Why I Left Goldman Sachs – Greg Smith

September 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

When you’re at a sale where books are going for RM5 each (that’s really just slightly more than USD1 at the current exchange rate…), it’s almost impossible to leave without taking more books home than you intended when you first stepped into the space. And that’s what I did. Not only did I take home more books that I thought I would, I also bought unexpected books – books that almost never call out to me.

I’ve always been quite fascinated about Wall Street. Fascinated in the way that one would be about things they completely didn’t understand. Finance not being my strong suit is an understatement. So when I got home and checked my purchases for the day, I was a little bewildered to find out that I had in fact picked this book up and put in into my shopping basket. At the same time, I thought, “What a coincidence! I’m just in the mood to read some good, non-fiction stuff!”

I don’t live in America. And I also don’t read the New York Times. So I had no idea who this Greg Smith person was, or what he had written in a op-ed in the paper that apparently drew more than 3 million readers. So I guess in a way, I was in for a little bit of a surprise.

The story flowed quite well, I have to say. I did glaze off slightly when he started explaining how derivatives worked (it’s not that I’m not interested, but I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it! I swear!), but for the most part, I quite liked how he told this story about an idealistic intern, excited to start working for his dream company, Goldman Sachs.

Maybe it was also because of the timing. He joined just before September 11 happened, and he was also there when the economic crash happened in 2008. If his story didn’t include these events, his book may not have made such an interesting read!

For me, this was an okay book. It was good in that it introduced a side of the world that I just never really got to know. It got me interested to find out more about how Wall Street functions, and it amazed me to read about just how influential it is to the world.

At the same time, it did fall short. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it simply didn’t reach far enough. I wasn’t reading enough about what was really going on. I wasn’t getting the real reason why he left Goldman Sachs. I wasn’t seeing enough of how the place had gone from being the best company to work for, to becoming the “toxic and destructive” environment he criticized it for.

I just couldn’t see the real point behind the whole thing. I always remember this phrase, “The magic is in the details”, and there was, simply put, not enough magic at all.

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