By Nate Shames
Sep 8, 2017
From Finance to Venture for America
Like most undergraduates at Brown University, I spent the fall and winter of my junior year intensely focused upon finding an internship for the summer, one that would hopefully lead to a full-time position after my graduation the following spring. After months of applications, interviews, and stress, I ultimately settled upon working as an Investment Associate at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund.
Bridgewater is a special place. It is known throughout the finance world for the remarkable investment track record it has compiled over 40 years, its massive research operation which rivals that of the Federal Reserve, and its unique culture which stresses transparency and the rigorous interrogation of ideas.
My time at Bridgewater was a whirlwind. I came into the summer barely knowing what central banks did, but my job consisted of performing macroeconomic analyses of financial markets. Simply put: it was quite a learning curve! On a more personal level, I had never been challenged at that level before. I was forced to grow professionally, intellectually, and emotionally at a completely new rate. All of my coworkers were enormously talented and pushed me to think deeper and work harder than I ever had before. It was a truly transformative experience and one of the most important of my entire life.
Despite how remarkable my time at Bridgewater was, I couldn’t help but think that I belonged elsewhere, that there were other things waiting to be done. Finance is a crucially important industry. The economy would not function without it. But it takes place at a remove from the real goings-on of the world. At Bridgewater I was studying the world, but I wasn’t impacting it. As part of its culture, Bridgewater stresses constant self-reflection. And so by the end of the summer I knew that I wanted to go elsewhere, to work somewhere I could be immersed in a community and engage in work with tangible effects on those around me.
This is what led me to Venture for America, a program dedicated to doing just that: putting recent graduates to work in entrepreneurial environments where their impact can be directly felt. It’s a wonderful organization that seeks to address some serious problems in our country ranging from job creation to urban renewal.
I found Jungle Disk through Venture for America’s job portal and had a great set of initial conversations with Bret and Huw, our CEO and CFO/CSO respectively. The fact that they were willing to take time out of their day and speak to me was a great indication of the kind of place I was joining, where people regardless of position are treated with respect and as full members of the team. About 10 days later I was visiting Texas for the first time and met with a number of the other team members and came away impressed in equal parts with their skill, knowledge, and values. After that visit, I knew that this was the right place for me.
At Jungle Disk I work as a Corporate Strategy Associate. What I love about this position is that I not only get to work on high-level strategic growth opportunities that could have an huge impact on the entire company, but I also get to work alongside Bret and Huw which allows me to see what it’s really like to run a business. It’s been a great first couple weeks, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of my time at Jungle Disk and in San Antonio brings!