On the phone, Katharine Jessiman-Ketcham speaks with the conviction of someone who’s discovered her passion. A rising junior at Brown University, the 21-year-old has a liberal arts background, with a focus in classics and a declared history major. But a hedge fund internship ignited her passion for finance, and she realized that if she was going to go into finance as a career, she could benefit from more training.

Columbia’s Business Edge program fit with her summer plans, and she was able to take Business Edge classes in the morning and intern in finance in the afternoon. We talked with her on the phone about her experience in the 2016 summer session.

Why did you want to do the Business Edge program?

I just turned 21, and I go to Brown, where I study history and maybe I'll declare a second major in economics, but I'm undecided as of yet. I had an opportunity to work at Fortress Investment Group in their Global Macro Fund last summer. It was this awesome experience that was some of the most exciting work I've ever been able to do.

I realized that going into finance was something I wanted to do long-term, it was something I found really interesting. But I felt as a liberal arts major, I didn't have the basics in terms of language and how the industry works.

What teachers left an impression?

Angela Lee, she was one of the most interesting and inspiring teachers we had. She's had a really fascinating career, she's the founder of 37 Angels. She's a consultant, she worked at McKinsey, and she works as an educator now, and she's just very personable, always willing to give you feedback, and very respectful. She was someone who kind of identified with me within the first few days, because she was like "you're a bit introverted," she said, "do you talk at different volumes when you're talking to different people?"

She was always willing to change the schedule and change what the course was offering based on our interests. She had a lunch one afternoon, she bought pizza for everyone and we just had an hour of talking about careers and what advice she would give to her younger self and also advice on how to write cover letters. She went above and beyond for us.

She organized a field trip down to Work Space, an entire building that's just for startups, and she set up an entire career panel based on what industries our class was interested in. She also brought in Dean Malone, who is a career advisor at the Columbia Business School. He was great because he gave us space and time to learn about resumes, how to interview best, how to present yourself best, how to find the right skills that a job is really looking for. You know, how do you read a job description and show them you have exactly what they need? I've never had career counseling at that level.

What classes were useful?

The Accounting Basics and Corporate Finance Basics were really great. That's what I had come in wanting to learn. They were really more foundational and they were kind of broad because the class tried to appeal to people who want to do not just finance and accounting, but management and strategy and marketing. It's really more of a survey course, I would say, but the thing that was really great was that for 6 weeks, it's an intensive, introspective process about learning who you are, what your strengths are, and where you want to go. I would say that's really the strength of the program, and I don't think there's anything else that gives that kind of reflection to undergraduates. I think that's definitely one of the things that makes Business Edge stand out.

Is there a way that this experience helped with your future plans?

If you're coming from a place where you're studying History, most of the language of Wall Street seems foreign. Realizing all these terms like "balance sheet" or "statement of cash flows" or "valuations" — all these things that sound like big, scary words — the concepts aren't simple, but you get a really good grasp of them from the class. I know I could go in for an entry-level investment banking job now, and I think that confidence will definitely stay with me throughout the recruiting and interview process.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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