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How I scored my job in investment banking

Former Indiana soccer player uses team skills to advise firm’s global banking clients

By Caroline Dreher as told to Ryan Bermudez

After graduating from Indiana University in 2019, Caroline Dreher became an investment banking analyst at William Blair in Chicago.

From the age of 3, I played soccer. I played other sports throughout my life, but soccer was my favorite. I fell in love with the very nature of the sport, the creativity, the team aspect, and how no two plays or games were ever the same.

I decided to go to Indiana University, Bloomington, to play soccer because I fell in love with the school and the program. Also, my older sister, who recently had finished her college career at Indiana, encouraged me to look into it.

At Indiana, academics always came first, which alleviated many stresses of managing time between my academic and athletic responsibilities. My athletics department provided the support and foundation for me to pursue the career that I was interested in. I had advisors who provided guidance on what classes to take and when to take them. Coaches were engaged in our academics. They checked in on how we were doing in classes and even appointed an academic team captain.

During my freshman year, I began considering my career after college. I was exposed to the business world early on. The Kelley School of Business at Indiana excels in connecting underclassmen with alumni and employs many professors who have actively worked in the fields in which they teach.

My sophomore year, I had the chance to visit Seoul, South Korea, to study the country’s economics with a group of classmates. This trip invigorated my interest in learning not only about different cultures, but also about major macroeconomic trends and new business models. That same year, my interest in investment banking was piqued while participating in the Investment Banking Workshop on campus. 

After my junior year, I completed an internship and I realized that I could apply skills I had learned as a student-athlete to being an investment banker.

Thanks to the Investment Banking Workshop from my sophomore year, I connected with alumni who worked in investment banking and learned the technical skills of the profession. These were the tools that I used after I graduated to get my current job as an analyst at William Blair.

A student-athlete becomes accustomed to making sacrifices for the team. We don’t hesitate if we must stay later or work harder if that’s what’s needed to help our team. I realized that I crossed that bridge well before I left college, making my transition to a working professional that much easier.

Caroline Dreher competed on the Indiana University Women's Soccer Team while earning her degree in business and finance.

There are plenty of parallels between banking and soccer, including the team aspect. At William Blair, each project is managed by a team of approximately six people called the “deal team.” This team is made up of individuals of all levels from the managing director level to the analyst level. Investment bankers at all levels are often a part of several different deal teams at once. Much like soccer players have positions, each member of the team has roles and responsibilities. Just like in a soccer game, every action one member takes affects the whole team. My experience as a student-athlete made it easier for me to excel in the team environment because I’m accustomed to making sacrifices for my team. Whether that is working harder or working longer, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help my team succeed.

Student-athletes consistently experience high-pressure situations, which builds mental fortitude. When I think about some of the biggest games or stressful moments in competition, nothing I have experienced as a professional can compare.

Situations like that build confidence. Anyone who has been in a high-pressure situation knows that. Even if you make a mistake, you’ll learn from it and do better next time.

Learning from my mistakes and being coachable are skills that I have carried with me into my career. It’s important to take a step back, look at what you’ve done, and not be defensive about it. It’s important to be open to criticism and change or work harder if needed. This trait is crucial early on in your career because you can’t go into any situation thinking you know everything.

I will continue to be coachable throughout my career because every day, there is something new that I can learn.

Caroline Dreher is an investment banking analyst at William Blair in Chicago. She graduated from Indiana in 2019, where she competed on the women’s soccer team while earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance.