On Numbers and Notes Whether he's working with the Williams Investment Society or playing jazz guitar, Joe Wen '19 makes the most of his W&L experience.
“So far, we have had success providing our members with a great learning experience, and we will continue to improve the Williams Investment Society experience going forward.”
~ Joe Wen ’19
Hometown: Xiamen, China
Major: Business Administration
Minor: Computer Science
What factors led you to choose W&L?
In high school, I knew that I wanted to go a liberal arts college because I was not sure what I wanted to study, and W&L provides an ideal learning environment for exploring a variety of subjects. Besides, I really enjoy being in a small but close community here, which is exactly what W&L provides; the W&L community allows you to learn from people from very different backgrounds, and it is truly a special place. Also, having spent three years in New Hampshire for high school, I was ready to move somewhere warmer.
Why did you decide to study business administration and computer science?
I find business administration to be a major that emphasizes intellectual flexibility, which is what I hope to gain from my college years. The professors really challenge your critical thinking skills besides the technical skills, which is great exercise for any job out of college. Most of the problems in business administration do not have right answers, and I enjoy the process of analyzing the problems, finding the best solutions and supporting my decisions with evidence.
In computer science, most problems have right answers – but the key is to find the best/most efficient way to arrive at such answers, which I really enjoy. Building a program from scratch also requires a very comprehensive mindset, since every single step that we usually take for granted must be built in lines of code. Personally, I do find the computer science courses to be outside of my comfort zone sometimes, but the learning process is very rewarding, especially when a program finally runs after hours of debugging.
You’re involved in several extracurricular activities, including as a director of the Williams Investment Society (WIS). What is the WIS and why are you proud of your involvement in it?
The WIS is a student organization that currently manages $12.3 million in equities from the Washington and Lee University endowment. I’m proud of what we have achieved as a group so far – not only is the WIS portfolio outperforming the S&P 500 by 5% year-to-date, but the WIS members also continue to impress with their efforts to further improve of the society. Besides managing part of W&L’s endowment, WIS also aims to educate its members on investments and prepare them for their future careers. So far, we have had success providing our members with a great learning experience, and we will continue to improve the WIS experience going forward.
How did you end up interning last summer with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey’s Healthcare Group, and what impact did that experience have on you?
I landed the internship through on-campus interviews with a W&L alumnus. Besides learning a ton of Excel shortcuts, I was able to train my attention to detail in a professional setting, which had profound impact on me. I still remember developing almost paranoid habits about my work to reduce potential errors: proofreading more than five times, printing out copies to examine line by line, recalculating every output in a model, etc. While the job could be stressful at times, it really provided a great learning experience and helped me develop a better sense of attention to details. Besides, health care is really a fascinating space. I have never had any exposure to health care before, and it was eye-opening to learn about a variety of sub-sectors within the industry, such as specialty pharma, workers’ compensation, contract research organizations, etc.
What opportunities have you had to practice your musical talents in Lexington?
The main music groups that I’m involved with are the University Jazz Ensemble and Zack Ely and the Nelson St. band; I play guitar in both. The Jazz Ensemble is both challenging and fun – our diverse repertoire (from Duke Ellington to Snarky Puppy) really challenges your sight-reading and improvisation abilities. Guitar players sometimes find it difficult to find their place musically in a bigger ensemble setting after practicing by themselves for too long, and the jazz ensemble provides a great opportunity for people to learn how to play with others.
Zack Ely and the Nelson St. band is a relatively new band, but I enjoy playing in it very much. It consists of Zack Ely ’19 (lead singer/acoustic guitar), Bennett Newman ’19 (guitar/bass) and Colin Berger ’20 (drums), and we play a mixture of Zack’s originals and covers that we like. This band happened when Zack hired the Nelson St. band for a performance last Spring Term – the band came together very naturally with everyone’s abilities and the collective chemistry. Zack is a very talented singer/songwriter and being part of the creative process of performing his songs has been a lot of fun (check him out on Spotify!). The covers include some classics and guilty-pleasure songs, and I couldn’t tell you how exciting it is to play “Why Georgia” by John Mayer when the crowd can sing every single line.
What do you see yourself doing after graduation?
I’ll be starting my full-time position with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey in Atlanta after graduation. It is an exciting start, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in my career.
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More about Joe
What’s your personal motto?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky” – Michael Scott
What’s your favorite place to eat in Lexington and what do you order?
Beef fried rice at Napa Thai, but don’t go over level 4 spiciness.
What one film/book do you recommend to everyone?
“Principles” by Ray Dalio is a fantastic read.
Favorite W&L memory?
Competing in the National Student Advertising Competition in Raleigh with my AdClass classmates.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I almost went to Berklee College of Music.