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Damien Executive Director/Vice President, Pine Street Leadership Development Group Human Capital Management division, New York

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Everything that I had heard about the caliber of people at the firm before I joined has proven to be true: driven, humble, intelligent and collaborative.

Background

During my undergraduate experience at Morehouse College, I studied economics. While that area of study was extremely relevant during my two years as an investment banking analyst and subsequent role in community development in Harlem, NY, the human capital management- and leadership-focused coursework I took at Harvard Business School has been very relevant for my current work in Pine Street, our firm’s leadership development group focused solely on our Managing Directors, Partners and key external clients.

A friend first told me about the opportunity to work at Goldman Sachs. I had graduated from b-school and had spent an amazing couple of years leading college- and diversity-focused initiatives as a member of the HBS Admissions Board. I was eager for the next step in my career/life journey and although I wasn’t sure which organization/industry I would end up joining, I knew that I wanted a human capital management-related role in a firm that was cutting-edge, relevant, challenging, supportive and, most of all, serious about developing its people. That was Goldman Sachs.

Getting Started at Goldman Sachs

I was definitely nervous on my first day here, but it was a positive nervous energy. It had been seven years since I had been back in the financial services industry on a full-time basis so there was some inherent anxiety about what this would actually feel like. I had heard about the distinct culture of Goldman Sachs and was excited to experience it first-hand.

Everything that I had heard about the caliber of people at the firm before I joined has proven to be true: driven, humble, intelligent and collaborative.

After a few initial jitters, I realized that those who I met during the orientation process were just as enthusiastic as I was, and were eager to get to know one another. From the people in my group who interviewed and welcomed me, to those on the recruiting side, everyone at the firm helped to make my onboarding process pleasant and seamless. Again, this firm takes its people very seriously, and that starts way before you ever become an official employee.

Working in Human Capital Management

Pine Street was developed as another way to make our leaders better leaders. The ripple effect of realizing this goal is that these leaders will inspire the people they manage. This creates a positive and empowering work environment, which attracts some of the most talented people in the world to the firm—which ultimately allows the firm to provide world-class services to our clients.

We are a small global team that serves over 2,200 of the firm’s senior leaders. This reality implies a need to think creatively on a regular basis—we think about ways to touch the greatest number of people while still providing relevant and customized content.

Recently, as we were thinking about a yearlong series of leadership/management development modules for an incoming managing director class, we thought long and hard about how to provide truly actionable content. Remembering one of my most impactful professors from b-school and how he was able to push our classroom conversations beyond the politically correct and into a realm that would result in practical and actionable takeaways, I spoke up. Working with a colleague in my group, we designed a case-based session in New York City, led by my former professor, that included three cases designed specifically for Goldman Sachs as well as a two-hour interactive discussion that produced candid leadership/management conversations.

Career Development

Although I joined the firm just six months ago, I’ve already been able to take advantage of a couple of the training opportunities provided by Goldman Sachs University—the “Presentations Skills” and “Managing Your Manager” sessions. I enjoy presenting and consider it to be one of my strengths—and the firm is always encouraging its people to continue developing their strengths. The course was four hours and included a final exercise where I presented to my peers in the session…on camera! The “Managing Your Manager” session was helpful as it provided me with insights that pertain directly to the work I am doing to help senior leaders enhance their management styles.

My work with Pine Street has opened up a new world of long-term opportunities within the “people space”. With such a great opportunity to play a part in enhancing the firm’s leadership and management culture, I am happy where I am for the foreseeable future. As I think longer-term about pursuing my passion for creating exceptional experiences for people and the valuable lessons in leadership that I’m learning here, I hope to follow in the path of numerous Goldman Sachs leaders who have moved into public service. Sprinkle in some community-based entrepreneurship and I think I will have my hands full.

Teamwork

Because our group touches senior leaders in all areas of the firm, teamwork is extremely important for success within my role. Whether it is syncing up with colleagues from our Asia or EMEA teams or leveraging relationships with Human Capital Management professionals from each business division, my role is truly cross-functional and global.

Pine Street leverages internal senior leaders to lead the majority of its programs. This means that strong relationships with the Executive Office and all business divisions are paramount to achieving our mission of developing world-class leadership skills for the firm’s Partners, Managing Directors, and key external clients.

Affinity Networks

During my first week with the firm, I was fortunate to participate in the Human Capital Management Black and Hispanic/Latino Network’s annual conference. The daylong event was a great crash-course introduction to the firm’s culture, its people and its dedication to addressing issues that matter.

Additionally, I recently heard a member of our senior leadership team speak on current trends in Asia through an event hosted by the Asian Professionals Network. The session provided invaluable insight into the markets, culture and Goldman Sachs' presence in Asia. The training sessions brought together numerous professionals from different divisions, representing another conduit for building firmwide relationships.

Advice

If there is one piece of advice I can provide to those of you who will join Goldman Sachs it’s to get to know your peers during the Orientation process. They will represent different divisions and will be some of the closest friends you make in your first days!