As he headed to Wall Street for the first of what would become two summer internships with banking giant J.P. Morgan, Miles Jackson knew he needed an edge.
“Walking into a room at a place like J.P. Morgan, you know that everyone there understands calculus and statistics,” said Jackson, now a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia. “As we study companies and industries, who is going to bring an edge to the table that everyone else did not think of?”
Jackson knew that UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce would give him a foundational knowledge of finance and economics that would put him on par with any hopeful in J.P. Morgan’s substantial applicant pool. He hoped that his liberal arts classes would give him that critical edge.
“It is interesting to switch your mindset completely from one class to another, to go from accounting or economics to another class where you look at things from a completely different perspective,” Jackson said. “That mental agility is a big piece of what UVA offers.”
Jackson, a Richmond native, came to the University knowing that he wanted to apply to the Commerce School. However, he also took philosophy courses on human nature and political thought, a survey course in African-American studies and continued his study of the Spanish language – begun in middle school – through several years of high-level classes.
Outside of class, Jackson worked to understand his university from several different perspectives. As the vice chair for trials on the University Judiciary Committee, a student group that adjudicates violations of the University’s Standards of Conduct, Jackson has come to understand UVA “from a 30,000-foot level,” he said.
“It’s been really eye-opening to not just understand what student organizations are thinking about, but what UVA’s deans are thinking about and talking about,” Jackson said.
Jackson also chairs the Black Presidents Council, which brings together leaders from black student organizations across UVA to collaborate on improvements at the University. As chair, Jackson, who also serves as president of the Black Commerce Student Network, must represent the Commerce School while balancing the interests of different groups.
“It has been a great experience, and really interesting to try to understand what engineering students really care about or what nursing students are really focused on,” Jackson said. “At times, it can be easy to silo yourself in the Commerce School and lose perspective on what people in other professions are thinking about and going through. This helps me get that perspective – that edge of being able to relate to other industries.”
That edge paid off. After his first foray onto Wall Street two years ago, Jackson returned to J.P. Morgan for a second internship last summer, which resulted in a job offer. He will move to New York this summer, beginning his postgraduate life in America’s buzzing financial center.
As an intern, Jackson used quantitative analysis to build financial models and project a company’s earnings, and qualitative analysis to understand what was driving a company’s business and how it could improve. He found that he enjoyed the work, the people and the companies he was working with, which included natural resource companies, and automotive, aerospace and manufacturing companies.
“We discuss all of these things in the classroom, but it feels different when you are sitting across from your boss, who has 30 years of experience in the industry, and he is asking you what commodity prices we should focus on for a company,” Jackson said. “He does not want you to go find the answer and get back to him; he wants you to know the answer right then.”
The hours were long – as is typical in the banking industry – but they were not without interesting opportunities, such as meeting with UVA alumni who now work at J.P. Morgan or talking with executives from J.P. Morgan’s clients, which include top companies spanning more than 100 countries.
“It was exciting for me, to be on the phone or in a meeting, listening to a CFO talk about how the next quarter will be, and knowing that I would be building out that financial model,” Jackson said. “You feel like you are really at the heart of things.”
Jackson also felt like J.P. Morgan would continue the sense of broad opportunity that he enjoyed at UVA.
“One of the beautiful parts about UVA is the ability to do several different things, to span across different parts of the University,” Jackson said. “Part of the beauty of working somewhere like J.P. Morgan is that, while I don’t necessarily have to know yet where I will be in five or 10 years, I know that there are many opportunities there.
“I assume I will continue doing something in the finance realm, but anything can happen,” he said. “That is a frame of mind that I want to maintain. Otherwise, you can get caught up in checking boxes and, the next thing you know, you are just following someone else’s path. I’ve had a great time at UVA overall, and I am very excited for what the future may hold.”