A Strategic Switch

PROVO, Utah – May 04, 2022 – When a teacher disciplines a grade school student, it is usually because the student was caught passing notes or talking in class. Unless that student is Nate Gardner. A young Gardner got in trouble for showing off his E*TRADE account to his classmates during his fifth-grade computer lab class. In elementary school, he dreamed of becoming a stockbroker in New York. Now, as a strategic consultant and a 2014 BYU Marriott School of Business strategy alum, Gardner helps businesses figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

“I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t your typical 10-year-old,” Gardner says. “I started loving markets and investing when my dad introduced me to the activity when I was in elementary school.” A few years later, as a student in high school, he interned for a small private equity firm. This internship, the first of many, influenced Gardner’s decision to apply to the finance program at BYU Marriott.

During his freshman and sophomore years at BYU, Gardner continued to search for work experience in the private equity field. He sent out hundreds of emails to potential employers and stopped by BYU Marriott advisor offices weekly. “Making connections with people at BYU Marriott is the most important thing I did when I was a student there,” says Gardner.

Gardner’s determination helped him land four internships in three years while at BYU. His first internship was with Columbia West Capital and took him and his wife Liz to Phoenix. While there, Gardner enjoyed his experiences with investment banking so much that he immediately started reaching out to investment banks in New York for more internship opportunities. “I finally found a company that would let a freshman work for them,” he says grinning, “I just had to do the work for free.” His childhood dream of working in New York was coming to fruition.

After Gardner’s internship in Phoenix with Columbia West ended, Gardner and his wife moved to New York so he could intern with investment bank Odeon Capital Group. “That summer in New York was a challenging time for us because I wasn’t making any money,” says Gardner. “I remember Liz and I just watching our bank account drain over the months.”

But Gardner and his wife didn’t eat 99-cent, thin-crust pizza twice a day for nothing. The Odeon Capital internship led to another internship in New York with Morgan Stanley, “Thankfully, my internship with Morgan Stanley actually paid money so we could enjoy the city more,” says Gardner. “The cool thing about these internships is that I had a lot of time to network with BYU alumni while I was off-campus,” he adds.

These connections around the country helped him realize the importance of being a strategic thinker and problem solver as he interacted with people of different backgrounds. Gardner says this realization inspired him to change his career focus to strategic management.

After years of interning with investment banks, Gardner pivoted entirely towards strategic consulting and case prep in his junior year. He started taking strategy classes and interned at consulting firm Bain & Company. “Leaving a field where I had three internships felt crazy, but I switched focus because I thought a strategy degree would complement my finance work experience.”

Gardner explains that after being exposed to strategic management while at BYU Marriott, he knew he needed to switch majors. “I knew from my involvement in the strategy program at BYU Marriott that I would love consulting,” says Gardner. “I was drawn to the idea of working with a company and helping that company improve and perform better.”

Currently, Gardner lives in Salt Lake City, where he and his family enjoy skiing and the outdoors. He’s now working as a strategic consultant at Podium, a software company that provides messaging tools for small businesses. Gardner is part of an internal consulting group that splits its time between answering the question “What does Podium want to be when it ‘grows up’?” and looking at improvements the company could make in the present.

Although Gardner did not end up becoming a stockbroker in New York, his switch to studying strategy proved to be one of the best choices he has made. “I’m grateful for the experiences that have helped shape me and get me to where I am,” says Gardner. “I like to think that my fifth-grade self would trade working on New York’s Wall Street for the incredible opportunities I have had.”

Nate Gardner. Photo courtesy of Nate Gardner.
Nate Gardner. Photo courtesy of Nate Gardner.
Gardner and his wife, Liz, with their children. Photo courtesy of Nate Gardner.
Gardner and his wife, Liz, with their children. Photo courtesy of Nate Gardner.
Gardner and his wife, Liz, during his summer internship in NYC. Photo courtesy of Nate Gardner.
Gardner and his wife, Liz, during his summer internship in NYC. Photo courtesy of Nate Gardner.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Liesel Allen