Cesar Rufo '09
Comment on the long-term and short-term value of an Arts & Sciences education.
The greatest benefit from studying at the College of Arts and Sciences was not so much the content of what was actually learned, but rather the perspective gained. For example, when it comes to analyzing a complex problem, one no longer jumps right at it and analyzes it single-mindedly. Rather, one learns to take a step back and really think. As a student in the Arts & Sciences, I learned to view both the minute and grander scheme of things – this invaluable skill enables me to understand the issue at heart from a variety of perspectives.
That is something truly valuable of an Arts and Sciences education. I did take some Finance classes here and there – I actually had the choice between Finance and Econ, but I wanted that flexibility. I remember I took classes that ranged from Behavioral Economics to Greek Mythology, and Chinese History to German Studies. In these diverse classes, you are learning from the brightest – people with completely different backgrounds that chose paths different from your own.
What are you most proud of accomplishing while you were at Cornell?
One of the things I’m most proud of was the initiative I took in my extracurricular activities. For example, I managed the Cornell Annual Fund – a paid calling program that employed over 100 students. There, I restructured the program itself by turning people’s perceptions of the conventional “work atmosphere” upside-down. I was passionate about the organization, and I wanted to make work fun and breathe life into it. Before I knew it, the organization had doubled in size and people actually wanted to come to work. I think that may be one of the accomplishments I’m most proud of, but when I think of the bigger picture – I believe it’s the people I met and the relationships I’ve built that are really what I am most proud of.
Why did you decide to go into Finance?
Above all else, I really enjoy creating new things and solving problems. Also, I love working with people and building relationships. You can do these things in a variety of careers. I wanted a career where I was always learning new things and where I was always employing my problem solving skills, and building relationships. That is why I chose to go into Finance. The industry is always changing and evolving with new innovations all the time. It’s really exciting to try and stay ahead of the curve and develop solutions for real business issues.
What kind of work have you been doing since graduation?
I graduated in 2009 and started working at American Express on their Acquisition Finance division. In essence, my job was to protect the shareholder at AmEx. If our marketing team is going to spend X amount of dollars, I have to make sure they spend those dollars wisely. I think the best way to describe my role is that I provide strategic guidance and business analysis to our marketing team on about 120 million dollars in investment.
What was the defining moment in choosing your career path?
I think what solidified my choice to go into Finance and AmEx was that I recognized the opportunity to continually learn new things and gain new perspectives. At AmEx, we are encouraged to learn and grow by moving around to different teams and roles. That is what helped guide my choice – it’s also why I chose the College of Arts & Sciences, to have those same opportunities. If you enjoy solving problems, are a good listener, and are a naturally curious person that wants to understand how things work – then you will be very successful anywhere you go, and I believe that Finance is a great place to build upon those skills and further hone them.