Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Alex Weiss

Alex Weiss grew up in a small farm town 100 miles south of Chicago. He learned “what it takes to earn a dollar” by working hard from an early age. He husked corn, baled hay, and worked in factories, so, after high school, when he moved to Hyde Park to attend The University of Chicago, it was a major culture shock.

“I just wanted to play sports,” says Alex. (He played running back for the football team.) “I didn’t realize the value of a good education till I was immersed in an academic world.” Alex has been playing sports his whole life. He is drawn to competition and camaraderie. He says sports help with communication, encouragement, and motivation.

After several semesters, Alex settled into U of C and his study of economics. After graduation, he moved to New York to become an equities trader (a person who buys and sell company stock shares). “New York is truly a city that never sleeps,” he says, “… everyone is drawn to it.” But, he reminds us: “Jay-Z calls it the concrete jungle… sometimes you want to escape; take off.”

Alex managed to take off a few years ago, and he landed back in Chicago. He worked in sales and trading at an investment bank which was a “fast-paced, loud, and exciting” job. On an average day, he got into the office at 5am to look at foreign markets and check the news. Then, 9:30am-4pm EST are trading hours for stock markets in the United States. He spent the day buying and selling stocks based on what was happening in the business environment.

Now, Alex is also working on a master’s degree in business administration from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. This summer he will intern with UBS in Stamford, Connecticut. He will work on the largest trading floor in the world – it’s the size of three football fields!

At Cabrini Connections, Alex works with Prosser 10th grader Akeim Phipps. “It has been a great experience,” says Alex. “It takes me back to the days of being a 16-year-old;” the ups and the downs. Alex’s tips for mentors are: ask appropriate questions and constantly listen. “Don’t just talk about yourself,” he says. “Get [your students] to talk about themselves.”

In the next 5-10 years, Alex hopes to get a full-time offer from a big firm, and one of his personal goals is to see more wonders of the world. He has already seen three: Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, and the Panama Canal. Good luck with your quest, Alex! The world is yours!

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