Simon Gauss from Germany earned his IB Diploma in 2014 at EF Academy New York. After graduation, he intended on pursuing a career as a surgeon but changed his mind after an internship in Switzerland and is now earning a “dual degree” in investment banking while working at Deutsche Bank in Germany. Read his Q&A to learn about how Deutsche sponsors his education, where his studies have taken him and what advice he has about studying finance.
Home country: Germany
Languages: German and English, some Russian and French
EF Academy campus: New York
Program: IGCSE in 10th grade and then IB Diploma
Grad year: 2014
Favorite clubs: Student Council and Running Club
Favorite subjects: Chemistry and Economics
University: Studying Business and Finance at the Cooperative State University Stuttgart in Germany; he is earning a “dual degree,” a competitive university degree offered in Germany, and alternates between three months of studying and three months of working at Deutsche Bank. He will have his Bachelor’s Degree next September.
Tell us more about your “dual degree”…
You actually apply to a partner company of the university and if they accept you, they will sponsor your education and allow you to work for them at the same time. There aren’t any restrictions to enter this kind of degree, however, applications are pretty competitive (varying based on the company you apply to). The only thing is that to attend the university I do, you have to know German. There is one university in Germany that offers degrees for international students (completely taught in English). I should also mention that your partner company chooses most of the classes you take, so you don’t really have any freedom in terms of that. So it’s quite important to apply to companies that genuinely interest you.
Right now, I’m actually spending my semester abroad in Singapore, which was kind of a random choice, but definitely a good one.
What was your first impression of EF Academy?
I started in 2011 with the IGCSE program. I really enjoyed it, I liked the environment of EF Academy because it was quite different from public high school in Germany. What I probably enjoyed most was that everyone got along with each other even though there were so many different cultures and mentalities.
What is something you did at EF Academy that prepared you for university?
I improved my English skills. I don’t have many subjects in English, but for work and more generally in finance it’s incredibly important. I work for a multinational bank where most projects and almost all communication happen in English. Additionally, I think my most valuable asset from EF Academy is having an international network over all continents (except for Antarctica) – that’s really priceless.
What was your favorite and least favorite part of the IB program?
My favorite part was choosing my subjects. In Germany, your choice is very limited and you end up taking 13 or 14 different classes. Compared to peers who studied in France and Germany, or even ones who did the A-Level program, I feel like I was better prepared for university and even my job. Aside from my academic research, I still benefit more from my IB classes than from my lectures at university.
What do you remember about the transition from IGCSE to IB?
I remember very vividly re-reading essays I had written in Grade 10 and realizing how much my English had improved in just a year or two. My English was at a rather poor level when I started at EF Academy, but the IB really pushed me to become a more academic writer. In fact, before the IB, I was able to count the books I’d read on one hand. After I started the program, I can’t remember a month where I didn’t read at least one or two books.
What activities were you involved in at EF Academy?
I was on Student Council starting my junior year. You are voted onto the Student Council by the students at the school. I was part of the senate even though it was made up mostly of seniors at the time, so it was interesting for me to be able to participate as a junior. I was also part of the senate during my senior year. Together with a teacher and another senate member, I was involved in changing the way the disciplinary hearings were conducted at the school. Previously, when a student broke any of the rules in the school’s Code of Conduct, a group of teachers and house parents – the Disciplinary Committee – would meet to discuss the punishment the student would receive. We noticed that not all the students were being treated equally, so we proposed that they include students as part of this committee so that the students’ voice would be heard. The proposal went through and two teachers were removed from the committee and another senate member (shout out to Sana!!) and I were selected to fill their seats. We were able to make sure that the whole school environment was fair for all students and we always tried to find sensible solutions for all parties involved.
What advice do you have for students who want to go into Banking or Finance?
During high school and after I graduated, I wanted to become a surgeon and I never thought of doing anything else. After graduation, I did an internship at the medical campus of the University of Zurich, but I didn’t like the environment and it completely changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my career. I talked about it with my older sister who had done a dual degree in Hamburg and she suggested I try it out too since I enjoyed math and economics in school. I applied to Deutsche Bank – it was the only one I applied to – and they offered me a spot.
My advice is to follow your passion. Before applying, I had no idea what an investment bank was and I had never even been inside of a bank. I simply tried it and enjoyed it a lot. A lot of people go into finance because of many different motives (money, money and money), but unless you really like the stuff, don’t do it. You just won’t be happy.
If you should choose to go into finance, try to do an internship as soon as possible because lectures are nothing like the actual job. And honestly, unless you get into a top-tier business school, don’t study business administration if you want a good job – economics, engineering, or mathematics give you a real advantage later on.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of?
I work at a big-five investment bank with German heritage! When I first started, I worked in the retail segment, so I opened accounts and managed money for small business during my first year. Pretty mundane work, to be honest. I spent my second year in corporate banking, which was a bit more fun, but still not what I was looking for. I worked hard (and networked harder) to get an interview with someone from the investment banking department and I did a summer internship there. Just in time before my flight to Singapore I got a new contract. I will be the first dual student to graduate together with Deutsche’s investment banking. I’m proud that I did it.