Trends in Technology Careers: December SAS Alumni Panel

By Joshua Johnstone

On Friday, the first of December, the Financial Math students were treated to a rare opportunity. A panel of six industry professionals was assembled, and they all had two things in common: they were all NC State FM alumni, and they all were employed at SAS at the time of this writing. Their combined commentary on job searching, interview advice, and their take on the future of technology proved invaluable for the students.

Among the practitioners in attendance were Peter Gerakios, an accomplished Technical Writer, and Albert Hopping, a Senior Risk Consultant Manager. From the SAS risk development team, the panel welcomed Haiqing Lu, Steven Miles, Ricky Zhang, and John Izquierdo. Izquierdo began interning at SAS in the summer of 2017. He is graduating from the FM program this month, and has recently accepted a full-time job offer with SAS.

The panel Q&A was highly informative, and the panelists were eager to share their knowledge with students. Miles and Izquierdo commented on the emerging trend of high-performance computing, using methods such as grid computing and threading to achieve vastly increased processing power. Hopping and Zhang provided much-needed interviewing advice. Gerakios encouraged students to not limit their options when searching for a career. Lu underlined the essential nature of networking. All of the panelists emphasized the importance of programming skills, and having a blended skillset of both technical and “soft” skills.

The FM students found the discussion valuable. Ethan Warmuskerken, a first-year student of the program who began studies during this past summer, remarks,

I found it extremely beneficial to gain insider information from alumni of this program about the job search and career opportunities. I was also impressed by the apparent atmosphere of SAS as an employer, considering that all the panelists began their careers there, and continue to work there today.

Students and panelists were provided an opportunity to network over refreshments following the discussion. The conversations throughout the room were lively, as the professionals’ willingness to share was matched by the students’ eagerness to learn. The students and faculty of the FM program emphatically thank the six panelists, as well as career coach and event host Marla Emery, for their time and efforts.

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.

Meeting Marla Emery, Our Executive Career Coach

By Tao Pang

Marla Emery has been retained as our dedicated career coach. Marla will partner with you in defining and achieving your internship and job search goals throughout this academic year (2017-18). Marla brings extensive experience as a certified professional coach who has successfully coached hundreds of clients in various stages of their career continuum including students, individual contributors, managers, and those at the C-level.

Marla is a vital resource for you to leverage in planning and implementing your internship or post-graduate career search along with the MFM Career Portal (, which is available to you 24/7. I encourage you to first explore the MFM Career Portal and follow the steps to career success ( and then contact Marla with any questions that you might have related to launching your career.

For example, you may want to ask Marla to partner with you by:

When Marla visited campus on October 2nd through October 4th, most of you attended one or two of her presentations—and some students even scheduled a personal meeting with her. If you have not yet met her, she is looking forward to meeting all of you over the course of the academic year.

Typically, Marla will be onsite during the last week/first week of each month starting on Thursday morning and ending on Friday afternoon. During that time, she may be giving presentations that will help you to be more effective in your job search and scheduling time for one-on-one meetings with some of you. Other presenters may be invited to speak to you as well. Stay tuned for announcements about future presentations.

When she is not on campus, Marla will reserve 45-minute appointments on Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00AM through 1:00PM. She will also reserve time during her onsite visits for individual in-person meetings, when she is available. You can access her appointment calendar, by clicking the link at the bottom of the Meet with a Coach page on the MFM Career Portal. Note that appointment times are available through October. Additional times in November will be added soon.

I encourage you to take advantage of Marla as your career-planning partner. You can contact her as follows:


Office: SAS 3152

Make an Appointment: Click the Make an Appointment with Your Coach link on the MFM Career Portal

Bridging Academics from the Classroom to Practice

New Class for NC State’s Financial Mathematics Graduate Program: Practical Portfolio Management.

The Masters of Financial Mathematics at NC State is offering a new course, Practical Portfolio Management.  This course is about bridging the gap between academic knowledge/modeling and the practice of managing a portfolio. If you are a student studying in a quant/finance field, you might have asked yourself questions like "how can I apply this theorem in practice?" or "how practitioner operate things in practice?" These questions are critical to successfully moving your academic knowledge from the classroom to the workplace.

The course starts by considering what contributes to the risk premium; business risk, financial risk, liquidity risk, exchange rate risk, and/or political risk. Students make their own asset allocation decisions, by first creating their own policy statement, creating an initial portfolio, then rebalancing their portfolio on a weekly basis.

currency rates

Portfolios can be composed of a wide variety of assets, such as the S&P 500 Index, Equity ETFs, Treasury bonds, Stocks, and etc., is a typical example. The course will cover the pros and cons of quantitative tools.  Decisions to adjust portfolios or asset allocations may be based on the managers’ view, or on more quantitative algorithmic strategies implemented in R (portfolio-trading) or Python (see crowdsourcing ideas leader Quantopian).

portfolio dashboard

A critical aspect of managing their portfolio is the justifications for the asset allocation and rebalancing decisions.  The decisions will be influenced by the rapidly evolving financial landscape, and will necessitate considerations of events that can have strong impacts on your portfolio, such as Brexit (see discussions by Schwab and Forbes), Greece returning to debt markets, and the November elections in the US.

profit target

The course will have a nontraditional structure.  The traditional lecture-homework-exam structure is replaced by actively managing their $100,000,000 portfolio throughout the semester. Similar courses are sometimes offered through extension courses, such as Options, Trading and Strategies at UCB and Strategic Portfolio Decisions at Stanford.

Richard Ellson

Dr. Richard Ellson created this course.  He recently joined NC State’s Masters of Financial Mathematics as an Adjunct Associate Professor. Dr. Ellson’s career started as a tenured professor at the University of South Carolina.  He was recruited to work at Wall Street firms and spent 25+ years in the finance industry. Richard has worked in several areas, and has deep experiences in residential whole loan mortgages and agency/non-agency mortgage-backed securities. His broad experience in research, trading/hedging, structured finance (domestic and foreign), and product development will guide FM students to success in their prospective career.

Textbook:  Analysis of Investments and Management of Portfolios. Keith C. Brown, Frank K. Reilly, 10th edition.

More about Dr. Ellson:

blog post created by J. Scroggs and Daihon Kwon.


Fantastic Diverse Class of Students Starting Fall 2016 in the Financial Mathematics Program

Message from the Director...

Fantastic Diverse Class of Students Starting Fall 2016 in the Financial Mathematics Program

Class of 2016-2017

I am excited to welcome the class of 2017-2018 to the Masters of Financial Mathematics. The largest reward for me comes from working with talented and motivated candidates. Students always come from a variety of backgrounds and countries. This year, the main countries of origin are China, US, and India, but Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, and Malaysia are also represented.

While in NC State’s Financial Mathematics Program, you’ll learn synthesize theory with practice to analyze, quantify, manage and predict risks associated with financial instruments and price options, derivatives, and futures. Joining the MFM program means you’ll have a holistic educational experience, developing skills that enable a lifetime of personal and professional growth.

Huanying – Welcome – Swagat

Prof. Scroggs