Vote for the Best of STL!

From pizza restaurants to Wall Street banking

| Investigative News Editor

Illustrated by Claire Yang.

When my friends Talia Zakalik, Sophia Bukowski, and Izzy Borah were trying to save a squirrel from a pipe, they found a student ID in the bush. Labeled from 1996, it read “Aman Boyd”, and besides some scratches and dirt stains, it was relatively unharmed. I thought this would be a really cool interview for my Creative Nonfiction class, where we had to interview someone, and asked to meet up with him.

Arriving at Blueprint Coffee, I sat down with Boyd, who was wearing a light blue polo and a dark blue quarter zip above it. He had a beard and an ‘official’ presence. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but he didn’t fit my mental image of it. Studying at WashU from 1994 to 1998, Boyd is now 47 years-old working in banking, primarily with credit unions.

Majoring in Social Thought and Analysis, which is no longer offered at WashU (it merged with the American Culture Studies department in 2006), Boyd stated, “It was essentially sociology, but mixed with analytics. It took a soft science and used statistics and hard science techniques to support these sociological studies.”

Interestingly enough, Boyd said he came into WashU as a pre-med: “That was the whole thing with WashU — pre meds. I got weeded out by Organic Chemistry.”

Boyd minored in philosophy, too. He had an interest in literature and philosophers like “Edward Said, y’know. The whole idea of Western hegemony versus non-Western mindsets.” These soft skills, he said, helped him in his professional career. He pursued grad school and got a dual degree in public policy and an MBA in finance at University of Maryland, in his home state.

“I was an idealist, right? I still am. After college, I went to Rwanda with the UN for a couple of years. I definitely had an international humanitarian streak.” He worked with the refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. “I was at a Congolese refugee camp for a year and then worked at the main office in the capital, Kigali, for about a year.”

Afterwards, Boyd explained that his initial aspiration was to work in banking for a little bit to pay off his college debts. “Long story short,” he stated, “I ended up going to Bank of America and working on Wall Street. I did that for about 4.5 years. Every horror story you hear about being an associate analyst is true — working 80-90 hours, very intense work. I got burnt out.”

The 2008 recession happened, and Boyd’s entire department went down too. He was in Charlotte, North Carolina, at that time, and decided to then open a pizza restaurant. 

“It was called Revolution Pizza and Ale House. I started a restaurant in the middle of a recession. I ended up running it for about 4 years and sold it to a group of investors that kept it open for another 5 years.”

At that point, Boyd went back into banking, which is what he’s been working in since 2013.

Boyd, a self-described realist with a passion for sustainability, ironically ended up in Wall Street banking. I asked if he ever faced a moral dilemma. “Nah, it wasn’t a moral dilemma,” he said. “I wanted to challenge myself. Going into finance was a huge challenge professionally — the amount of hours, everything you have to put into that.”

“However, there were some other situations that created moral dilemmas. Back then, we didn’t have DEI and there was no idea of ‘representation is important.’ Especially being a Black man, it was a challenge to navigate,” said Boyd. 

Boyd continued to elaborate into his experience at WashU as a Black man.

“There weren’t very many of us. But, it was a very welcoming community. I didn’t have any issues with the student body or administration, but historically speaking WashU did a pretty crappy job at making sure the student body had good representation.”

Fast forward to years later and “WashU is really rigorous and research based. The administration wanted that. They wanted those types of students, professors, and reputations. After Danforth left and Wrighton came in, he had this clear mandate of wanting to drive WashU to the next level. And he did. He increased academics, fundraising, but not so much a great job on diversity,” state Boyd.

This, to me, is what makes Boyd such a complex figure. He seems to not only be rooted in his interest in business, but also philosophy. Along with working on Wall Street, he also noticed the problems with WashU in the past. I’ve always heard that soft skills can help you in the future, but it was somewhat comforting to hear (as a humanities student myself) that these skills really can help you as a worker, business owner, or individual, from a man who is living proof of it. 

In terms of advice for those currently at WashU, Boyd said, “No one’s expecting you to be a professional right out of college. Look, I’m a career changer: capital markets to pizza restaurant, the UN, all that. But throughout my career it’s been these skills of executive leadership, critical thinking, ability to communicate, these key skills to get people to support you.”

 

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.

Subscribe