Duke Financial Economics Center Announces 2019-2020 Leadership Award Winners

2019-2020 DFE Leadership Award Winners Karam Katariya and Julia Weidman

The Duke Financial Economics Center (DFE) has named seniors Karam Katariya and Julia Weidman as the 2019-2020 recipients of the DFE Leadership Award. Each spring, the DFE honors one to three seniors with the award for their initiative in finance-related activities at Duke, dedication to peer mentoring, and contributions to the center. Both Katariya and Weidman will graduate this May with B.S. degrees in economics with a concentration in finance.

DFE Teaching Director Emma Rasiel commented, “Julia and Karam exemplify those characteristics that we most wish to see among business leaders: a genuine passion for mentoring younger students; a ‘can do’ attitude to all tasks and roles that come their way; and a willingness to listen to everyone’s point of view–including opinions diametrically opposed to their own. In an increasingly polarized world, this open-mindedness will serve them well as business leaders of the future.”

Among their many pursuits in the last four years, Katariya and Weidman have served in executive board positions for Duke Business Society and Investment Club, respectively. They have advised and educated other students about the financial markets through these roles as well as independently organized activities supported by DFE. Friends since before they started at Duke, Katariya and Weidman share a commitment to being of service to others that has defined their time as Duke students.

Pathways to Finance

As a first-year student, Weidman had not been sure she wanted to focus on finance until she discovered Investment Club. “I knew I wanted to be part of a group that was passionate and engaged,” she said. “Even just going to the first information session, I saw the camaraderie, knowledge base, and conversations that were being had amongst the group.”

Katariya’s first exposure to finance at Duke was also through a student club, Scale and Coin. “I got to do deep dives into investment banking and sales and trading. I really enjoyed learning that finance is such a people-oriented business.”

As sophomores, both students first encountered DFE by taking the large lecture course ECON256 Practical Financial Markets taught by John Caccavale, the center’s executive director, and Rasiel. They took advantage of Caccavale and Rasiel’s office hours, seeking advice that helped them zero in on their specific interests and navigate recruiting for finance internships.

When asked about other DFE-related experiences that have shaped their paths toward finance careers, Weidman noted Caccavale’s course ECON370 Global Capital Markets. “You cannot survive or thrive in that class without being an active participant, really engaging and learning how to formulate meaningful and concise answers,” she said. “That’s something that boosted my maturity and confidence in my ability to debate and fight for my arguments.”

Katariya spoke of his experience in the Duke in London-Finance program, which he did in summer 2018. “It was definitely a highlight of my Duke experience as a whole. It felt like we were at the pinnacle of financial innovation and everything happening in the industry.” DFE’s lunch & learn sessions with alumni finance professionals also made an impression on him. “It was great to understand how they started in their careers and what they did in college that differentiated them,” he said.

Katariya and Weidman have accepted full-time positions with the firms at which they interned last summer. Katariya is headed to Goldman Sachs as a securities analyst, and Weidman is returning to the advisory firm Lazard to be an investment banking analyst. They echoed each other’s excitement to become full-time members of the encouraging teams they worked with last summer. “Knowing that that support system is there within the firm makes me feel like I can make a tangible impact and I can be a really skilled and valuable analyst,” Weidman said.

Peer Mentorship

Katariya and Weidman’s early experiences with upperclassmen in student clubs sparked their enthusiasm for mentorship. “In Scale and Coin my freshman and sophomore years, I was exposed to so many incredible mentors who would tirelessly mock interview me and walk me through how to best network and how to write an efficient networking email and conduct myself in coffee chats and info sessions,” said Katariya. “It was inspiring to see them take out so many hours to walk us through things.”

Weidman’s sense of how students could support each other especially hit home sophomore year when she and fellow sophomore Alex Yu banded together for late-night interview prep sessions. “The recruiting process can be intense and a little daunting and having a partner to give me honest feedback was really important to me.”

As upperclassmen, Katariya and Weidman actively looked for, and created, ways to shepherd fellow students through the pressurized process of finance recruiting. In her senior year, Weidman became executive co-president of Investment Club. She oversaw a number of mentorship opportunities in this role, including pairing women in the club’s Investment Training Program (ITP) with older women students and assigning younger students to upperclassmen for informal coffee meetings.

“In her four years in Investment Club, Julia has been a constant inspiration to those around her and has always taken the time to help other students,” said senior Michael Nicholson, the club’s investment co-president. “She taught the ITP class multiple semesters, inspiring the next generation of analysts in the club and giving all students the knowledge needed for a career in finance. For younger students, she was a clear role model of what women can do in finance and took the time to talk to anyone and everyone who asked. She created many of the diversity initiatives for Investment Club and took a mentorship role in many of the lives of our female members.”

Katariya, as finance co-chair in the Duke Business Society, was a resource to all students interested in sales and trading roles, mentoring many one on one. Independently, Katariya organized a DFE-supported mock interview program during his junior year. He matched multiple seniors with each participating sophomore, allowing the younger students to practice answering behavioral and technical interview questions.

Junior Emma DeRose said, “Since meeting Karam through the Duke in London-Finance program two years ago, he has not only been a great friend, but has been hugely helpful to me as a mentor throughout finance recruitment. I know I can text Karam at any time of the day with any silly question, from how to word a networking email to advice regarding technical interview prep.”

This spring, Katariya and Weidman collaborated with DFE to lead four recruiting workshops for younger students, covering such topics as mastering virtual interviews. They also offered open office hours for one-on-one advising twice a week.

“I think that both of us felt this would be a great way to expand access to students who don’t get to do ITP training or participate in Scale and Coin or any of those kind of initiatives,” Katariya said of his and Weidman’s efforts this semester. “Julia and I learned a lot along the way.”

In general, the two seniors feel they have gotten as much as they have given in their experiences as mentors. “Having these conversations with underclassmen and reflecting on your own experience to impart advice, you learn so much about yourself and the perspective you’ve gained,” said Weidman.

“It has been really fulfilling to help people through this process considering how much help I got,” said Katariya. “There were people there every single step of the way.”

Beyond Finance

Katariya and Weidman’s determination to help others has not been limited to the area of finance. Katariya founded the non-profit Indian Children’s Aid and Nurture Charity (ICAN), which raises funds for the care of impoverished children in India suffering from heart disease and cancer. Weidman is passionate about her involvement with Camp Kesem, an organization that supports children through the experience of having a parent with cancer.

When asked about other experiences and activities that have been meaningful to them as Duke students, Weidman cited participating in DukeEngage in Peru and Defining Movement, a dance group on campus. “Our pillars are multiculturalism and service,” she said of the group. “We strive to do an incredible job learning about other cultures and representing them appropriately and successfully through our movement.”

Katariya also spoke about his participation in student groups with a multicultural focus, including Mundi, an international-oriented selective living group. Being in Mundi allowed him to befriend students from all over the world and hear their perspectives: “I’m now a certain person because of that. For example, the music I listen to and food I eat is so heavily influenced by other cultures, which I never thought would happen coming to Duke.”

Advice to Younger Students

What do Katariya and Weidman want to impart to their younger peers? Katariya’s number one piece of advice is to ask questions: “It’s so easy to get sucked into the bubble of ‘I’m not ready, I should know more than I do, and my friends know so much.’ No one knows anything! You’re not supposed to be pro investment bankers, and no one expects that of you. Be honest and true to yourself about what you know and don’t know. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses—we need to embrace that.”

Weidman emphasized the importance of community: “No matter how stressed you get or what you see other people doing, always stay true to yourself and make the most of the people in this environment. Get to know your professors. Get to know not only about their expertise but their background, how they got there and what motivates them to this day. Get to know your peers and definitely make the most of upperclassmen. Focus on this network right here—immerse yourself in it, really get to know people and share your own story.”

Listen to Katariya and Weidman share their favorite of each other's qualities.