Finance job didn't add up for this woman
Suits: A Woman on Wall Street by Nina Godiwalla
Published 17/03/2011 | 05:00
THE life of a new Wall Street analyst is one of extremes: You're either working long hours as a slave to your tyrannical bosses or mingling with the elite of New York society at expensive restaurants and charity events.
In 'Suits: A Woman on Wall Street', Nina Godiwalla offers an inside look at the finance industry with an outsider's perspective. Born in Texas to a Persian-Indian immigrant family, Godiwalla is well-positioned to see the humour and chaos of investment banking.
Godiwalla's book tells two stories. There's the tale of her struggle to make it professionally, first as an intern at JPMorgan and then as an intern and analyst at Morgan Stanley.
But it's also unexpectedly heavy on the battle to win acceptance from her father back in Houston, a strict and stubborn patriarch who always wanted sons but ended up with four daughters.
There are snippets of Godiwalla's life as an analyst, from dancing in the office at 2am with a club-hopping co-worker to brushes with callous bosses.
"This was one of his greatest tricks, which seemed to work effectively when someone challenged him," she writes of one senior officer. "Make the other person feel stupid so he or she would give up and leave you alone. It seemed to work beautifully on this high-achieving crowd." The job itself comes across as occasionally glamorous but mostly dreary.
"The night before, I was here until four in the morning," one co-worker sobs in the middle of a breakdown. He'd been proofreading a 522-page document. "That is my challenge; to find where EBITDA may be written EBIT or where a bar may be in the wrong column!"
The loneliness caused by long hours is a constant theme. "Even when I met people I wanted to get to know better, like Priya, by the time I was free, she was already staffed on a new deal and was working most nights and weekends," Godiwalla writes. "'Friends' were people I spoke to about once a month."
Godiwalla is at her most compelling when describing her raw emotions. She recalls a blind date when, desperate for intimacy, she awkwardly propositioned the guy for sex.
"I feel like I hardly know you," the poor man stammered, before making a hasty retreat.
The book is readable, but it sometimes loses focus. The back-and-forth between New York and Houston can get confusing, and it sometimes feels as if the wrong things were included. Rather than an extended anecdote about a pizza party for her seventh birthday, couldn't Godiwalla have elaborated on her relationship with Laura Smith, a woman who is barely mentioned throughout the book and then suddenly plays a vital role in the climax?
There's a sense that the real "woman on Wall Street" emerges from the girlish Godiwalla just as the book is ending; I'll bet the most interesting part of the story comes later.
Ultimately, as we see from her dust-jacket biography, Godiwalla left investment banking. She founded a company that teaches meditation and stress management to professionals, and lives in Austin, Texas. Though she has moved on from the financial industry, it would have been nice if she'd concentrated more on what the book's title promised -- the story of a woman on Wall Street -- and less on her journey to get there.