During her first two years at TCNJ, Tejal Joshi ’01, currently a vice president at Lehman Brothers Holdings, wasn’t sure about a major, let alone a career choice.“I was interested in art history, women’s studies, business…. I was all over the place,” she said. She credits a TCNJ professor with her decision to major in finance.
During her junior year, Joshi took a finance class with Clare Bohnett, adjunct professor of finance, and something clicked. The professor was so enthusiastic about the field and her earlier career in the industry that she ignited Joshi’s interest.
Job-hunting in 2001 presented challenges for graduates as it has the last few years, but on the advice of friends, Joshi had started her job search early and asserted herself in interviews. She had set her sights on Goldman Sachs. “The idea of working for Goldman, the number one investment bank, put a gleam in your eye,” she said. Her efforts paid off; she got a plum job as an analyst with the firm and started in July of that year.
Two other business professors also inspired the executive. “Dr. [Thomas] Patrick painted a realistic picture of the business world. When I told him about the Goldman job, he jokingly replied, ‘Well, don’t take Goldman, you’ll never make it’,” she said. She felt he was pushing her to take on something that would prove challenging as well as rewarding. The alumna also recalled Professor Herbert Mayo, who set up the Student Investment Fund. “He’s passionate about helping students and preparing them for the future,” she said. The two are still in touch.
Joshi supported Goldman’s trading desk on the fixed income side, monitoring daily trading activity, assisting with regulatory filings, managing balance sheets, and providing commentary for annual reports. Then she moved into investment banking, to a global finance group responsible for the company’s equity underwriting business. It was a great training ground, she said. “Regardless of your age or experience, the fact that you’re there means that you’re qualified to be there. They just throw you into the fire and let you figure it out,” she noted.
In the fall of 2004, Joshi left for new challenges, spending several months supporting an interest rate derivatives trading desk for a financial services firm. It wasn’t a good fit, however, so in 2005 she left to join Lehman Brothers in its fixed income group. Three years later, in September 2008, the company filed for what would be the largest bankruptcy in history. Joshi still remembers her shock on hearing the news and watching colleagues on TV leaving the building with boxes in their arms one weekend.
Shortly afterward she moved to her current position at Lehman’s parent company, where she is helping to unwind Lehman Brothers. Her group works with the “counter parties” in the bankruptcy, organizations that had derivative trading relationships with Lehman, to close out their accounts. “These organizations include everyone from large banks and global conglomerates to small municipalities and not-for-profits such as churches and nursing homes,” she explained.
Joshi isn’t sure what the future holds when her group completes its work— she may find herself without a job. But that’s okay, she said. In the last 10 years, she has learned that you can’t plan for anything, and no matter what happens, she’ll “deal with it.”
Finance still intrigues her, so she’s in no rush to leave. “I like working with brilliant people. It challenges you to think differently, to think on your feet and outside the box,” she said. She may explore other areas of business at that point, however. Either way, she’ll continue to work while raising her twin girls, a year old in November.
When Joshi spoke at a Finance Forum sponsored by Guy Chiarello ’81, chief information officer for JPMorgan Chase, last March, the moderator asked how employees rebuild after something like Lehman. “You do it through your relationships,” she said. “A lot of people found themselves in a holding pattern that day. Your network keeps you going.”