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Alumni Spotlight: Max Davis '11

We caught up with Max Davis '11 and found out what he has been up for the past 6 years. From graduating from the University of Pennsylvania to starting his finance career, we are proud of the amount of success Max has accomplished in such a short amount of time.
I believe you came to SC as an 11th grader from a boarding school experience. Did you find that transition difficult or easy? What are the differences between boarding school and a day school?

I don’t think transitioning schools is ever “easy”… especially when that transition occurs half-way through a semester. Entering a brand new school without any personal ties was both jarring and overwhelming. I definitely had heightened anxiety levels when I first stepped on campus, but within a couple days I could clearly see that SC was more than just a high school – it was a tight-knit community – which not only helped quell my nerves, but also made my transition more seamless. I couldn’t tell you the number of people in those first few weeks that welcomed me with a smile on their face to make sure I felt comfortable. It really was so encouraging at a time when I was feeling quite stressed.

I would say the largest differences between boarding and day school have to do the structure of your life outside of the classroom. At boarding school, when the school day and some form of athletic exercise is over, your time is structured – with office hours, studying, dinner in the cafeteria, spending time in a dorm with relatively strict rules, etc. In day school, aside from family responsibilities and making sure I got my work done, my time was free to explore whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. For me, the beauty of the boarding school experience lies in how it almost forces one to develop life-long friendships.

Tell us about your university experience at Penn. Did you feel that SC prepared you for the academic standards of Penn?

My four years at Penn are some of the most cherished memories I’ll ever have. I majored in PPE (Philosophy, Politics, & Economics), concentrating in “Choice & Behavior” with a minor in Consumer Psychology. Essentially, I studied human behavior from a variety of disciplines and theories, which was great for me as I was and still am interested in many different academic areas.

I always say the hardest part about Penn was getting accepted. The work was definitely manageable, and I do believe SC adequately prepares you for what college has in store. At the end of the day, we all have to make sure we get our work done on time, at the quality required to succeed, and that’s entirely up to the student.

I believe you have been with Citibank since 2015. What led you in their direction? Do you see yourself with them in 5 years? Or where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?

I’ve always been the type whose interests are endless, so it’s only natural that I also have a fear of commitment - whether that involves selecting a Netflix movie or deciding which major to pursue. Penn is a very pre-professional school and a large percentage of students end up on the finance/consulting track. With my inherent indecision and without much of an idea around what strategic direction I should take in college, I also decided to pursue a career in finance.

I landed my first legitimate finance internship at a Private Equity firm in NYC (which wasn’t for me) during the summer of my sophomore year. The summer of my junior year I worked at Morgan Stanley in their Capital Markets business (which I also decided wasn’t for me). My process involved identifying what didn’t feel appropriate, as opposed to what did. I knew that I enjoyed roles that were analytical in nature, but felt no attachment to valuating businesses or moving money in markets. I ultimately merged my natural aptitude for working with data with my passion for what I studied at school – human behavior from a variety of disciplines (decision theory, behavioral economics, consumer psychology), which is how I ultimately wound up at Citi in customer experience analytics. Today, I analyze omni-channel customer data to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience via hypothesis testing and ad hoc analysis, while ensuring our channels and experiences are working effectively, as well as pitch/support various business cases.

I can envisage a lot of potential paths in the future. I believe exploring career opportunities is incredibly important for young professionals and I’d love the opportunity to experience new business models and challenges, but the longer I stay at Citi, the more I grow to appreciate the company (I swear this is not a pitch!). Aside from work, I potentially see myself going back to school in the next couple years to pursue an MBA, as well as heading back to California. Only time will tell!

Tell us about living in the Big City…NYC. How does it differ from California?

I’ve always felt that NYC is the diametrical opposite of California. When I think of being back home, I think of maintaining a relatively slow pace of life, sunny skies and incredible sunsets, wide roads, horizontal cityscapes, and gorgeous views of greenery. When it comes to NYC, I think of some clichéd concept like “the city that never sleeps” – the endless, fast-paced hustle and bustle of life in the Big Apple, humidity, airless trains, skyscrapers higher than the eye can see, and a concrete jungle.

Aside from large speed gap in pace of life between the two cities, living in NYC is a double-edged sword. Everything is at your fingertips and it’s a city of 8.5 million residents, so all you could want is a mere train ride away. The level of access is unparalleled, but it makes it easy to feel drained of energy, to lose focus and passion. I’d say living here is a marathon not a sprint, and I try to maintain a good balance in all aspects of my life: socially, financially, etc.

Would you recommend that current SC students seriously consider the East Coast for college? Why or why not?

Definitely! Admittedly, I’m slightly biased because moving away from home at an early age has always been an inherent part of my life (my father and I both went to boarding school), but I truly believe that leaving California forces you to expand your social, cultural, and geographic horizons. It also encourages you to break out of your comfort zone, which may initially be a bit frightening, but can also provide a huge opportunity to learn about yourself and grow as an individual. One thing I will say though, if you do head out East, good luck adjusting to the weather!

What about your experience at SC? Is keeping in touch with classmates important for you? Are there any particular classes, experiences, or faculty members that impacted you or that you would like to mention?

Yes! Maintaining relationships matters – I still keep in contact with many SC alum and occasionally see a few in the city. I’d have to say the most influential teacher that I had was Mr. Schrode. He forced me to think outside the box, look beneath the surface, analyze language in a critical way, and taught me how to develop a legitimate, coherent argument. When looking back on my experience at SC, I have always and will always think of an incredible couple of years, with some really, really outstanding people. 
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Sierra Canyon School is a private, independent, non-sectarian, co-educational, college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12 located in Chatsworth, California. The highly cosmopolitan campus community is reflective of the Greater Los Angeles area and the world at large. Students are empowered to realize their greatest creative, ethical, intellectual and physical promise through small class sizes, a diverse student-teacher culture and a family-like environment.