As if anyone needed reminding, Wall Street stinks right now. Revenues are in the gutter; the Nasdaq, once your pot of retirement gold, has dwindled down to just a pot; with every swing of the ax, more and more of your floormates are spending their days pecking around on Hotjobs.com.
If you haven’t been called down to Human Resources yet, you’re busting your butt until the pigeons start to coo on the merger of two Midwestern egg-crate manufacturers–the biggest deal you’ve had in months. And your year-end bonus will probably be just big enough to cover the windshield-wiper repairs on that Maserati you bought last year (before the S.E.C. began investigating your boss).
But just when you think all that’s left to Wall Street is financial hardship and carnage, you might take consolation in this: Those college kids working on your desk until August are having the time of their lives.
It’s that season of the annual summer internship program and, even as Wall Street eats itself alive, banks such as Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are wooing and coddling a fresh crop of hot young things looking to move into your desk.
As in summers past, a new batch of young bucks and buckettes who think they have what it takes has been recruited, briefly trained and plopped down in a nearby cubicle. The only difference is, this summer they’re probably getting better treatment than you.
Summer interns who spoke to The Observer painted a collective picture of cushy perks and outings.
“You get to go to the Exchange, to the Fed, and have breakfast with the C.E.O.’s,” gushed one bright-eyed subject from Lehman Brothers. “We went for dinner at Commune …. We went bowling and to Laser Tag!”
While perks for junior analysts and associates are being cut–Goldman Sachs no longer serves fresh fruit all day; at Merrill Lynch, late workers now have to wait until 9 p.m. (9 p.m.!) if they want free car service home–the Dave Matthews crowd is being treated with corporate charge accounts, new laptops, rock-climbing expeditions, tickets to Broadway plays and salaries exceeding $1,000 a week.
And there are dinners–lots and lots of dinners.
“They take us out to dinner once a week,” said one Deutsche Bank intern matter-of-factly.
“My friend at Goldman Sachs gets lots of dinners on an expense account,” said one intern. “If they have a dinner with someone higher up, the intern can invite them out and charge it to the corporate card.”
The Deutsche Bank intern was asked what went on at work that day. “We had a scavenger hunt and went all over New York looking for things that were the color red,” he said. “I took a picture of the Red Door Salon at Saks and a red bus.”
But most of the interns said it’s not all beer and skittles. Eleven- and 12-hour days are expected, they said, and many stay even longer doing research and number-crunching.
Asked what they thought of their internships given Wall Street’s state, most were quick to point out that they’re pulling their weight, and more. One intern, however, did admit that many of his long hours are spent staring at the other people on his desk, who don’t seem much busier.
“There’s nothing to do,” he said.
Naturally, among the Wall Street people who aren’t returning to Yale at the end of the summer, there is some resentment.
“There are the overachievers who want to get a job after college,” said one analyst. “And then there are the people who got the job through their parents, and who don’t really care because they’ll be able to get a job after college.”
“I don’t remember getting that treatment when I was a summer intern,” one associate said, “and the times were a lot better. Now I have to ask an intern to take me out.”
Schrager’s Hudson Hotel Full of Real Heels
Sometime last winter, Ian Schrager looked at the cocktail waitresses at his busy Hudson Hotel bar and noticed that some just did not fit the streamlined image he was trying to project. It was their shoes–too clunky, too gauche or just too individual for his taste. What happened to the uniform shoes they’d been assigned?
Mr. Schrager is not New York’s hotel king for nothing. He likes uniformity; he’s comfortable with control. And he’s certain that the details make the difference between a hot hotel and one that offers weekend discounts to married couples advertised on the Metro-North trains. (If, for example, two servers are stationed at the Hudson Library bar, they must either both be wearing sweaters, or both not.)
In February, new uniform shoes were distributed to the female bar employees. And, right away, some noticed a change.
The plastic-soled Aerosoles slingbacks certainly matched the wait staff’s black dresses. They were fashionable to boot. But from the first night, some of the waitresses started experiencing pain–cramps, unbearable pains in their legs and feet–particularly after a few hours of balancing 20-pound trays of Cosmopolitans and serving Johnny Blacks to the late-night crowd.
“The people in charge of the look had probably never worked on their feet,” said one Hudson waitress. “Maybe they were just tricked by the brand.”
That first night some of the waitresses complained, but were told to wear the shoes or lose the job, according to members of the staff. By early spring, some were discussing legal action. At least five filed accident reports with the hotel. Finally, three brought in doctors’ notes and were able to work in their own shoes. Some would switch shoes in the middle of a shift, then worry the rest of the night that they’d be caught.
With good reason. In April, an internal memo threatened dismissal of anyone who failed to adhere to Hudson’s uniform and shoe policies. Though some low-level supervisors seemed sympathetic, hotel managers were not.
“The general managers thought we were being bratty,” said one of the waitresses. “They would scold us, as if we were just being frivolous and needed to break the shoes in. It created such a bad environment for a while.”
Finally, with the departure of a particularly tough manager in May, things began to loosen up. And a few weeks later, the big shoe shift was made. Management–and the waitresses–adopted new Naturalizer flats in June.
Kimberly Grayson, Aerosoles’ senior vice president of marketing, said she was surprised by the complaints. She said the corporate style the Hudson had ordered had a relatively low return rate, but that the company would take a closer look at the Hudson waitresses’ problems.
As for the Hudson, managers now acknowledge the shoe debacle.
“The original shoes that were selected as part of the uniform for cocktail waitresses proved to be uncomfortable to some of the staff, especially considering how busy Hudson Bar is and the wait staff’s necessary efforts to keep things running smoothly,” a spokesperson said.
“Hudson has found a new pair of shoes as stylish as the pair originally selected, to assure that the wait staff can continue to work efficiently and service all customers.”
They probably meant “serve” customers. But at least the wait staff can now do it without hammer toes and shin splits.
Harvard Professor Has Some Rap
To plug new books, some business-school professors go on lecture tours. Others do signings at Barnes & Noble, and still others make outrageous claims or shamelessly praise the big corporations they also advise. And then there’s Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She raps.
Perhaps worried that the magic of this new Internet thing would not be enough to move copies of her latest work– Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow , published this year by Harvard Business School Press–Ms. Kanter, a professor of business administration, went into the studio to condense the message of her book into a two-minute-and-32-second hip-hop track. The weird result is e-volve! , a paean to e-volutionary business administration and community service, set to a drum machine, that she has been performing at corporate retreats and sending out on CD to the untapped market of Powerpoint-and-Lil’-Kim-heads.
“I show this to businesspeople from all over the world, and they love it–they go crazy!” Professor Kanter told The Observer from her home in Cambridge. “And 14-year-olds look at me with greater respect.”
She said that e-volve! and its accompanying video are a hit in the business world. The folks at I.B.M. played the CD during the World Economic Forum–and she gets more invitations to conferences than she can accept.
The rap started as a poem. Then it occurred to Ms. Kanter that there was always music on at the Internet start-ups in Silicon Valley where she’d conducted research. Why not put the message of the book to song?
“I picked rap because you don’t really have to sing,” she said. “[Rap] appealed to me for this because the song is a kind of chant. And because here’s a genre that’s known to be in the gutter and to advocate misogyny and violence, and I thought, ‘Why not take this and turn it to a positive social purpose–reclaim this genre from the gutter and elevate it to something that can inspire?'”
And who wouldn’t be inspired by a chorus like this:
Y’all get ready for the next step,
Select the best step.
It’s a leap in evolution
From the Internet revolution.
Just pick a direction
In this world of connection.
So many problems to solve–
You’ve got evolve .
And then there’s the rousing final verse:
Why are you silent, has the mouse got your tongue?
Tech talk is what the older folks can learn from the young …
So rally people power, make the world a better place
Because we live on the ground , nobody’s from cyberspace.
Professor Kanter said that while she was recording e-volve! , the similarities between the boardroom and the ghetto became clear. “I began to realize that the messages about the culture of business were just as good reaching down into the community. Like the line that says, ‘Don’t get trapped in old divisions on a patch of tiny turf.’ I had very much in mind both the turf battles that go on within corporate bureaucracies and gangs on the street.”
“She didn’t need much coaching,” said Mike Boston, Professor Kanter’s collaborator and instructor. “She pretty much had it.”
Mr. Boston, 25, works for City Year, a Boston-based mentoring program for inner-city youth on whose board Professor Kanter sits. Mr. Boston met her last summer when he was invited to her house on Martha’s Vineyard for a weekend retreat. They hit it off, and Mr. Boston agreed to leave his solo rap career on hold for a few weeks to record e-volve! His own recording, Dramedy , a collection of rather haunting tales about growing up in the inner city, is making the rounds at local Massachusetts radio stations.
The duo also filmed a video for e-volve! Its primitive effects evoke an episode of Yo! MTV Raps circa the heyday of Whodini. (While asking “Why are you silent, has the mouse got your tongue?,” a two-tone Professor Kanter thrusts a computer mouse, draped over her shoulders, toward the camera.)
Mr. Boston cited the Wu Tang Clan, Nas and Dr. Dre as his main musical influences. Professor Kanter, however, said she does not have any favorite rappers.
“I listen to some. I turn on the radio.”
Does she listen to it more now that she’s recorded e-volve! ?
“No. But I’m a big dancer.”