4/21/2010

Sidney and Me

Goldman Sachs is in the news again, although I think they would prefer not to be on this one.



Somehow that got me thinking about their old janitor.

In 1907 Sidney Weinberg, a grade 7 drop out, started work at Goldman Sachs as an assistant janitor.

After a stint in the Navy during WW I he came back to Goldman and started working as a trader.

In 1927 he became a partner and in 1930 became the head of the firm where he remained until his death in 1969.

During WW II and the Korean War Sidney was also the President of the United States choice for Vice Chairman of the War Production Board.

I wonder what would happen to Sidney if he and his partial grade 7 education started work as an assistant janitor for Goldman Sachs in 2010?

Would he even get the job as the assistant janitor?

You know by now I'm still thinking about my last post on education. Thinking as my daughter enters high school and now has to make choices as far as education goes.

The boys in the tr....g room were asking me how I became a banker if I'm not good at math. Note to boys, read the entire post not just the failure part. Sheesh.

Banking is not about math, banking is about people. A true banker is someone who can decline a loan for a client and still keep that client as a happy customer.

I doubt there are many quants who can do that.

Being able to do the math is not necessary as the machines do it for you. Being able to understand why the machines are spitting out the result is important. You need to know.... (my favourite word).. WHY. Since I wanted to know why I learned the math behind the answers.

As I said I only learn what is relevant to me.

Is this reductionist science as LW stated? I guess so, but I only reduce the mechanical stuff to what is necessary. As far as the history, people, and culture of the business I'm in, I go all out to learn everything. I have read the history of money, gold, oil, banking, bankers, traders, and the corporate histories of the two banks I worked for.

Does that sound like a reductionist?

Sounds more like a nut case.

I find it relevant, so I'm all in, I devour every thing I can get my hands on. I even read about my clients industries if I was not that familiar with them.

I guess the point I am making, and what I gathered from the history of Goldman Sachs and Sidney Weinberg, is that education can never stop. Starting with a BA is a great idea, but if you end there you may wind up as the assistant janitor that never moves beyond the mop.

Education happens every where. It's there in every job you take, every team you're on, with every person you meet, and with every book you read.

Take it all.

I said in my last post I worked in a cattle feedlot after high school. I made it sound like this was a tough job, and it was, but I also learned a great deal there. I eventually bought my own farm and I went back to that feedlot for several winters to work while working my own farm at the same time. I also took that "education" and parlayed it into a job at the University of Alberta's Dept of Animal Science. There I found I knew more about feeding cattle then the PhDs at the university.

Plus I got paid while getting educated, they had to buy theirs.

All in all there are many ways of getting educated and if yours is a little out of the norm don't worry about it.

Sidney Weinberg never did.

15 comments:

Solfest said...

Should have mentioned I just read the book, The Partnership, by Charles Ellis. Tis the history of Goldman Sachs up to 2009.

longandwrong said...

Mild mannered janitors often have hidden depths...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW54W9y6-eU

(Discussing 'reductionism' makes me appear boring, this is a weak attempt to rectify that image).

Simon said...

A very insightful and interesting post. Our minds have unlimited power, it's just a matter of knowing the triggers.

Thanks solfest

Solfest said...

Very weak LW, very weak. :)

Simon I can't understand people who just stop learning. I guess they get stuck in a rut and either don't want to, or can't get out.

daytrader233 said...

Catchy new title. :-)

How's the golf game Sol?

Solfest said...

-1 here this morning, not too much golf happening yet.

Rocky Humbert said...

Just saw that you're back Solfest. Welcome back. Some provocative posts....

On the subject of learning...maybe it's not the teacher's fault and not your fault. The blame rests at the feet of Microsoft's Powerpoint. For an explanation of this cryptic message visit my blog:

http://onehonestman.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/be-wary-of-your-mouse-bullets-can-kill/

Solfest said...

I find myself no longer thinking about the blog, or what to blog.

So I think it may actually be over, done, finito.

That's ok.

I think.

FX said...

I got info from blogger By age 23 that Floored is out daily in 10min segments. 4 episodes can be watched. It's really nice documentary. I know that is something that you are waiting for.
http://babelgum.com/Floored

Solfest said...

A very big thank you to you FX.

Shall I post them?

:)

Solfest said...

Funny, I watched them and didn't like it.

The winners are jerks and the losers are jerks.

Really didn't care for the whole thing.

Oh well.

FX said...

Yeah they are jerks for sure. I liked the thing that they are basically experiencing the same thing as we. Or we can understand exactly how it is to them, better then any one else watching that documentary. You need to be a trader. Also it isn't so much oriented to general population it's like just for traders. They didn't bored us with to much general introduction to the whole thing. Those are mine impressions. I can only add that by slowness of pace of many interviews they could make 777min show and not 77min.

longandwrong said...

I am happier trading in my shed listening to jazz. Less macho but more human.

And that guy with the tortoiseshell glasses and big cigar, what a... (I'd be lowering the tone of this blog to type the most accurate word.)

Solfest said...

LW I posted all 4 episodes while I was watching them.

After watching I deleted the post.

Obviously this film has an agenda and the agenda fits with today's popular view of wall street and everything in it.

People want to hate "wall street" and this just gives them another reason.

I mean putting a drunk on film, come on.

Open Outcry remains the only real documentary on floor trading.

Good to hear from you LW, miss your posts.

Speaking of which today's CL move almost makes me want to post a chart.

Almost.

longandwrong said...

I share your view that trader-bashing is the new rock'n'roll.

I am mightily sick of being told that "...speculators made it too expensive for Greece to borrow and have bankrupted the country just to make a profit...". Nothing to do with a hopelessly bloated public sector and nobody paying taxes then ?

I'm so irate I thought about starting the blog again, but the feeling soon passed. And anyway we all know the real reason for the Euro crisis,

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/marge.simpson.png