Tuesday, April 7, 2020

"A virtual internship just isn't the same"

From Matt Levine's newsletter, discussing investment banking internships:

No I mean here’s a real thing that happens in investment banking internships: eating challenges. The people on a desk will pool some money for an intern who can eat, say, a tub of mayonnaise, or one of every item in the vending machine, and then they will sit around egging him on and making fun of him and placing side bets on his chances. And the intern will succeed and collect his money and sneak off to throw up, and everyone will come away from the experience with a sense of “ah yes, this is what investment banks are, this is probably in ‘Liar’s Poker’ somewhere.” The culture replicates itself half-consciously; people play-act the roles of investment bankers until those roles start to feel real to them.

Virtual internships don’t have vending machines. You don’t sit around absorbing jargon in its natural context; you don’t get 80 hours a week of hanging around investment bankers until you become one yourself. You can do the formal, work-y elements of the job, and you can have Zoom happy hours or whatever, but the real point of the internship is lost.

There has been some discussion of the effect of Covid-19 on higher education: As in-person classes are cancelled at so many schools, will that increase or decrease the long-run value of a prestigious degree? Wall Street intern and analyst programs are effectively an extension of prestigious higher education; like fancy colleges, they combine useful learning, fun social activities, valuable credentialing, and the formation of a professionally useful network.