On Friday evening, Nov 14th 2014, NC State’s Financial Math program and IAQF (International Association of Quantitative Finance) hosted the event “How I Became a Quant”. The panel included Financial Math alumni, Jared Bogacki with BB&T and Albert Hopping with SAS, as well as Altrius Capital Founder, Jim Russo and current student Jeff High with Captrust. They each took turns sharing their career path stories with the audience and answered questions about quantitative careers. Dr. Jeff Scroggs, Director of the Financial Math program, acted as the moderator for the event.
To start, Jim Russo talked about his background and starting his company, Altrius Capital in 1997. He enjoys quantitative finance and visited investment firms to learn more about the field, which included networking with his best friend who got an MBA from Princeton and worked at Bernstein (Alliance Bernstein). This inspired him to open his own investment management and financial consulting business in New Bern, North Carolina. Altrius Capital also has an office in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina and is growing fast.
Next, FM Alumnus, Albert Hopping shared his career path story. He got his Bachelors in Physics at NCSU and then worked in the energy industry as a Risk Analyst. Several years later, he enrolled in the Financial Math program at NCSU and learned more about quantitative analyzing. He found it be interesting and amazing. Thus, this led to his current role at SAS where he applies quantitative analysis to his daily work. You can read his personal interview here.
Jeff High is finishing up his Financial Math degree at NC State. He did his undergraduate studies in Finance and Financial Economics, and then got a job at Wells Fargo. In 2006, he noticed his job became more and more quantitative. During 2007 to 2009, he worked at another investment firm and managed a team in Valparaiso, Chile while supporting New York, London, and Hong Kong trading services. Due to the 2008 financial crisis, he came back to US and and started his Masters in Financial Math at NC State while working at other investment firms. He realized technology skills are very important, which he is enhancing through the Financial Math program.
Lastly, FM Alumnus, Jared Bogacki shared his career path and has worked at BB&T for more than 10 years. He is currently a manager about shared his expertise and advice to current students on getting a job in the field. Jared and Albert both emphasized the importance of communication as a top soft skill to sharpen as it is required to be successful in the industry.
After they shared their stories, Dr. Scroggs asked them about careers and salaries in the Financial Math industry, and work and life balance. Mr. Hopping said there is a high correlation between working hard and receiving high rewards and benefits. Thus, the harder you work, the more you are rewarded. But that comes with longer hours and stress. Mr. Russo made the point that if you enjoy what you are doing, the long hours and hard work will pay off and the stress is worth it because you are doing something you value. Mr. Bogacki agreed and mentioned the importance of having passion in what you do. Being overly stressed and not enjoying your job is not ideal and students should choose a career path that closely aligns with their interests, talents and passion.
They also talked about specific courses and types of technical skills students need to gain to be successful. All panelists stressed to not only focus on academics but to enhance business and soft-skills such as communication, interpersonal and problem solving skills. Being able to clearly articulate ideas, processes and models to clients and business colleagues is very important. Mr. High gave personal examples of his own experiences to emphasize the importance of gaining and improving technical and soft skills as significant factors in succeeding with one's own career path.
The audience had an opportunity to ask several questions about interview tips, types of interview questions expected in interviews, and other tips to succeed in the Financial Math industry. Thank you Jim, Albert, Jeff and Jared! Everyone enjoyed hearing your career stories and expert advice. The evening ended with a reception held in SAS Hall.