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Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Jobseeker discovers the downside of Internet `fame'

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Aleksey Vayner, a senior from Yale Univer-sity, said he thought that clips showing his dancing skills and his athleticism, would help him stand out among other Wall Street applicants.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

With his name and image on Web sites and his appearance on the Today show, Aleksey Vayner may be the most famous investment-banking job applicant in recent memory.

His curious celebrity came after an 11-page cover letter and resume as well as an elaborate video that he had submitted to the Swiss bank giant UBS showed up on two blogs, and then quickly spread on the Internet.

The clip, staged to look like a job interview, is spliced with shots of Vayner lifting weights and ballroom dancing and has Vayner spouting Zen-like inspirational messages. The video clip flooded e-mail inboxes across Wall Street and eventually appeared on the video-sharing site YouTube.

Blogs brimmed with commentary, much of it mocking, about Vayner and his feats. Television programs and newspapers then picked up the Web's latest viral sensation.

Now Vayner, a student at Yale University, is starting to speak out about his 15 minutes of fame, portraying himself as being victimized by the flash flood of Web interest.

"This has been an extremely stressful time," Vayner said in an interview.

The job materials that were leaked and posted for public view included detailed information about him that allowed strangers to scrutinize and harass him, he said. His e-mail inbox quickly filled up, with most of the messages deriding him and, in some cases, threatening him.

Vayner's experience shows the not-so-friendly side of the social-networking phenomenon. While sites such as YouTube allow aspiring comedians or filmmakers to share their creations with millions of others, they also provide the ideal forum for embarrassing someone on a global scale.

Materials can quickly make the rounds on blogs, via e-mail and through online hangouts like My-Space, becoming all but impossible to contain.

Wall Street workers may be especially quick to hit the send button. Last month, a compromising video of a Merrill Lynch banker and his female companion on a Brazilian beach had much of Brazil's financial-services industry glued to their computer screens. Over the summer, a persnickety birthday-party invitation from a Citigroup intern was e-mailed all over London's financial district.

Vayner's seven-minute clip, titled Impossible Is Nothing, presents images of him bench-pressing what a caption suggests is 495 pounds and firing off what is purported to be a 140 mph tennis serve.

The tone of the video seems too serious to be parody, yet too over-the-top to be credible. After sharing the clip, fellow students at Yale, he said, began telling their own tales about Vayner on the Web, fabricating stories of bare-handed killings and handling nuclear waste. The Internet scrutiny also raised questions about some of Vayner's claims in his resume, including assertions that he ran his own charity and investment firm.

There have also been questions over whether he copied sections of a self-published book, Women's Silent Tears: A Unique Gendered Perspective on the Holocaust, from Web sites.

Vayner, 23, contends that both the charity and investment firm are legitimate. And the allegations about his book, he said, were based on an earlier draft that has since been changed.

He says he has been interested in finance since he was 12, when he was creating financial data models. So Vayner, who is a member of the class of 2008 at Yale, decided a few weeks ago to look for a job at a Wall Street firm. He thought that making a video would help him stand out amid the intense competition for investment-banking positions.

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