How I Found A Place for My Passion in Finance
When I graduated from Hamilton, two things were top of mind: 1) It’s OK if the first job you get out of college isn’t your dream job, and 2) My long-term career goal was to have environmental sustainability at the center of my work (although at the time, I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of work that would be).
I never considered working in finance until someone asked me in an informational interview, “You know there are sustainability roles in finance, right?” This shifted my perception of finance as a cut-throat industry driven by profits to one that acknowledged the power of finance in driving the allocation of capital and its role in the global transition to a cleaner, greener world. I began looking for roles in finance, and eventually landed a job on the Cash Management team at Jefferies, a middle-market investment banking firm.
On the Cash Management team, I learned the ropes of back-office operations, interacted with various teams across the firm, and began to envision a long-term future of working in finance. Despite the value of the real-world experience I gained in my role, I felt that getting an M.B.A. would help fill knowledge gaps and make me a stronger working professional. My cash management position also had nothing to do with sustainability, so I knew I would eventually need to shift roles to achieve my goal.
When applying to business school, I only considered part-time programs because I was uncomfortable with the idea of not having a salary for two years and paying tuition almost exclusively through student loans. While I knew that working full time and being a part-time student would be challenging, my role on the Cash Management team allowed me to work set hours without taking my work home with me, so I had time to dedicate to my studies.
This led me to NYU, where I enrolled in Fall 2019. To balance my full-time job with my coursework and personal life, I had to be organized and map out my priorities to meet my deadlines so that I could still find time for myself, friends, and family.
Halfway through the program, I began to seriously consider my next steps to make a career shift. Through various conversations, it became clear that equity research could be a great fit given my background. At Hamilton, I loved the combination of deep-dive research and writing required for my major with quantitative work in my Math minor. This perspective helped me thrive in my elective classes at NYU, especially accounting, valuation, and modeling.
I also joined the internal mentorship program at Jefferies and began exploring if and how sustainability was tied to other roles within the firm. This was how I learned that Jefferies had recently hired someone to fill the role of global head of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) research and that he was actively hiring to build his team. A colleague forwarded my resume for his consideration, which led to two interviews. I did not receive an offer, so instead I joined his research distribution list to gain perspective on the team’s thinking about ESG issues.
Engaging with this content helped signal my passion for the work the team was doing. I also continued to network, which led to interviews and conversations with upper management and recruiters in the research department. Five months following my initial interviews with the global head of ESG research, I received an offer to join the team and officially started in October 2021.
Three main things were put into perspective throughout these experiences: 1) Pursuing an M.B.A. was invaluable and provided a relevant skill set for my new role as well as greater perspective on the financial services industry, 2) You will learn something from any role or opportunity, and 3) Being a “yes” person and building relationships make the process of reaching your goals much more manageable.
I will graduate from NYU in May 2022, and am looking forward to growing with the ESG research team and learning more about ESG issues in the financial services industry.
As a final thought, getting an M.B.A. is valuable for many disciplines beyond finance, including management, strategy, marketing, and entrepreneurship. After graduating from Hamilton which offers such an interdisciplinary curriculum and encourages flexibility in thought, I encourage you to stay open minded about the various paths that are available to pursue your interests and goals.