Thomas Strehl ’18, a junior at the University of Maryland, is pursuing degrees in finance and economics with one destination in mind: Wall Street. Ramon Suazo ’90 graduated from The Mount nearly 30 years before Thomas and went on to attend The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Today, he is the senior managing director at CEA Worldwide Investment Bank, and his 20-year career in investment banking is the epitome of all that Thomas hopes to achieve. As fate—or, rather, Thomas’ thorough and persistent networking efforts—would have it, their paths converged in July of 2019, the summer before Thomas’ sophomore year at UMD. Thomas could have never predicted that one LinkedIn message to a fellow Gael would spark the most valuable relationship in his professional life to date.
In fact, that Ramon even responded to Thomas’ message was surprising enough. In a period of four months, Thomas had sent nearly 1,500 cold emails to industry professionals with a response rate of just 7%. The sheer probability of a receiving a response coupled with Ramon’s status as a managing director made Thomas slightly wary of hitting send, but then he remembered: he’d been receiving support from Mount Saint Joseph alumni since he started there as a student. He had received a scholarship to attend The Mount, funded by alumnus Edward Burchell ’60, and so far in his networking attempts, outreach to other Mount Saint Joseph alumni had yielded an astounding 100% response rate. Just as he hoped, Ramon was no exception.
Ramon (left) and Thomas meet in person for the first time at The Mount. Photography courtesy of Michelle Suazo.
“I was so willing to help because of the Mount community, the brotherhood for life,” Ramon explains. “Looking back on my career, my four years at Mount Saint Joseph were the most formative of my life, and I have a strong desire to give back to The Mount any way I can. I see a lot of myself in Thomas, and unfortunately, I didn’t have a senior mentor in my life, so I want to help make him an even better banker, the best banker he can be.”
Looking back on my career, my four years at Mount Saint Joseph were the most formative of my life, and I have a strong desire to give back to The Mount any way I can.
As Thomas began navigating the long and tedious recruiting process for a coveted summer analyst position, Ramon’s mentorship proved to be an instrumental resource. “Ramon helped me not only with networking, but also with preparing for interviews—anything from answering group-specific behavioral questions to technical questions. In an environment as competitive as this is, that was a really important factor for me,” Thomas says.
The pair would talk three to four times prior to each of Thomas’ interviews, beginning with a broader discussion about the firm and the group, to then working out a strategy for how Thomas should position himself. On the next call, they would practice with a mock interview. Then, just minutes before the interview, Ramon would give Thomas a quick pep talk: “You’re a smart guy; you’re going to do great,” he’d say. “You know valuation and financial engineering as well as anyone. If you get tripped up, just take a step back, collect your thoughts and come out stronger.”
All of their hard work paid off when Thomas received an offer as a summer analyst at Barclays, one of the largest and most well-recognized investment banks in the world. Such an offer is an extremely impressive feat considering nearly every firm seeks candidates from the same 10-15 core schools. “You can basically get a U.S. News & World Report and run down the first 15 schools, and those are the only schools where bulge-bracket investment banks recruit from—Princeton, Columbia, Georgetown, Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn—and if you’re not at one of those institutions, it’s very difficult to get into the recruiting process. Once you get involved in the process, it’s a very tight funnel to get through to an offer,” Ramon explains.
With Ramon’s help, Thomas was able to overcome the interviewer’s bias knowing he did not attend a “core school.” “It’s just a testament to his drive and tenacity to get the offer he received,” Ramon says.
One thing Ramon has taught me is to always bet on myself.
However, before Thomas received his offer from Barclays, he was faced with an agonizing decision: to decline an offer from a different firm without another offer on the table. “It was a strong firm, but I think the opportunity didn’t exactly align with my long-term interests,” Thomas explains. “The offer expired before I had the opportunity to finish my interview at Barclays. One thing Ramon has taught me is to always bet on myself. It would have been really easy to just accept the offer and be done with recruiting, but maybe be in a situation that wasn’t optimal for my long-term goals. Ramon helped coach me through the decision and it made me realize that I had to believe in myself. Making that decision alone, I probably would have chosen the risk-averse option because I wouldn’t have mustered up enough courage to make the hard choice that would benefit me the most in the long run.”
Ramon’s support made all the difference for Thomas during a stressful and challenging recruiting process, but what Thomas and Ramon have cultivated over the past year will no doubt continue well into Thomas’ career. “I just view myself as a resource for him,” Ramon says. “Thomas is an incredibly smart kid. It’s been a really great experience, and I think he and I have formed a lifelong friendship. This is just the start of a long and enduring relationship.”
As if to demonstrate exactly that—the longevity of the relationship they have developed and the effortless flow of mentorship—Thomas jumped at the opportunity to pick Ramon’s brain as our interview for this article drew to a close: “Ramon, you mentioned that you worked on a special purpose acquisition company, what are the benefits of doing that over taking a company public the traditional way?” Ramon responded, and Thomas soaked up every bit of new knowledge from his mentor and friend.