On Tuesday, October 21, 2021, the Sy Syms Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program held its fall 2021 kickoff dinner. The featured guest was Gregory Zuckerman, an award-winning financial columnist, reporter and special writer for the Wall Street Journal. The event was moderated by Shoshy Ciment ’19SB, who serves as business editor at Footwear News.
A 20-year veteran of the paper and three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in business journalism, Zuckerman discussed with the students his path to becoming a business writer. He began by telling them he never planned to be a journalist; instead, he wanted to be an investment professional, having traded stocks early in life as a camper at summer camp.
He went on to work at various jobs and was fired twice before the age of 25, which he learned in time was the best thing that could have happened to him.
He eventually landed a job as a financial reporter at the New York Post, which blended his passions for newspapers and finance. That job led to the Journal, where he’s been for the last 20 years, writing about big financial firms, personalities and trades, hedge funds, the energy revolution, and other investing and business topics.
Zuckerman’s tips to the students on how to become a journalist included having a talent for getting people to talk as well as being a good writer and hard worker. He also shared his thoughts on being Orthodox in a very secular industry. “Establish the ground rules right away,” he told the students. “When offered a job, tell them you are Shomer Shabbat [Sabbath observant].” He discussed the times his observant lifestyle affected his work, including the time he missed breaking a big story because of a three-day Yom Tov [festival], yet told the students the older he gets, the more he appreciates Shabbos and being observant.
“I really enjoyed hearing from Greg Zuckerman about his journey to becoming a journalist,” said Noah Fleeter ’23SB. “His childhood passion for investing, combined with being denied an investment banking position after college, led him on an alternative career path, where he had the privilege to write about the topics that he loves.”
Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean of the school, discussed with the students how the Mishnah [oral Torah] explains that one should learn all the ins and outs of business as well as how the financial sector and organizations work. Dr. Moses Pava, director of the program, encouraged students to make the most of their opportunities to help save the world.
Zuckerman also discussed his upcoming book, A Shot to Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine. He discussed how this new book shares a theme with his previous three books: unexpected and unlikely individuals accomplishing something of extreme importance and significance when all the experts said they couldn’t.
On a lighter note, when asked by a student during the Q&A how his work affected his relationships, he answered, “It’s made me a more annoying father and husband because I ask a lot of questions.”
This event was the semester’s first in a series of planned discussions with accomplished, talented and fascinating figures presented by the Honors program.
Thank you to Noah Fleeter for his contribution to the writing of this article.