Sergio Castro, a first-generation finance graduate from WSU Vancouver, says if he doesn’t keep himself busy, he ends up wasting time. He wasn’t about to take a haircut on his WSU education because of distractions, so he took on a packed academic schedule while working up to 25 hours per week at Fisher Investments, a client-focused money management firm.
“One of the main reasons why I chose to study business at WSU was because of its proximity to my home, not to mention the terrific professors and programs WSU has,” he says. “Dr. Susan He was an amazing resource, not only for advice but also for information about possible career paths and market conditions.”
Two years ago, Castro hadn’t considered a career in personal wealth finance or banking, but internships and a competitive spirit changed his mind.
Friendly peer competition inspires internship search
Castro remembers the moment he learned one of his friends studying finance at the University of Washington had received a prestigious internship. “‘I can’t let him outdo me,’” he recalls thinking. “It really motivated me to start researching and applying for internships.”
He first completed a 10-month internship in financial planning at Fisher in 2021, which led to a part-time job as a junior associate working on 401(k) solutions for clients.
Then in June of 2022, he was one of a handful of students in Washington state to be offered a nine-week, paid internship in Seattle with JPMorgan Chase & Co., an investment banking company. Being the only candidate familiar with “haircut” lingo—meaning a reduction in an asset’s value for collateral purposes—made him stand out.
“I had applied to many internships. I got a few interviews but only two offers,” he says. “J.P. Morgan was the better offer in terms of career progression and compensation, so I accepted.”
Networking skills important for career launch
The core of his work there consisted of attending training and completing small-group projects and a case study. Side projects were encouraged but not mandatory, and managers encouraged him to reach out to analysts, associates, and bankers throughout the firm to ask for work.
Networking was one of the most important parts of the internship, he says, and ranged from one-on-one sessions to attending events or even a company happy hour. Interns were also assigned an “analyst buddy” who served as a go-to person for any questions.
“Managers pushed us to meet as many people as possible during the internship to help build up our networks,” he says. “One of the most important things in my career preparation was those relationships with analysts and associates as well as with managers and managing directors.”
Castro’s commitment to these processes paid off. Before graduating in May, he accepted a six-figure analyst position with J.P. Morgan.
“The best thing is the huge learning opportunities that come with the role,” says Castro. “Being an analyst entails meeting with business leaders, being on earnings calls, and getting an inside view into different stages of a company’s financials. The number of skills a person can pick up is never-ending.”