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  • Writer's pictureRohan Nipunge, University of Colorado Denver

A Summer of Learning & Reality Checks

I’m immensely grateful for my summer internship experience with TIAA Bank, an American diversified financial services organization. I interned for the Investment Portfolio team in Jacksonville, FL, my learnings are of great abundance, which I will now take with me as I advance in my professional career, and personal life.

I summarize and reflect upon my adventure over the past 10 weeks through my top three takeaways below:

1. Always invest in your intellectual curiosity

I walked into my experience at TIAA Bank with an open mind. I was enthusiastic about my experience but also anxious as to what it was going to look like. Today, I reflect on my experience with immense satisfaction.

My journey was conducive to my learning, adaptable to my interests, and supportive from all angles. My manager, Greg Anne, did a phenomenal job of allowing me to develop a breadth of knowledge. I developed an understanding of fixed income asset classes such as MBS, corporates, munis, treasuries, and CLOs. I learned how our portfolio is hedged against interest rate risk and credit risk exposures.

I created Excel mapping files and assisted in scorecard analysis for muni trades. I studied key fixed-income concepts such as convexity, swaps, total return, and duration. I obtained color on monetary policy implementation by reporting on FOMC happenings. I also reported on bank earnings calls as well as fixed income research publications pertinent to our portfolio and the economy at large.

Anytime I expressed curiosity about a particular topic, I was either given the challenge to learn more or encouraged to research on my own and report my findings back to the team. As the only intern on my team, I was presented with a welcoming opportunity to pick brains and ask questions without any fear of judgment. To come out with such a wide array of knowledge in a short period is fantastic.

All of this speaks to TIAA Bank’s strong culture of investing in the growth of associates’ knowledge. This mindset was echoed throughout the organization and heavily exemplified in my interactions with the Bank’s CFO, Steven Potts, and Treasurer, Swarup Patra. Witnessing the tone at the top tangibly impact those within the organization was a humbling experience.

2. Geographic change is critical for your growth

Over the past few years, I’ve wanted to lean into getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. A lot of that mindset has driven me to explore opportunities outside of Colorado. Whether those were in the form of industry or organizational conferences in Albuquerque or Portland, my opportunity last summer with BMW in San Francisco, or my latest endeavor in Jacksonville with TIAA Bank, each adventure has allowed me to explore a new demographic of people - people with vastly unique experiences, upbringings, insights, and passions.

Experiences away from home have become a driver of my growth, bringing much inspiration to my life, especially through the array of diverse perspectives I’ve had the opportunity to hear from.

Despite the tangible knowledge I’ve accumulated in each of my many ventures, I’ve also made a handful of new friends and connections along the way, expanding upon my network of students and professionals across the country who play pivotal roles in many industries.

Among students especially, it’s often easy to get carried away by exorbitant expectations and fierce competition. However, following conversations with a plethora of TIAA’s 300 or so student interns, comprised of both, bachelor and MBA candidates, I witnessed nothing but sheer kindness among the population – a kindness so genuine that set selfishness aside – one that offered raw and real advice with the mission of uplifting all, together.

3. You can’t control life’s ambiguity

For the past 20 years, my life has been structured, and largely driven by school. As I think about the future of my career following graduation, the thought of life’s ambiguity is daunting. I’ve always been, and continue to be, one with hefty ambition and big dreams. Sometimes, I wish the trajectory for “success” was straightforward and linear in nature. I wish someone could explicitly tell me what decisions and opportunities to pursue to bring my goals to fruition.

After many conversations with coworkers, business leaders, recruiters, mentors, family, and friends, I quickly realized that this “wish” of mine is unrealistic. Regardless of how my career catalyzes, it’s a decision that’s ultimately left to my sole discretion. It’s a decision that I’ll never walk into with 1000% confidence. It’s a decision that’s ultimately a leap of faith that I must trust myself with, from within. It’s a decision that I’m learning to evaluate from a holistic angle - one that accounts for the many aspects of life, whether that be location, balance, money, or passion. It’s a blessing, however, to have so many individuals beside me who are invested in my journey and my success - who I can always bounce ideas off of and reach out to for insight.

Though nerve-racking yet equally exciting, I look forward to entering the sea of life’s true realities and possibilities soon.

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