought that finance is a natural fit for me. In many ways, for money management, its very like being a professional athlete in that there’s a very clear score card and no one cares how you talk or who your dad is and no one even cares if you went to Williams. What they care about is if you can make money, and that is a scorecard that shows up and the end of every day, month, quarter and year.


  1. Did you partake in any extracurriculars at Williams that you feel enhanced your career or your own personal development?

I liked being on College Council. I was also the Carter House rep for a year and a half, but I also appreciated College Council because it was a good experience in how committees function and how groups try to get things done. So much of Williams is about you personally – how well you’re doing on a problem set or a test – whereas in College Council, it was a group that needed to get stuff done and you needed to negotiate with people and get them to come along and cajole them, and you can’t order them around. A similar great experience was with Gargoyle, which has evolved and changed over time, but that was another real experience in working with peers in a substantive way to try and get real things accomplished. I thought this was useful learning for the rest of my life.


  1. What do you draw on in your job that you learnt in your classes at Williams?

I certainly learned that you have to pay attention to what people think about you. That was not something I was particularly attuned to in my time at Williams. I was a bit of a campus troublemaker, writing op eds in the Record on various politically charged topics. And I was not particularly good at understanding how other people perceived me. And that is an important thing to learn in life and I learned a little bit of it at Williams but probably not enough, and I have continued to learn it. But part of success in life is that, whether or not people agree with you, you should at least understand what their point of view is on the topic and think about how your actions are going to affect them.


  1. Were there any general lessons you learnt from your experience at Williams that have helped you to deal with problematic situations in your career?

I would say that the answer to the previous question is applicable here.


  1. What mistakes did you make during your time at Williams and what have you learnt from them?

The thing I regret most is not sticking with things and really trying them out. I wanted to be a soccer player, so I showed up at Williams and suddenly I realized I was not nearly as good a soccer player as the rest of these guys. I was good enough to barely make the JV team, and then I quit after having made the team, because I had the childish attitude of, “if I can’t be on the varsity team, I don’t want to play anymore.” I regret it to this day because I love soccer and I still play soccer and I should have kept on playing. Part of becoming a mature adult is realizing that you’re not going to be the best at everything, and that doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it but, if you like it, you should keep doing it. In my life now, I recognize that every day I’m not playing soccer is a day I’m probably making a mistake.


  1. When looking at a resume from a Williams student, is there anything particular that you look for or that stands out?

Not really. I always recommend that the students go talk to the Careers Centre – the staff there know what they’re doing. I think the most common mistake I see in Williams resumes is twice as many words as there should be. Everybody you send your resume to is a busy person and they don’t want to read a thousand words about you. The most common feedback I give to a student is to delete half the words on their resume. Sometimes I’ll have a student send me a multi-page resume and I say, “unless you’ve won the Nobel Prize, you put your resume on one page just like I do.” The other advice I give is that too many students think that college is like high school and that academics are the critical thing, and they’ll do things such as list all the courses they’ve taken. No one cares that you’ve taken Microeconomics. Maybe you want to talk about the programming or statistics you know because that’s generally applicable, but even there that’s not a critical thing. Also, too many kids take a fifth course because they think people will be impressed with it. No one cares if you’ve taken a fifth course – if anything it’s a little weird! If you’re taking it because you love the course, you don’t need to take it for a grade, just go to the lecture and do the reading. One, it doesn’t matter on your transcript, and two, you’re taking energy away from something that might otherwise look better. That other thing should be substantive engagement in your desired field. Too many kids don’t get engaged in whatever field they think they might be interested in. For example, if someone is interested in finance, they should spend half an hour/an hour every day reading about finance. They should educate themselves in finance instead of taking that fifth course. Whatever field they want to go into, they should be investigating that every day, both to discover that they either find it boring – which is a good thing to figure out at 19 – or because that will teach them about this world they’re trying to enter, so when they are applying to internships and jobs, they are as knowledgeable as someone who is 23 or 24 and has been in the field for a year or two. That is a much better use of their time.


  1. What advice would you give to yourself in retrospect as a 19 year old starting your sophomore year at Williams?

I think it would be to get more involved with stuff. It is so easy to get wrapped up in just your stuff – your classes etc. – and too many Williams kids are not engaged enough in some outside activity. For example, the Record could do so much more and would benefit from having many more students involved, but I get a sense that people don’t show up and want to write for them. I always want to say to myself at 20, don’t just sit in your room and do your own stuff, start participating in the larger world through some Williams organization like the Record. Both because that will be fun and meaningful and because it is useful potentially for your future career. For example, I talk to kids who say they want to get into finance, and I ask them what they’re doing to start working on that, and they’ll say, “well I’m studying really hard in Corporate Finance.” Instead, a student like that should say to me, “well, I’m writing for the Record, and what I’m covering is the Williams endowment and budget.” Then I would say that’s great, and ask them to show me some of their articles. Then they could send me 3, 4, 5, 10 articles that talk about it, and they could’ve done all these interviews. That is so much more impressive on a resume that anything else we’ve talked about and it would be incredibly beneficial to the student because they would learn a whole bunch of stuff about finance, thereby discovering either that it’s boring and they don’t want to do it as a career – which is a great thing to figure out at 20 – or discovering that they really like it, and now they are knowledgeable about it. So the typical Williams student should go get involved with something at Williams and spend less time in their room on the web.


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