Laira Torres-Ruiz Q&A: Be well-rounded and open-minded

Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Laira Torres-Ruiz, BSBA ’17. Laira works for Guggenheim Partners in New York City as an investment banking analyst.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I’m an investment banker at Guggenheim Partners, mainly working on Retail M&A transactions. Olin gave me access to the most inquisitive and inspiring people – from distinguished professors to fellow peers – whose perspective, mentorship and encouragement helped me find the intersection of my passions and abilities in financial services. Finance is broader and more applicable than I could’ve ever imagined. I owe my interest in the field (and success in recruiting into it) to those that took the time to share their perspective and give me much needed advice.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

Staci Thomas – without a doubt (so much that the BSBA 2017 class gave her the teaching award at Commencement). We spend so much of our undergraduate years focusing on aggregating skills that we lose perspective on how these form part of a greater story – be it a week-long project, a client relationship, a personal brand or a career. Staci’s Management Communication helps students gain invaluable managerial perspectives, transforming us from experts in skills to well-rounded business strategists (that also have hard skills as part of their toolkit). She also does this in the most engaging of ways too. I still remember one of the projects was pitching a product I really disliked and receiving peer feedback on it. Those skills – thinking quickly on my feet, adapting to an audience, articulating a message concisely, speaking confidently – are the ones that have really made a difference in my career.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I’m thankful that I’ve kept in touch with those that made WashU so special. Olin does community very well, and that does not end after graduation. Alumni keep the spirit of collaboration alive, engaging with both the network and the University itself. I know I can call on any of my fellow alumni for advice or a referral. For example, fellow alumni guided me through the private equity recruiting process, which helped me succeed in securing my next position at Thomas H. Lee Partners in Boston. We also have a commitment to giving back to the school, which I live out by donating to scholarships and prioritizing campus recruiting for Guggenheim.

Why is business education important?

Someone once told me that “business is the art of getting things done”. While that’s too simple to capture the true relevance and importance of an undergraduate business education, I like what it’s conveying. Business education provides a framework to organize, tackle and solve problems. It’s more than financial modeling and marketing plans: it’s also communication skills, leading efficient meetings and a basic professional skillset. Some of my classmates went to less traditional fields like teaching and non-profit; they’re building thriving careers, part of which they to their business foundation. Many of my peers from other academic divisions regret not having been more exposed to business, but none of my Olin classmates has regretted being fully immersed in the experience.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

WashU is a safe place, so take more risks. Sign up for classes that will actually teach you something new (they’re often harder and not required). Go for that internship with notoriously challenging interviews (the worst thing they can say is no). Pick up a minor just because it’s interesting. Study abroad. Run for a position. Not everything has to have a “resume purpose”, so don’t get caught up with what others tell you you’re supposed to be doing. It’s often the most well-rounded and open-minded people that get ahead. Pass-fail is always an option, but going back in time isn’t.

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