Harpuneet Kaur is all smiles on a Friday afternoon as she seats herself at a table in the main communal area of The Henry J. and Erna D. Leir Research Institute for Business, Technology, and Society, on the NJIT campus. The Martin Tuchman School of Management (MTSM) finance major is happy to have her exams behind her and the MTSM awards ceremony and NJIT commencement just ahead. Her parents have arrived from India to attend the festivities and with a full-time position awaiting her at IEX, the Investors Exchange, life is good.
“Oh, it’s so exciting!” exclaimed Kaur about graduating, then quipping about having a bit more free time on her hands, “I was telling my friends I’m stressed about not being stressed!”
She certainly has no worries about her career post-NJIT. Kaur will transition from a co-op student to a listings sales support analyst at IEX. The company, founded in 2012 and based at the World Trade Center, is “a fair, simple, and transparent stock exchange on a mission to build fairer markets” for businesses and investors. It has been conducting share transactions since its inception and is poised to launch the listings component of its enterprise — an initiative in which Kaur will be integrally involved.
Kaur’s route to being recruited by IEX began at MTSM when an email from Undergraduate Academic Adviser Michael Sweeney invited students to attend Shadow Day at IEX in August 2017. She jumped at the opportunity and was the only NJIT student there.
“I loved everything about [that day], because the employees were so passionate,” she remembered.
She later spearheaded a successful campaign to bring IEX COO John Schwall to campus for a luncheon to speak with MTSM faculty and students. (“I was a celebrity... Everybody was congratulating me! They were so happy!” recalled Kaur.) After the event, at NJIT’s University Club, Schwall asked Kaur if she had a job lined up and encouraged her to keep checking the IEX website for openings. She did so, and early this year found the listings sales support analyst role, sent Schwall a message through LinkedIn, followed his request to send him her resume directly, and three interviews with nine people later got the position.
“When people are passionate, that means they love what they’re doing,” Kaur noted. “The culture [at IEX] is so amazing. They are so encouraging. My manager was like, ‘If you want to learn anything…I’ll help you get the permission. I’ll learn with you.”
Coming to America
Kaur, who hails from the town of Ludhiana in Punjab, India, knew she wanted to attend college in the U.S. She got a taste of the States as a foreign-exchange student during her senior year of high school, living with three different “super amazing” host families in Ulysses, Kansas, a far cry from the crowds of her home country.
“Coming from 3 million people in India to 6,000 people, it was very much a culture shock,” remarked Kaur, who was sponsored by Rotary International. “I would say it was the best year of my life. I did so many different things.”
When it came time for higher education, she opted for NJIT, where her brother, Jaskiran Singh ’09, studied computer engineering (he is now a senior business intelligence developer for Bed, Bath and Beyond). She chose the same major, but soon realized it was not for her. Thanks to a personality quiz she took at the Advising Success Center that matched her with business, she transferred schools and never looked back.
“After starting business, it was a whole new world for me,” said Kaur, also an Albert Dorman Honors College scholar. “I loved it.”
And she kept busy with it, serving as an ambassador for Salesforce, a business rep for the Student Senate, a member of the Dean’s Executive Leadership Council, a networking and event representative for the MTSM Investment Club and vice president of the NJIT Business Society. She also did a six-month co-op in business development at Satnam Data Systems, and a nearly yearlong internship as a financial analyst at New Jersey Innovation Institute, an NJIT entity.
Kaur was involved in research as well, helping Assistant Professor of Finance Michael Ehrlich for almost two years with a project related to entrepreneurship and psychology. The pair examined name-letter preference and implicit egotism among angel investors toward companies seeking startup funding. They analyzed data from the New York Angels, an investors organization, and found a little bias that investors rated companies more favorably during the pre-screening phase, based simply on a single page of information about a business, if their initials matched those of the owners. After the companies made formal presentations, however, the correlation was no longer significant. She and Ehrlich have written a paper about their findings and submitted it to a few conferences.
In the future, Kaur would like to pursue graduate studies at Harvard University and be a CFO. “I want to be an executive at a company and do something [important],” she said. For now, she looks forward to starting — and advancing — her career at IEX, and taking pride in being an NJIT graduate.
Oh, and as for those awards given by MTSM? She won two: the Competition Award, for “outstanding contributions and dedication to the school as an undergraduate,” and the Professor’s Excellence Award, for “excellent academic performance in undergraduate studies in Wall Street.”