May 2002. London. After only 13 months with Bear Stearns, my desk phone rang. It was the corner office. The Assistant was calling to tell me that “Jeremy would like to meet with you in the conference room.”.
Just minutes before, even though we all knew layoffs were on-going, I had been helping a more junior Analyst named Allen work through a financial model. Although work had all but ceased on our floor that day as everyone stood around waiting to see who was laid off and who would stay employed, I was determined to stick with the old farm work ethic and not let the surrounding layoffs distract me. However, the caller ID on my phone betrayed my eminent future with the company. Allen and I both glanced at the phone’s caller ID when it rang and then he looked at me with a stunned, pale face. (He recently told me that I looked at him with the same expression.) I answered the phone – what else could I do? – and was invited to the conference room where I would be told my time at Bear Stearns was coming to an end.
Before walking to the conference room, I finished making my final comments to Allen about how to proceed with the financial model, although I got the distinct impression he was no longer listening. I then joined my meeting with the European Head of Investment Banking to get laid off.
But before all that, and before my MBA that landed me the job with Bear Stearns, I was an engineer… with an undergraduate degree and a Master’s degree in engineering to help prove I was at least book smart.1