Extremely Grateful: A Reflection on My Last Semester

By Erica Isabella

After a year and a half, I am graduating from the Masters of Financial Mathematics Program at NCSU. The program is made up of two parts, one of which is obviously the coursework and it is important. However, what I am choosing to reflect on today is the connection to professionals within the industry. This semester, I helped out with the Career Development for Quants course that all first years are required to take and by helping with this course it became even more evident how vital these connections are. I am extremely grateful to all the amazing professionals who took time out to come talk to our students or provide them feedback on their projects. Connecting with professionals is what makes this masters program relate to “the real world” in a way that coursework will never be able to do. As a teacher, (I was a math teacher before starting this program) we were always told that it was important to make the lessons relevant to the students. It is incredibly amazing that these professionals help to make our coursework relevant for us.

We started the semester hearing about the world of consulting from Haolong Yu, an Advisory Consultant on Valuation and Modeling with Deloitte and about the general structure of the mortgage market from Adam Haller a Secondary Marketing Risk Analytics Manager from BB&T. Both speakers brought incredible knowledge and gave students their first peeks into the variety of positions that this program would prepare them for.

Dr. Aric Labarr a Senior Data Scientist at Elder Research spoke on “How Truly Rare is Rare? The Importance of Validation” Again giving the students a peek into how what they are learning in classes is used to solve important real world problems. Then finally, Dr. Jonathan Wang a Quantitative Team Leader and Chris Brand a Financial Crimes Analytics Manager (both from BB&T) spoke on the “Practitioner’s Viewpoint” . This presentation helped students understand what the day to day looks like for their positions, how regulations in banking might change and evolve over the next five years, and some insight to interviews.

Trying to condense all these amazing speakers into one reflection is difficult. Each speaker brought their unique skills and interests to our students and helped them to understand more and more about the financial industry and all the possibilities that this degree provides. I am faced with the fact that there are even more who helped by coming in and providing feedback to our students’ projects that they presented. Armed with this information and feedback, I know that the future MFM students will be able to go into the workforce ready and well rounded. To each and every one of the above people, I trust my classmates will agree that we are extremely appreciative.

Knowledge is Power: November Alumni Panel

By Erica Isabella

This November the Masters of Financial Mathematics program introduced something held an Alumni Panel where five amazing practitioners and alumni came in with the aim of discussing their path to finding the right job and what they have learned since then. Our fantastic hostess and Financial Mathematics program Career Coach, Marla Emery, asked the panelists questions ranging from “What soft skills are most important?” to “What knowledge did you leverage from your education?” All five panelists had some amazing insights to offer and as one student said,

“This event was phenomenal. Not only did it offer several tried and proven techniques to obtain relevant internships and jobs, but it also validated the relevance of our entire degree program and what we're being taught.” - Marshall Titch

Three of the panelists, Chris Brand, Dr. Jonathan Wang, and Sonam Raj currently hold positions at BB&T. They were able to impart a great deal of advice, but what stuck out was that when asked about important soft skills, teamwork and collaboration were key. When asked how to discern if interviewees possessed this skill, Chris responded that based on their experiences and interactions during the interview it is normally clear if this is a skill that they possess.

Joining these three was Shinese Purnell, currently a project analyst at First Citizens Bank and Lei Mao a Risk Modeler at Genworth. Both had received full time offers after excelling at summer internships with their respective companies. When asked about knowledge that they leveraged from their education, Shinese emphasised the importance of learning to program using SAS and Lei emphasized his statistics knowledge.

After the panel was a short reception, where it was obvious that students were enjoying their conversations with the panelists. Students were able to glean a great deal from these wonderful alumni. We all know that “Knowledge is Power” and the program was very lucky that these five fantastic people were willing to spend some time sharing their knowledge.