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New York, New York: an internship like no other

By Gordon Wynne - Posted on 23 August 2017

In the third of our series of blogs from Saltire Foundation interns, Gordon Wynne talks about his experience of working in New York this summer.

This summer I was given the opportunity to work with Amex in the World Financial Centre in New York, representing the Saltire Foundation as an intern at American Express in Manhattan.

As an Accounting and Finance student going into my final year at the University of Strathclyde, being given the opportunity to work in this organisation in New York has provided me with experience and knowledge I simply would not have been able to obtain anywhere else.

Starting with my own project – 'Tying Macroeconomic Trends to Business Performance' – which was focused on finding out if changes in American Express’ clients’ corporate spend could be linked in any way to macroeconomic pressures, I was surprised by the inclusive culture within Amex. From the top down, everyone I have interacted with in the office has made an effort to support me and provide any help they can, despite me not being directly linked to American Express.

Having been invited to a number of events alongside the other Amex interns, I was even afforded the opportunity to meet Ken Chenault, the CEO of American Express, and listen to his views on success in the corporate world and what it takes to be a good leader.

At the reception held afterwards, Ken was gracious enough to spend more time with the interns and answer any further questions we had for him. To see the central figure of the company as a person as opposed to just a name and Wikipedia page highlighted the lengths gone to by American Express to advocate inclusion from the bottom of the ladder up.

With a broad remit and a data set of clients whose billables totalled over $210 billion, I found my project initially to be quite daunting. I have worked with fairly large data sets since I started at the University of Strathclyde, including 16 months spent working at KPMG – a job I applied for through Strathclyde – but never before had I seen tens of thousands of records in one spreadsheet. However, after forwarding my University Macroeconomics notes to my new work email account and using them as aids as I synthesised the data into one consolidated presentation, I found that, not only would I be able to complete the project, I would be able to make a genuinely meaningful contribution with my findings.

Outwith work, the other Saltire scholars and I were kindly invited by Maureen McGuire, CMO at Bloomberg, and Saltire sponsor to a tour of the Bloomberg offices. It was a great experience to learn about the history and culture of a corporation as large as Bloomberg, and also afforded us the chance to meet one of New York’s most recognised voices – that of Charlie Pellett, a radio anchor for Bloomberg News and the man behind the “Stand clear of the closing doors please” announcement heard on every NYC subway.

As a student living off student income, the chance to live in New York City for two months is something that would otherwise be impossible. It is a city like no other, and I found myself surprised again and again as something else caught my eye, each as strange or impressive as the last. Despite there being nearly double the number of people living in New York as there are in Scotland in a fraction of the space, at no point did it ever feel too crowded, apart from the true tourist hotspots such as Times Square. The easy-to-understand subway system meant that nothing was too far or awkward a journey and the only reason I haven’t visited everywhere I’d like is because 2 months simply isn’t enough time to see it all.

Now having travelled across the Atlantic to live independently and work in the world’s greatest city, I cannot stress enough how much the experience has developed me as a young professional and as a person, and I cannot thank Entrepreneurial Scotland and the Saltire Foundation enough for allowing me the opportunity.

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