Goolsby Scholar Earns Goldman Sachs Scholarship
A Q&A With Juan Farah
May 7, 2013—Face it; ability and knowledge are essential components of your success. Still, there are many other qualities that contribute significantly to achieving your goals. Junior Goolsby Scholar Juan Farah proved that leveraging your strengths can offer a competitive edge even in the most cutthroat circumstances. The economics major—multi-national and multi-lingual, born in Venezuela to Lebanese parents—has not only secured an internship with Goldman Sachs, one of the world's premier investment banking firms, he's a recipient of the Goldman Sachs Scholarship for Excellence.
Goldman Sachs recently offered Juan a summer internship analyst position in their Dallas office to start this summer. Despite heavy competition from business students at Ivy League institutions vying for these premium internship placements, Juan's potential was distinctly apparent. With the offer and an excellent GPA, Juan was eligible for the firm's Scholarship for Excellence, which is awarded to recognize outstanding students and the achievements they have made.
About a week after returning from several rounds of interviews at their New York City headquarters, Juan received the news that he was selected to receive the scholarship.
Juan is a classic example of the high-caliber leader of the future that the Goolsby Leadership Academy prepares. We congratulate Juan on his latest success and look forward to his many achievements to come.
Tell us a little about yourself. What was your experience growing up?
I was born in Caracas Venezuela to a humble family. My grandparents were born in Lebanon. My father and my mother were born in Venezuela and were married very early; they were 22 and 20 respectively and were in a precarious economic situation. I was born a year later.
We lived in very humble conditions. My mom attended college with me in a stroller and my father worked long hours. My family strived to satisfy all of our basic needs; we never starved, but there was no luxury. After my mother obtained her degree, she pushed my father to earn his a couple of years later. Our situation started picking up as my father found an opportunity as the lead lawyer for a large shoe importing company. We moved from the poorer zone of the city to the more privileged side when I was 14.
I had a wide range of experiences in my life. I was friends with some of the poorest people of the city as well as some of the richest, and they came from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. I also participated in many activities: UN Models, physics and mathematics Olympics, music competitions, and sports. It was tennis that changed my life and made me want to come to the U.S. for college because I could compete and study at the same time. It also provided me with experiences that I would have never had otherwise, like traveling and living alone in Argentina when I was 17.
What brought you to UT Arlington?
After my freshman year in Chestnut Hill College (Pennsylvania), I was a little frustrated and wanted to try to play tennis for a Division 1 program. During a visit to Venezuela, I met with UT Arlington Tennis Coach Diego Benitez and he convinced me to transfer. I was also looking for a larger place and I found it in UTA. I have to thank Coach Diego for bringing me here and for all the support he has given me with activities outside of tennis. [Editor's note: This May, UTA Athletics recognized Juan's leadership potential and campus involvement with the Maverick Leadership Award.]
What motivated you to apply for the Goolsby Leadership Academy?
I sustained an injury during my sophomore year but a positive outcome from that was that I could focus solely on academics. I decided to look for more challenges and I found the Goolsby Leadership Academy in our College of Business. The opportunity to receive supplemental preparation in my field of interest, as well as the inherent challenge of it, encouraged me to apply. I have always been ambitious and Goolsby seemed like the place to be if you were interested in achieving more.
What is the greatest benefit of being a Goolsby Scholar?
The preparation we receive. I don't think students from the most reputable schools in the country get the inside scoop on management, recruiting, and leadership that Goolsby Scholars do. We have the opportunity to get to know ourselves better; not only through assessments, but also through assignments that help us realize how we behave when we have to work as a team, such as our annual cohort project.
How did you become involved with the Goldman Sachs Scholarship for Excellence program?
First, I applied for an internship. In order to receive an invitation to apply to the scholarship program, one must have an internship offer, so after I was accepted for a summer analyst position at Goldman Sachs, I applied for the scholarship. It certainly seemed like a great deal.
Beyond the scholarship money, are there other benefits or opportunities associated with the Goldman Sachs scholarship program?
Firstly there is a great deal of pride in being part of this program. Being recognized for your hard work, campus involvement, leadership activities, and extra-curricular activities is very filling. The scholarship program is for individuals who have an integral approach to life and who excel in many aspects of it. That type of "all-around" personality is often overseen in a modern society that is very concerned with expertise.
As far as opportunities go, during the interviews in New York City, I met so many interesting people, starting with the Goldman Sachs HR staff. It is a unique networking opportunity, especially given that Goldman Sachs is a firm with high internal mobility. Also, meeting the other candidates is a great networking and learning opportunity. They are potential future coworkers, so it is an opportunity to start relations that may prove fruitful in the future.
What do you hope to be doing in five years?
I would certainly love to be working in financial economics, perhaps in market analysis, portfolio management, or in the operations division where I'll be starting. I want to pursue further education as well, so earning the Chartered Financial Analyst credential, taking more math courses, and pursuing a master's degree are all in my "to do" list.
What are your more long-term goals?
The long term is very uncertain. However, I do have one dream to be an important public figure in my home country. The presidency is a dream for me, but becoming Minister of Finance and Economics is also a possible goal. Venezuela is a country with unlimited potential locked only by greed and corruption. I strongly believe that all the experience and education I gather here can be applied in unlocking such potential. In the 10 to 20 years before that, I would like to work in financial economics and earn an advanced degree.
What is the secret of your success?
If I were to choose the three things that have helped me the most along this path they would be: determination, positive attitude, and soft skills. Determination comes through motivation. The Goldman Sachs opportunity was an endeavor I was hungry for and, in pursuit of it, I received countless negative answers. However, my passion for it kept me running and it eventually paid off. The positive attitude is not only important in dealing with frustrating situations; it keeps me healthy and likeable. People like to work in a positive environment and I am part of that environment. Finally, the ability to relate to people, to understand their body language cues, to find common ground, and to network is vital. These soft skills helped me in meeting Goldman's Vice President of Diversity Recruiting, who ultimately remembered me and passed my resume to the finance and operations recruiters.