Alumni Spotlight: Bhargav Srinivasan – Class of 2012

bhargavBhargav Srinivasan, BHP ’12, is in his second year of a four-year JD/MBA joint degree program at Harvard. This past summer, he worked at the White House as an intern in the National Economic Council (NEC), working on finance policy for the Obama Administration.

What did you work on in your internship?

I spent my time at the NEC working on policy across financial technology, financial regulation, and housing finance. We worked to inform the Administration’s perspective and also to “hardwire” our learnings so that the next administration can use what we’ve done to date.

I found particularly interesting the idea of fostering responsible innovation in financial technology. For example, blockchain applications, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, have the potential to change the way we store and transfer data and money. There is a lot of innovation in finance right now, so I think it’s more important now than ever before to develop smart regulation that simultaneously protects financial stability and shepherds consumers while fostering innovation.

How was the experience?

It was truly unforgettable. I gained amazing perspective on how government works which I had never had, but the real highlight of my summer were the people I met. First, the NEC staff shared with me their interesting perspectives from government, law, business, academia, and other industries. Next, I was blessed to have a group of interns who made my summer more enjoyable than I could have imagined. We came from all across the country to serve President Obama, and, in the process, became close friends. Finally, we met White House personnel through a speaker series. The speakers ranged the gamut from POTUS and VPOTUS to the directors of the NEC, DPC, and other White House offices. Meeting and having a personal conversation with FLOTUS is a memory I will never forget.

What were your main takeaways from the internship?

I learned about the White House’s power and its limits. The two sources of power are the bully pulpit and the staff’s ability to quarterback key issues. Though the bully pulpit is diminishing in a world of constant communication, the President still gets to shine a light on the issues he believes are most important.

On the other hand, the power to quarterback is executed by the staff who work with and on behalf of the President to get the right folks in the same room. Making policy requires coordination and stakeholder engagement. The Administration uses agencies to implement its vision, so it’s important to hear feedback and develop buy-in from the agencies and other key parties when forming policy. When key parties come together and feel invested, executing as a team behind a single policy vision becomes easier. To that end, the White House plays a crucial role.

Would you say Washington is more “West Wing” or “House of Cards” in your experience?

I actually love both shows! The fortunate reality is that Washington is more West Wing than House of Cards. Most people working in government are trying to do the right thing for the American people. It’s easy to be skeptical of centralized power and special interests, but I felt the White House staff were truly working as honest brokers. When it comes to technology, the staff stay abreast of activity in the market, weigh different regulatory approaches, and make an informed decision to proceed. I’m more optimistic about the future of government after having been in DC than before.

Any revelations from the experience?

I learned that driving big changes requires Congress, but the Executive branch can take smaller, wonkier actions to make people’s lives better. For example, agencies can make programs and policy enforcement more effective through rule-making and administrative discretion. I hope that more students interested in public policy consider a career in administration because it’s a good way to drive tangible change in discrete ways.

How is your joint degree program going at Harvard?

Great! I just finished year one of law school and started year one of business school at Harvard Business School. The volume of work in during the first year of law school was pretty grueling, so my law school friends joke that I’m on vacation, but business school has been just as busy in a more balanced way.

Our JD/MBA program has roughly 10 students per year, who form a strong community of 40 overall. It’s a diverse group with varied aspirations, so the best part of being in the program is learning from my peers. There are also quite a few BHP alums at both schools, especially HBS. I still ask for perspective from one of my first BHP mentors, Eric Sung (BHP ‘10, HBS ‘16).

How will the JD/MBA benefit you in the future?

The program offers a lot of value. First, I’m simultaneously developing skills as a GM and a lawyer that will make me a strong decision-maker in an organizational setting. Next, the joint degree allows me to keep open diverse long-term career options. Finally, my peers are amazing and form the basis for a strong network to start my career. I recommend the program to anyone who genuinely finds both fields interesting.

Student Spotlight: Katie Stephens – HBA President

katie-stephensThis year’s Honors Business Association (HBA) president is Katie Stephens. Katie is a senior majoring in BHP and Supply Chain Management, with a minor in MIS. She is from El Paso, and attended Coronado High School. In addition to her involvement in HBA, she has also served as treasurer of Texas Sweethearts and leads a weekly prayer group for the Baptist Student Ministries. She loves being in Austin and can be found paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake on the weekends.

Katie has loved being a UT Student and being in BHP. When she started searching for the right college, she knew she wanted to combine quantitative skills with a social atmosphere. She also knew she wanted to be challenged. She had researched BHP and knew it was competitive and that she would be challenged. “Your BHP peers push you in class, encourage you and teach you about things you never knew before,” she says. “My classmates are so smart. They are extremely competitive, but that doesn’t affect how kind they are.”

Katie first experienced HBA as a freshman on the bus ride to the BHP Leadership Kickoff. Members of the HBA executive team were on the bus and struck up a conversation with her, helping to connect her with upperclassmen who were active in groups she was interested in joining. “Freshman year I went to every meeting and loved it. It was my home. My first semester I felt really far from home, and HBA helped me adjust,” says Katie.

When asked about her favorite HBA event, she quickly answers the Konana/Agarwal DWAP (Dinner with a Professor).  This event is a favorite for many students. Of all of the DWAP events HBA puts on each year, this one, hosted in the home of BHP MIS professors, garners the largest turnout. Katie tries to go every year and has enjoyed bonding with classmates and professors at this and other DWAP events.

One of Katie’s and the HBA executive team’s goals this year is to increase inter-class relations. “Students in the same grade level are really close, but it is common that they won’t know anyone in the grades above them, especially freshmen,” she says. HBA is working to create events and programs that will help freshmen get to know those in the classes above them. Their hope is that eventually students will start to form “BHP families”, and will have connections in each of the classes to go to for help.

Katie values the friendships she has made through HBA and what it has added to her BHP experience. “HBA is the best way to get to know your BHP peers and to interact with faculty outside of class,” she says. We are lucky to have her leading this year’s great executive team, and look forward to another year of memorable HBA events!

Summer Internship | Student Spotlight: Chris Sun – Quantlab Financial

CompanyQuantlab Financial
Position: Technology InternProfessionalPic

What is your major, and how do you think what you’ve learned at McCombs has helped you with this internship?

I’m currently a junior BHP/Computer Science/Finance (Quantitative track) major. Although I got this internship through the recruiting resources in the College of Natural Sciences and it was more of a computer science internship, there were definitely aspects of my McCombs education that helped me with this experience. Since Quantlab is a high-frequency trading firm, the biggest help came from the introductory finance class I took last semester. This exposure to the world of finance allowed me to more quickly pick up the ‘crash course’ information presented to interns about the company’s business process. Plus, it’s always advantageous to have industry knowledge for software development because that provides insight on how situations should be coded.

What is unique about the company and culture of Quantlab Financial?

Something that I loved about the culture at Quantlab was the heavy emphasis on learning and personal development. There were bookshelves scattered throughout the office where you could pick up a book (on trading, software development, etc.) to read, several different groups that were doing lunch & learn activities, and even just everyday discussions that really dug into the meat of a subject (work-related or otherwise). Additionally, the people at Quantlab don’t take themselves too seriously. Once when a coworker was out on vacation, another team member brought a huge block of post-it notes, and my programming partner and I spent about an hour that afternoon discussing how we should move forward with our work while sticking post-it notes over the absent team member’s desk. By the time he came back to work, his entire desk area – monitors, desk surface, chair, etc. – was filled with post-its. There’s still a stream of post-its hanging from the ceiling on top of his desk.

What did you contribute to the company?

I was pair programming the entire summer. For our primary project, we built 2 feed handlers to collect market data from exchanges with ITCH-like protocols. Along the way, we also refactored several parts of the feed handler code to maximize code reuse, setup a shared library, and better exemplify object-oriented programming principles. In the last couple weeks, we did some more exploratory stuff like trying out new methodologies on existing code.

Why did you decide to work there?

This internship offered the most fitting learning experience for me. I knew I’d get the opportunity to strengthen my technical skills in other opportunities, but Quantlab stood out because it was in the financial industry, which meant that I would gain insight into this field as well. It worked out especially well because I was still on the fence for my additional major between Accounting and Finance, so I figured this would be a great chance to collect information to make that decision. Lastly, I was looking to work in a smaller company (relatively – I think Quantlab is around 200 or so) this year because I had the large corporation experience last year, and wanted to try new waters.

Did the internship meet or supersede your expectations? How?

I am definitely very happy with this internship experience. I met some really great people, learned a ton, solidified my choice of major, saw a segment of tech that I’ve been curious about, and made an impact on the business. Plus, I was well-fed with the Keurig, snacks throughout the office, and free catered lunches!

What advice do you have for other students who are recruiting for internships? 

What I’ve found useful in my own recruiting process is to focus on what I would learn and who I could rely on during the internship. For the first point, it’s a strange balance between finding a role where you can convince the company that you’re sufficiently competent to do the role but where you’re sufficiently incompetent so that you can still learn a lot. You’re only going to have a finite number of internships before making a (relatively) informed career decision, so make sure you don’t limit yourself on the learning component. If there’s an area in which you have a genuine interest and are curious about, then why not recruit for something related to that field. For the second point, try to find out what interactions with the full-time employees look like (namely, mentorship/training programs). Internships can be drastically shifted towards negative or positive depending on the people you work with, so it’s important to find a place where you will be valued and where employees are willing to take time out of their day for you.


Summer Internship | Student Spotlight: Olivia Levine – ETM Group

Position: Marketing Intern

What is your major, and how do you think what you’ve learned at McCombs has helped you with this internship?

I am a Business Honors and Marketing major going into my second year here at McCombs. As I have not yet taken many major specific business classes, I’ve really relied on the core business classes to give me a foundation for my interests in marketing.  The most important thing I learned so far was problem solving. With the MIS class I took second semester, every week was an exercise in learning how to ask meaningful questions and teach myself skills that I needed to get the job done. Going into my internship I didn’t have the benefit of taking classes in marketing, but I was ready to learn and use my introduction into the field as an opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes looking at the company’s current framework.

What is unique about the company and culture of ETM Group?

The culture of ETM Group is extremely creative and open. The office did not have any physical boundaries between colleagues so there was always discussion and interaction taking place. It was a small office so we were able to get to know each other personally which made it very comfortable to share ideas and suggestions.

What were your overall responsibilities in your internship?

My responsibilities consisted of managing the social media channels including Twitter and Facebook. I was able to write the copy for posts as well as facilitate engagement. I also updated third-party websites and databases. In addition, I began the implementation for an update to their accounting records.  I was amazed how much my single semester of MIS helped me understand their IT system.

Why did you decide to work there?

I decided to work at ETM Group because I had some previous experience in the food industry and I liked the neighborhood where the office is located.  Since I plan to be a marketing and MIS major, the ability to get an internship in marketing was a huge plus.

Describe what it was like working abroad.

Working abroad was a great opportunity to experience a new culture not only in the workplace, but also in daily life. Being immersed so quickly into a different style of working and living forced me to be able to adapt to unfamiliar situations. I really enjoyed sitting in the office and hearing many different accents and voices coming together to make a team. I also loved being able to spend weekends exploring a new place or country. I ended up travelling to six different countries and each time I was able to take back something new to work on Monday. I was working on a lot of advertising so the travel allowed me to see different marketing strategies across the globe.

What advice do you have for other students who are recruiting for internships? 

Focus on your own goals when you’re looking for opportunities. There is always pressure to take the most prestigious, highest paying, or historically successful job, but if you are going to wake up every morning and drag yourself to a cubicle or fly halfway around the world for a job, it should be something you are truly passionate about. It’s not possible to know when you’re sitting in a classroom what kind of office environment you will work best in, or what kind of city or town you want to live in, so being able to get off campus and trying out the possibilities is invaluable.

I am not sure that I will turn this internship into my career, but even learning that there were some things that I didn’t enjoy about this job is a data point I can use in my life to guide my future decisions.

Co-chair Reflections from the Freshmen Leadership Kickoff

LK gorup

Written by Tonya Chen

One of my favorite experiences in college was Leadership Kickoff. It was where I met the friends who would stay up until 3 a.m. working on Excel assignments with me, and the mentors who would guide me through my first year away from home. I even conquered my fear of heights by leaping off a 50 feet platform dubbed (very appropriately) “The Screamer”.

My co-chair, Uttam, and I quickly realized that one of the best things about kickoff is that it highlights the community in BHP. There were always people working towards making the retreat a success, even before we jumped on board. As cliché as it may sound, Uttam and I want to say, “We couldn’t have done it without y’all.”

Thank you…Student Leaders

leadersAll the amazing student leaders (Peer Mentors, HBA Executive Board, and Ethics Board Co-chairs) worked tirelessly to make this event possible. They literally did everything; from facilitating ropes courses for hours under the Texas sun, to dancing in the team cheers during the “BH-Playoffs”. This year we wanted to help the peer mentor groups grow closer to each other on a deeper, personal level. The student leaders led small groups for Cabin Chats until 1:00 a.m., where everybody shared their perspectives on the broad topic of life.

Thank you…Newcombe Tennis Ranch

ropesI’d give them 6 stars if I could. The wonderful staff guided us through daunting high ropes courses, and gave words of encouragement every step of the way. They’ve accommodated us year after year with the best facilities and food. They also threw the best ice cream & karaoke party to end a long day of introductions, problem solving, competitions, and everything in between. Shoutout to Tisha for gracing us with her amazing Cher performance. (If you ever have the chance to get her in front of a mic, do it.)

Thank you…Amazing Staff

The BHP staff are the reason BHP students love the program. Thanks to Tisha, Greta, Paul, Dr. Prentice, Shelley, and Lynn for attending and assisting with the retreat, and for being the backbone of it all. The kickoff ended with the formal convocation ceremony, joined by the amazing advisors and director. The freshmen learned about the honor code and promised to abide by it. It was the perfect closing to the weekend.

Thank you…Uttam

Co-chairsUttam is officially my favorite person. It was so great to watch him interact with the freshmen and make them laugh. I honestly cannot imagine co-chairing with anybody else. Thank you for forcing me to sing” Breaking Free” from High School Musical against my will.



And finally…

Thank you…Freshmen

groupYou all were put through a lot this past weekend. You played an intense game of rock-paper-scissors, gave us inspiring 30-second motivational speeches, recreated the UT Tower with your bodies for the scavenger hunt, and much more. But you exuded team spirit the entire time. You made this Leadership Kickoff memorable for years to come. We wish we could offer you more than our final parting words because of the incredible impression you made on us. Remember, you are the master of your fate; you are the captain of your soul. We can’t wait to see what you do!