Interns Adapt on the Fly in Unprecedented Year
The Brighton Jones internship program is a reflection of how we collaborate across teams. Those who go through the program have an opportunity to work within each of the firm’s department and functional areas, contribute in meaningful ways to projects and initiatives of strategic importance, and join in the regular moments of community and celebration.
We were lucky to welcome Colby Campbell, Alannah Clark, Andre Eason, Edgar Ibarra, Jake Jones, Gracie Thomas as interns this past summer. Colby and Andre supported the tax team, while Alannah, Edgar, Jake, and Gracie embedded with Personal CFO pods. Of course, 2020 presented several challenges, forcing our team to work remotely and connect online. We can’t say enough about their ability to lean in, learn, and produce substantive work despite the inherent barriers of the COVID-19 environment.
Before they wrapped things up, the group fielded a few questions on their work, shared insights they gained about the wealth management industry, and offered advice to future interns.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of a Brighton Jones intern.
Gracie: I spent most of my time attending client prep meetings and working independently on various projects. We ended each day meeting with our pod “champions” to touch base and prepare for the following day. I thought it would be difficult adjusting to working from home, but I quickly learned to appreciate the perks.
Jake: The day-to-day varied quite a bit. There were days with overviews to cultivate foundational knowledge of Brighton Jones. Other days offered more free time to explore what interests you most about the company. The one thing that stayed constant was that I had a new and meaningful experience every day.
Andre: I first checked for any new Zoom chats, emails, or invites that came in overnight. Then, after picking out a couple of tax returns to work on for the next day, I got to work. Although that sounds repetitive, it never felt that way. Brighton Jones scatters onboarding training sessions on a variety of topics throughout your internship.
Alannah: We would attend at least one overview meeting that digs into the company’s processes or values. For example, we may have a meeting on business development, Personal CFO services, or MESI. We shadowed internal client prep meetings, where we saw advisors analyze a client’s plan to see if any changes were needed. We also had time to work on tasks and projects assigned to us by our pod.
What project(s) did you enjoy most during your internship?
Colby: I enjoyed being able to work on tax returns, getting exposure to situations that are not taught in class. Since the tax deadline was extended to July 15, I was able to get a lot of hands-on experience with a variety of different returns. Whether it was a simple return that was just a W-2 and a brokerage statement, or a return where a client had sold a house or moved to a new state halfway through the year, I was able to see and learn about different scenarios.
Andre: I enjoyed working on Form 1040 individual tax returns. At first, these seemed intimidating. But after I worked on a few returns and received detailed feedback from associates, the grade of the steep learning curve decreased. Eventually, I had a great feeling of fulfillment after completing the preparation step of a return from start to finish.
Alannah: The project I enjoyed the most was the estimated tax payments. It was a great hands-on project that allowed us to complete a real-life, relevant task for clients!
What surprised you most about the Brighton Jones work environment and culture?
Gracie: I was most surprised at how much goes into understanding each client’s unique situation. I saw that the advisors truly treated each client as if they were their only client. I hope to have meaningful relationships like these with my clients in the future.
Edgar: The thing that surprised me the most was the willingness and effort everyone at Brighton Jones makes to answer questions or serve as a resource. What’s more, it’s obvious that the team enjoys working together in a collaborative and creative environment.
Jake: The positivity. Everyone I met was passionate about what they were doing and loved sharing their stories, knowledge, and insight. Additionally, everyone was so willing to help whenever I had questions.
Andre: Unfortunately, I believe I was unable to fully experience Brighton Jones’ true work environment due to the online format of my internship. However, I was extremely surprised at how much of the firm’s culture managed to shine through the virtual barrier. From the weekly company meetings to the tax team happy hours, it was clear that employees were truly passionate about the company’s mission and the roles they play in the team.
Alannah: I was surprised by how genuine everyone is! It made me feel much more comfortable being myself. Moreover, I initially thought this was going to be an uptight work environment, but everyone is flexible and willing to work with you if you have questions or concerns.
Did you come away with any insights about the wealth management industry that defy conventional wisdom?
Colby: What they teach in school is not the same as what happens in the real world. With time in the industry comes knowledge. Tax is always changing and evolving, so having experience and also being able to adapt is crucial to succeeding.
Edgar: I have learned that the wealth management industry is far more than building investment portfolios. It involves helping people in all aspects of their life, from tax planning to real estate to retirement. It’s a process of creating relationships over time and aligning clients’ goals and passions with a well-developed plan.
Alannah: I thought wealth management was strictly about a client’s portfolio, but here, the team does way more than that. Advisors are not hyper-focused on what will bring a client’s portfolio the highest return but are more focused on what a client needs and what should be done to address those.
What was your favorite (remote) fun activity with the team?
Colby: At the beginning of the internship, when the tax deadline wasn’t as close, we had virtual happy hours and rotated the team through the “hot seat.” It was an opportunity to learn about people on the team outside of work.
Gracie: My favorite virtual activity was the team bonding night that Edgar and I planned for our pod. We sent everyone their own paint by numbers kit and gave people a budget to spend on drinks and snacks. For two hours, we all painted together and shared funny stories. I was so impressed that everyone was willing to spend quality time together as a team.
Jake: My favorite virtual activity was the pod happy hours. Getting to see everyone outside of work helped me be myself, and the conversations were a ton of fun!
What’s your advice for next summer’s interns?
Colby: Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Everyone on the team is more than happy to take time out of their day and answer questions.
Gracie: Pay attention in your finance classes! My favorite moments from the internship were when I was able to connect the dots from what I learned in school to the work we were doing for clients. Understanding concepts like the fiduciary standard, donor-advised funds, and tax loss harvesting made what we were learning that much more interesting.
Edgar: Come in with an open mind. Don’t be scared to reach out to people and get to know them. It can be intimidating to ask someone to chat, whether it’s in person or online, but everyone you’ll encounter at Brighton Jones is extremely welcoming.
Jake: Try to absorb as much information as you possibly can. But, at the same time, stop and enjoy yourself occasionally. Reach out to someone that has a position that interests you or someone you just plainly think you’d have a good connection with. Everyone has a story to tell, some insight to give, or some crumb of knowledge that’ll be important to you.
Andre: Try to meet all your team members as soon as you can (especially if the internship is online like mine was)! In your team’s Zoom group chat, you can view all the members of the team in a list; I just went down the list and asked the people I had not yet directly spoken with if they could chat.
Alannah: Do not be afraid to reach out and talk to people you have never met from the team. The team here is so welcoming and are always open to talk to you.
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