Kathryn Night – Honors College Alumni Going Places

Honors College Alumni Going Places

By Beth Hammock, UMKC Honors College Development Consultant

Meet Kathryn Night, New York Finance Professional

“I had to do it on my own and be tenacious,” Kathryn (Hembree) Night, UMKC class of 2009, says when asked how she got her first job in investment banking. “Hard work pays off,” she says.

Kathryn earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and philosophy. When she started college, she wanted to be a doctor. Later, she wanted to be a lawyer. After two summer internships in New York City, she found her career path in the financial services industry. She lives in New York with her husband, Nadav Night.

I traveled to New York City to talk with Kathryn about her journey. Passionate about paying it forward, she happily shares her story with honors students and alumni.

How did you decide to pursue a career in finance post-college?

It’s a bit of a long story with many turns. Early in college, I was pre-med, but after taking a philosophy class and loving it, I realized I wanted to be open-minded about other options. I enjoyed qualitative, strategic writing, and started exploring philosophy as a major, which I thought might lead me to a career in law. In a series of random events, I also met my now husband who was a freshman at Yale. A friend and I went to visit Nadav in the fall of my sophomore year to see Yale play Harvard in football. Talking to the students at Yale was eye-opening for me, as they were all gearing up to do interviews for summer internships, all of which sounded incredible. I left the weekend full of knowledge and determined to get my own internship.

I spent the summers between my junior and senior years interning in New York City to see firsthand if a career in law was something I wanted to pursue. First, I interned for the District Attorney in Brooklyn. The next summer, I interned in the litigation department at Sullivan & Cromwell, a prominent corporate law firm. The two experiences were very different, and I found myself gravitating more towards the corporate side. At Sullivan & Cromwell, I worked on a case involving a large securities litigation matter – this opened my eyes to the world of finance.

Before my senior year kicked off, I knew I needed to make a plan and also network strategically. My approach was to apply to all of the top Wall Street banks and also Teach for America. I mapped out a list of the places I was interested in applying and made a spreadsheet of all the relevant info. I also identified a list of connections I had made throughout my summers in New York – essentially people to whom I could forward my resume after completing the formal online application process.

As the job search progressed, I identified Goldman Sachs as my top choice. The interview process for Teach for America and Goldman were at the same time, which was particularly challenging given that I was managing a full courseload. In the end, I chose to work for Goldman and it was the best decision I could have made. Their interview process is arduous and incredibly competitive, but you can make it happen if you are focused and determined!

You didn’t major in business, so how did you get a job working for an investment bank?

Goldman hires people with a variety of backgrounds. Some of my coworkers majored in finance, but many were liberal arts majors. What’s most important is being smart, being able to think critically, and to have experience that demonstrates you’ve been successful. If you have these qualities, then you’re trainable and you’ll get up to speed quickly, no matter what the subject matter. For recent college grads, there is a robust training program at Goldman that each new hire goes through before starting their job. As a non-finance major, I found the training to be quite challenging, but it was also exciting and fun to be learning something new. The bulk of my time at Goldman was spent in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group, helping advise companies on matters related to shareholder activism and contested mergers.

After five years at Goldman, I left to join CamberView Partners, a firm that advises public company boards and management teams on matters related to shareholder activism, contested mergers and complex corporate governance issues. We look to hire college graduates who can articulate an interest in the subject-matter and who have relevant professional or internship experience. What you do during your summers off is incredibly important if you plan to pursue a career in the corporate sector.

How did the UMKC honors program (now Honors College) help you?

I transferred to UMKC in my sophomore year after going to another university on the West Coast. I felt immediately comfortable in my honors classes at UMKC – the professors were great, and I made a point to develop good relationships with them. I also found that my closest friends were fellow honors students – they offered a great support network. I enjoyed my classes and did well. I also had the opportunity to conduct research in a lab.

What’s next for you? Do you plan to get your MBA?

I’ve been able to grow and advance my career in the direction I want without an MBA, so I don’t see the need to go to business school at this time. I think an MBA can be very useful if you’re looking to change careers or if you’re looking for a break or a fresh start. My husband got his MBA and it was great for him. I was able to leverage my skill set at Goldman to join CamberView, where I was an early employee in what was then a new firm based in San Francisco. I relocated to San Francisco for a year before moving back to New York when we opened our East Coast office. What started out as a small team in a small office in San Francisco has grown to a global company with over 70 employees and offices in London and New York. Being a part of a growing business has been and continues to be such a phenomenal experience. I find the work we do to be not only fascinating, but impactful.

You went to St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City for high school and grew up in the area, so moving to New York was a big adjustment. How did that go?

Yes and no – my family traveled a lot growing up and I had visited New York many times. I always thought that post-college I would end up on one of the coasts. I love the Midwest, but the type of work I was looking to do is largely concentrated in big cities. Through my summer internships, I was able to get a real taste for New York. It’s not for everyone, but I grew to be quite fond of it – I think if you can get comfortable in New York, it’s hard to imagine living anyplace else.

How do you balance your work and personal lives?

Over time, it’s gotten more manageable. When Nadav and I were both starting out, we only saw each other on weekends. Neither of us had nine-to-five jobs, and we both worked in challenging environments. Having empathy for each other helped! Now that we’ve advanced in our careers, we have more control over our schedules. We try to have dinner together every night, usually at home. We usually have to log back onto our computers in the evening, but at least we’re together.

What advice do you have for honors students?

If you know you want to pursue a career in an industry that’s incredibly competitive, start planning now.

  • Work hard and focus on getting top grades (you’ll need a high GPA).
  • Create a solid resume.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Build a network – find ways to talk to people and be outgoing – you never know who might be able to make introductions for you.
  • Spend your summers getting experience and work hard.
  • Be open-minded and play the ground game; if you can’t get a top internship, don’t get frustrated. Do something that’s going to help you build a valuable skill-set.
  • Don’t expect the university to find your job for you; take action yourself.

Kathryn Night is a second-generation UMKC alumna. Her mother, Kathryn Strickland Hembree, M.D., graduated from the School of Medicine in 1986; she practices ophthalmology in the Kansas City area.

On Friday, April 28, Night will visit the Honors College for brunch with students of the Honors College and Bloch School. For more information, click here.