“As a banker, I enjoy being able to combine engineering and finance. I can still talk the tech talk.”
After graduating from Rutgers, Eyrique Miller worked at Lucent as a systems engineer, before earning his master’s and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Today as a senior banker with J.P. Morgan’s Commercial Bank Technology Banking practice, he helps start-ups and public companies solve their financial service needs. In 2008, he was appointed a White House Fellow, where he worked with the private sector and government agencies to identify opportunities to create green jobs. From 2010 to 2013, he served as a Catto Fellow at the Aspen Institute and is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Why did you choose Rutgers School of Engineering?
I chose it because I got a scholarship to a great in-state engineering school. I went to High Technology High School, a pre-engineering magnet school in Monmouth County. I took college level courses and was in the school’s first graduating class.
Why did you focus on Industrial Engineering?
Why not? I was always interested in business. Industrial engineering seemed to me to be the closest way to get to the business side. I almost became a business major. I wanted to deal with things like business systems and people and costs while understanding the technical side.
How did you get into banking?
After I graduated, I went to work for Lucent as a systems engineer. I was in the world of engineers and dealing with things like network optimizations and communications software. I completed my master’s at the University of Pennsylvania in telecommunications and networking while working at Lucent, which exposed me to Wharton classes. I realized I wanted to learn more about the world of finance and investment bankers. Financial analysis takes technical ability, just like engineering. I wanted to put it all together.
What do you most enjoy about your current position at JP Morgan?
I like being able to combine engineering and finance. When I work with startups to think through their finance needs, I need to learn what they do, what their product is and how they do business before I can lend them money. I can still talk the tech talk – I’m still comfortable in this technical world.
Who are your clients?
I work mostly with software, hardware, Internet and digital media companies as my primary customers. I’m based in New York City but I travel a lot, covering New York to D.C.
Speaking of DC, you were a White House Fellow in 2008. What was the best thing about this experience?
It was an amazing experience. The people I met were the main thing but I also really enjoyed learning about how our government works. I was testing the waters to see if I might ever want to run for office. The answer is no, but life is long – so who knows?
What was it like working under two different presidents?
It is the President’s program. When I started, I was part of an established administration and I saw firsthand what the transition to a new administration involved and what it was like for George W. Bush to hand the reins over to Barack Obama. It was fascinating to see that hand off and there is no other place where we do that.
You taught a course at Rutgers Business School last summer. Would you do it again?
I loved teaching the course! I co-taught Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances with a friend. I’d definitely do it again. I have an idea for the university to set a program that lets alumni get into teaching. They could sign up at homecoming to spend some time learning basics and eventually be certified to teach a course.
Were there any particular professors at Rutgers that influenced you?
I enjoyed Susan Albin’s classes the most and we connected the most. Everything I’ve applied for since Rutgers – jobs, grad school, Wharton, she has written a recommendation for me. We still stay in touch.
What was the most valuable thing you learned at Rutgers?
I learned how to overcome adversity and challenges. I graduated with Honors but almost failed out after a really bad second semester freshman year. I had an awful GPA and only passed 9 credits. It was about to be over.
Everyone was super supportive. I realized I couldn’t fail and had to figure out how to succeed. First semester sophomore year, I got a 3.5 GPA. Second semester sophomore year, I had a 4.0 GPA. I learned that if I could do that, I would be able to survive anything.
What advice would you give today’s students?
I’d tell students to take one big risk while they can. If that fails, get a large company job. I didn’t take any risks; I took the best-paying engineering job I could find when I graduated. I’ve never worked for a company with less than 200,000 people – Lucent, Citibank, JPMorgan, the government. I think you should think about things and not be afraid to take a risk.
What is your fondest memory of your student days?
My friends. I was fortunate in that respect. Your freshman year roommates can be a crapshoot. I connected with someone from high school and we decided to room together. He met someone else at a dinner, so we were three roommates. We thought we’d get a bigger room by volunteering to be in a triple, but they literally just gave us a set of bunk beds. I see those guys all the time. One hosts a New Year’s Day dinner every year for many of our Rutgers friends.
What did you do for fun as a student?
I studied and went to parties, though mostly, I studied a lot. I couldn’t afford a five-year plan. I had to get out and finish in four years.
What do you do in your free time these days?
With work and a couple of kids, I don’t have a lot of free time now. I spend most of my free time writing. I'm working on a couple television ideas.
What is the last movie you saw? I’m a failure with movies! I tried to go see The Martian around Christmas. My ten-year-old daughter and I had read the book. We got tickets, but couldn’t’t get to the theater in time because of holiday traffic. I do watch TV, though. I like Master of None and I’m all set to binge on House of Cards.
Do you have a favorite app?
I’m into efficiency. So I like Evernote. It lets me take and organize notes.
A new app for me is My Blend, which takes the promo emails I get, summarizes them and puts them into an easy news feed. I’m a big fan of My Blend.
If you could take a vacation tomorrow, where would you go and why?
For straight relaxation I’d love to go back to Jamaica. For experiences, I’d like to go to Cuba – with friends or take my wife and kids, though my 6 year-old would probably rather be at the beach.