Junior Kevin Reyes is a finance major who is passionate about economic literacy. He believes that personal development is key to career development and that there is an opportunity to learn a unique lesson from everyone he meets along the way. Reyes, who is also the president of Koppelman Toastmasters, (part of Toastmaster’s International, a worldwide organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills) utilizes his own experience as a mentee to mentor his peers as a college assistant at the Magner Career Center.

BC: What inspired you to pursue economics?

KR: My family is from El Salvador, and I visited often throughout my childhood. I saw the poverty and lack of economic opportunity for people there and understood why they would choose to leave and pursue success elsewhere. At home, I saw my family and peers struggle to succeed financially. At one point, 12 people lived in the apartment where my mother raised my younger siblings and me. I saw the adults working long hours and still struggling to make ends meet. That experience made me more conscious of the opportunities I had at my disposal, being born in the United States. My family immigrated to take advantage of those opportunities, and I’ve been fortunate enough to capitalize on them. That’s what inspired me to learn as much as I could about finance. I wanted to empower myself and my family.

BC: How did you get started on the path to a career in finance?

KR: During high school, I began working the deli counter at a grocery store every day after school to support my family. I didn’t have any time for extracurricular activities. When I enrolled at Brooklyn College, I knew that it would be extremely important for me to get involved, and I joined Koppelman Toastmasters during my first semester. My confidence grew because I was meeting like-minded people, leading conversations, and working on my public speaking skills for the first time. I was also taking relevant courses, reaching out to people who work in business on LinkedIn, and going to the Magner Career Center to sharpen my interview skills.

Along with learning so much about business and finance, I learned how to put myself out there. My mentors at the center helped me improve my communication and internship applications, and showed me ways to develop my skills and make myself more attractive to large finance companies. With the center’s help, I began to land my first opportunities in finance. I was accepted to Citi’s Early ID Leadership Program and soon after completed a competitive apprenticeship at Expedition EY, an online program that gives students interested in financial services networking opportunities and mentorship.

BC: You say you’ve interned at multiple organizations.

KR: Yes, after my apprenticeships, I received a stipend in fall 2020 that made it possible to pursue my first internship with the New York City Human Resources Administration during my sophomore year. In spring 2021, I joined Project Destined as a real estate intern. I will be pursuing a financial markets real estate internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers this coming spring, and in the summer I will be a global finance and business management intern at J.P. Morgan. Each of these opportunities has introduced me to a different sector of finance, including government, real estate, and banking. My goal has been to build on what I learn in class through real-life experience and diversify my skill set as much as possible.

BC: Who have your mentors been, and what have you learned from them?

KR: Everyone who has mentored me has taught me a unique lesson. Working with Sara Bedoya, currently an assistant vice president at Credit Suisse, at the Magner Career Center was my first experience being mentored during my freshman year. She helped me elevate my vocabulary and strengthen my verbal communication. She wasn’t afraid to give me constructive criticism. At Citi, Farjana Rohman ’09 conducted mock interviews with me. She helped me understand what kind of questions are asked, which was meaningful because she is a Brooklyn College alumna and had been through the interview process herself. Those experiences helped me land my first internship at the NYC Human Resources Administration, where Senior Director Jerome White ’14 acted as my mentor and encouraged me to explore the variety of ways to pursue a career in finance, including sectors that I hadn’t considered, like government. Throughout my internship there, he and Jessica Gaffar ’06 helped me to understand financial terminology that was completely unfamiliar to me, like contracts, budget analysis, and reconciliation.

During my internship at Project Destined, I had weekly mentor hours when different real estate professionals came to speak about their experiences and challenges in the field. I wouldn’t have been exposed to any of these opportunities without the advisement of the Magner Career Center’s director, Natalia Guarin-Klein. She is the one who encouraged me to expand my technical experience and has been there for every step of my improvement.

BC: What is the biggest takeaway from your experience as a mentee and now as a college assistant at the center?

KR: That you need to look at yourself honestly to assess your strengths and weaknesses and build your skills from there. Acknowledge what you can improve on and always look to better yourself. It can be hard to receive criticism, but don’t have any doubt that you’re going to succeed. This is why as a mentor I tell fellow students that they should always be transparent about what their needs are and what they hope to get out of a mentorship. So much of the knowledge I’ve gained is due to my mentors, and I hope to be able to give back by being a mentor to others. I want to encourage more people to learn about finance.

BC: Any other passions you’re pursuing?

KR: I try to maximize my free time by pursuing things I love. I believe self-improvement can happen outside of work and school. I try to maintain a balance by spending time with my family, exercising, playing basketball, and cooking when I have down time. I found a passion for cooking during my time working at the grocery store and it’s a great, low-stress way to decompress for me.