Jessica Ancajas, SWIB VP of Partnerships, is currently studying abroad in Capetown, South Africa. We checked in with her to collect her insights on SWIB, Stanford, and career so far. An Economics major and Stanford junior, she'll be working as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York after this school year.
Let's hear from Jessica about studying abroad, pursuing what makes you happy, and finding balance!
Thinking back, what led you to join SWIB?
I joined SWIB because like all freshmen, I felt a bit directionless. I knew I liked finance and economics, but I had no idea how to break into those industries. Throughout my freshman year I’d seen some of the events that SWIB put on: they were extremely well organized and interesting. I wanted to learn from these impressive women, be friends with them, maybe eventually become one, but unfortunately it was too late by then for me to apply. I wasn't deterred, however. I applied the following year and was accepted onto the CM team. Joining SWIB has been one of the best choices I’ve made at Stanford.
What are some unconventional skills that you've gained from SWIB?
Some of the more subtle skills I’ve picked up are simply how to carry myself professionally. Now I refer to my peers as “women,” I’ve stopped adding “just” in emails, and I greet others with a firm handshake, among other things. These acts may seem insignificant, but I believe they are extremely important in making a good first impression.
What's changed most about you since your earlier years at Stanford?
I have grown more confident since I first walked onto the Farm. I used to care a lot more about what people thought of me, if they liked me, if I could compete with them academically, and so on, but now I'm much more comfortable with the woman I am. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I’m proud of them.
As cheesy as this may sound, I’ve stopped trying to “fit in” with the crowd and do what everyone else is doing; rather, I figure out what I actually want and go after that. This applies to my professional choices as well as personal, and is what has pushed me to move away from tech and Silicon Valley and instead pursue finance in New York (which was very different from what I wanted two years ago).
#1 best experience/moment from SWIB?
When I was on the Community Management (CM) team, the other interns and I put on a “speed-dating” event with diverse representatives from the industries our members were most interested in. This was my proudest moment because it showed me that even though we were quite young, we still carried influence and could really accomplish something. Our peers enjoyed our event and even used the same format for following events. It was great knowing that my team and I had a positive impact on our organization.
You've had a lot of experience with finance, whether at Morgan Stanley or with your sorority. What were some of the defining/milestone moments?
I don’t think I’ve had an extremely defining moment or milestone. My experiences have more so been a long journey, and looking back I know that I have changed, but I can’t say what exactly happened and when that caused me to change. My summer internships, classes, and extracurricular activities, whether they are finance-related or not, have all been very impactful on making me more productive, determined, and knowledgeable. But who knows, maybe this summer at BAML I’ll have some eye-opening moment and that’ll completely change the trajectory of my career—we’ll see.
#1 recruiting tip?
Know your story. Know who you are, why you want the job, why you deserve the job, why you’re fabulous and they should want you for the job. I actually bombed my first interview this year because I didn’t know my story—I had a mini panic attack in the middle of it and couldn’t even explain why I liked finance. But after that, I sort of sat myself down and examined the path that got me to that point. That self-examination helped me realize what I really wanted and just how much I wanted it. With this renowned focus, I stayed motivated through the marathon of ups and downs that is recruiting and ended up with multiple offers.
Another key thing to remember throughout the recruiting process is that what’s meant to be will happen. If you don’t get the job you really wanted, it probably just wasn’t a good fit, and you’ll find where you belong. You may think you want to work for a certain firm in a certain position, but that may not actually be the right place for you, and you may end up learning a lot more elsewhere.
What was your personal journey in choosing your major?
I applied to Stanford “undecided,” but I really was not that undecided—I knew I liked Economics and wanted to major in it, but I wanted to take ECON1 first before I made any decisions (I didn’t want to have to change my major a bajillion times). Turns out, my initial instinct was right and Economics was the major for me. I absolutely loved ECON1 and was pretty good at it (or at least I worked hard enough that I was competent at it). I even enjoyed reading my textbooks, which is something that still holds true today (and that my friends often tease me about). I love the real-world application of economics—now I can read the WSJ and actually understand the driving forces behind global market trends. I am also pursuing a minor in MS&E to complement the theoretical teachings of economics with some technical applications, but my heart will always belong to the Economics department…we rule! #gojohntaylor
What was your personal journey in choosing your industry of choice?
I’ve never had a specific passion, but I knew I liked math and loved economics, so I thought that the finance industry would be a good application of those interests. I first learned about investment banking when I was a junior in high school, but to be honest, I didn't truly understand what investment banking was until I was a junior in college. But, I knew that that position required someone who was willing to work extremely hard, and I knew that I was that kind of person.
I’ve never been naturally good at everything—I’ve had to really push myself to be as good as (or beat) my peers. I thought that my competitive drive, coupled with my academic interests, would be a good fit for investment banking, and so I’ve spent the past few years working toward a banking internship. I cannot tell you how relieved and excited I am to finally get that experience this summer.
What is your coolest accomplishment from Stanford?
I don’t really have any incredibly impressive accolades from Stanford, but I was nominated for the Lunsford Award for my PWR2 presentation on microfinance and female empowerment. People usually hate their PWR classes, but I absolutely loved mine. My topic was something that I was very passionate about, and actually what inspired me to go abroad to Cape Town instead of Madrid. This may not be a super cool accomplishment, but it is something I am proud of and thankful for.
A few words of wisdom?
College is all about finding balance. This applies to your studies, your job hunt, your social life, your bank account—everything. It's very easy to get caught up in midterms, psets, interviews, parties, and so on, but you need to remember to take care of yourself and “treat yo’self” when necessary. If you’re too tired to finish that last pset problem, take a study break and go to Fraiche (but really go to Fraiche because they’re great and support SWIB!). If you’re too tired after a long Friday of sections to go out, then Netflix and chill. I feel like at Stanford, we’re constantly trying to do everything and keep up with everyone, but it’s exhausting and impossible. Just do you!
One major way that I applied this mindset was in deciding to study abroad in Cape Town instead of following my friends to Madrid. I had grown a bit tired of the same scene at Stanford, and new Madrid would be more of the same, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely love my friends and the things we do on campus. But sometimes, you just need a change. I knew being in a completely new environment would make me happy, and it did. This experience abroad has been so eye-opening and humbling, pushing me to discuss issues of race and equality, as well as question what I considered to be “normal.” Now, I’m not a completely new person, but I definitely see the world from a new perspective. I would not have achieved this personal development had I not followed what I truly wanted. I urge everyone to find what makes you happy, accept it, and follow it—that’s how I’ve been approaching things lately and it’s made me a lot happier.