Brandon Li SAS '12
Activities: Fed Challenge Program, Rutgers Future Scholars
What attracted you to Rutgers University and the Honors/Scholars Program?
Rutgers was an easy choice; it was one of the very few schools that accepted me. I entered the Honors Program as a sophomore. As someone who never excelled academically prior to college, I was eager to have the word "honors" appear somewhere on my academic credentials.
Why did you choose your major and minor?
In high school, I read a WSJ news article profiling Warren Buffett. The article said that he became the richest man in the world by simply investing in the stock market, so I really thought I could do the same. I was wrong, but I have not stopped trying. I chose economics as my major, over perhaps a business degree, in large part due to the personal relationships I fostered with the wonderful faculty members in the economics department.
Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. What was your first job after Rutgers? Where do you live?
I currently work as an analyst at BlackRock. Along with my team, we conduct market and economic research to help internal investors make investment decisions in global stock markets. Prior to this role, I worked as a financial market analyst at the New York Fed. I have recently moved back to the New Brunswick area because it's so much cheaper!
What has been your greatest professional and/or personal accomplishment since you graduated Rutgers?
I have very fond childhood memories of my grandparents who live in Beijing. So after saving enough to afford my first apartment, I invited them to visit me in NJ. Both over 80 years old, they took their first flight to help me cross off one of my bucket list items. I consider hosting them to be my greatest personal accomplishment. Professionally, I have always enjoyed what I have done. I am lucky to have had managers who became my mentors and colleagues whom I admired. I had one such colleague at the Fed. She has a degree from a prestigious university and at 25, she left a lucrative role on Wall Street to pursue her desire to work in public service for half the pay. This had a profound impact on my professional outlook. It's ideal to choose a job where you enjoy the nature of the work and are surrounded by people you like, but if you could only have one, I would choose the latter.
Was there a class and/or experience at Rutgers that led you to pursuing your current career?
I took Money and Banking with Dr. Ray Stone. He allowed me to intern at his firm the summer of my sophomore year, which gave me the foundation to pursue other jobs in the field. My senior research class was also enlightening, though it invoked so much anxiety that I would never want to do it again. Don't take my word for it, experience it for yourself! I struggled with the idea that there aren't always right or wrong answers, which, I now find to be analogous to most problems I experience at work.
What three words describe your experience at Rutgers and the Honors/Scholars Program?
Fun. Safe. Humbling.
How has your Rutgers and Honors education benefited you in your post-Rutgers life?
My observations of and interactions with my peers in the Honors Program helped shape values that have benefited me enormously. Their passion for learning, work ethic and grit, and self-assuredness about their future were contagious. In the Honors community, I felt comfortable speaking my mind, voicing my confusion, and frankly, becoming my own. I honestly remember being commended for asking too many questions in class and feeling like nerding out, in a measured way, was the cool thing to do.
What advice do you have for our current SAS Honors Program students?
There are two things I wish I did better during college. The first one is to always imitate the qualities you admire in your peers. Mr. Buffett often tells college students ... imagine you won a lottery and were entitled to 10 percent of the life-time earnings of one of your peers. Who would you choose and why? If you think it through, you will likely pick the person based on a few human qualities that are entirely acquirable by choice. And if you set out to develop those qualities, you will end up being that person. The second one is to read, read, read. In a lecture at Columbia, Mr. Buffett told the students his secret to his success is to read 500 pages a week and his partner, Charlie Munger, said "In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn't read all the time - none, zero." One of my personal favorites is a book titled All I Want to Know is Where I am Going to Die so I Never Go There by Peter Bevelin.