by Samuel Busch, Financial Mathematics student- December 2013 graduate
As a soon-to-be graduate from the Masters in Financial Mathematics (MFM) program at North Carolina State University (NCSU), I thought it might be beneficial to prospective students to write a little bit about my experience in the program, specifically the opportunities the program has given me and what I have gained. Just in the past few weeks, I have landed my dream job working as an Actuarial Assistant for Allianz Life Insurance company.
So, how did I get here?
My undergraduate studies were in Actuarial Science and Statistics. I’ve always loved finding meaning in data and applying my mathematical skills in the “real world” in new and challenging ways. Risk management, insurance, and financial markets are subjects that continue to intrigue me. After earning my bachelors degree, I knew that there was a lot more that I wanted to learn about the mathematics behind risk and financial markets. What are the different kinds of exotic derivatives and how do they work? How do firms manage their exposures to various financial risks? What are the algorithms behind hedge funds? As an undergraduate, I wanted to know more about these questions; thus, I sought to increase my knowledge of quantitative finance through earning my MFM degree at NCSU.
I am so glad I decided to come to NC State and the MFM program for my graduate studies, as I give the program much of the credit for the success I have experienced in the past year and a half. The guidance and mentorship I have received from the MFM program director and the career services director have been extremely helpful and led to my amazing internship experience working as a programmer/modeler for an auto insurance company last summer.
Through volunteering for the program and attending program events, I have been able to meet industry professionals from banking, energy, insurance, risk management, and other technical fields.
As a student in the MFM program, I have received hands-on modeling experience in SAS and Matlab completing projects such as pricing exotic financial derivatives, and I have learned the fundamentals of asset pricing, stochastic processes (such as the stock market), and enterprise risk management.This education, along with my technical internship, has ultimately allowed me to secure my dream job where I will be able to merge my passions for risk management, insurance, and quantitative finance.
How did I “bridge the gap” between my education and finding the right job?
In short- networking through MFM program events and LinkedIn. As I gained experience, I updated my LinkedIn profile and joined groups relating to quantitative finance, actuarial science, insurance, and modeling.
Joining groups on LinkedIn turned out to be highly valuable for me. In fact, the day after I joined an actuarial / predictive modeling group, an actuary/director from Allianz Life posted a job advertisement to the group page and indicated that Allianz was looking to expand some of their actuarial positions. I jumped at the opportunity and applied on LinkedIn and through the Allianz web site. I also contacted the individual advertising the position through LinkedIn directly. This personal contact led to more personal contacts, which led to several phone interviews.
Eventually the phone interviews led to an in-person interview at the Allianz Life campus. During the interview, I highlighted my problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills as well as my quantitative background, and my biggest selling point was the experience I had gained completing detailed and valuable programming projects for both the MFM program and my summer internship.
As a result of the successful interviews, I was offered and accepted a position as an Actuarial Assistant. In this role, I will work as a modeler and will have exposure to multiple business lines. I will be able to further improve my coding skills and knowledge of various financial and insurance products.
I hope my story helps to demonstrate the opportunities and skills the MFM program at NCSU provides and perhaps provides some encouragement to other students considering enrolling in the program. To new MFM students I would give the following pieces of advice:
1) Get involved with and volunteer for the MFM program
2) Utilize your program advisors and the Director of Career Services
3) Be very proactive with networking (LinkedIn)
4) Although you may not already have much quantitative experience, as you progress in your career, be aware of projects that highlight your analytical ability, communication skills, and teamwork, and use these as examples to leverage your skills to potential employers.