Networking and making connections- tips for Financial Math students

Are you an introvert? Are you shy? Are you nervous talking and meeting professionals? Many Financial Math students have answered yes to these questions.

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Networking and making connections can be scary. What do I say? What if they do not like me or want to talk to me? Networking and making meaningful connections is essential to increase your chances of landing an interview for a job opportunity. Here are some tips:

Plan a time limit. By setting a time limit, the event will not seem like an unending activity. Being around people can deplete your energy and that can make networking events uncomfortable. Plan to rest before and after networking events so you have energy while you are attending the event.

Set a goal. Give yourself a goal on how many people you want to have meaningful conversations with. This provides purpose and helps you to focus on talking to the right people rather than talking to everyone.

Understand your fear. When you understand what part of networking brings you anxiety, you can isolate the specifics and find resources to help reduce the fears. If needed, you can ask for help and alleviate stress from the next tip...

Bring a friend. You may feel more comfortable attending networking events if there is someone who can support you. They may also share the same anxieties and together you can work to overcome those fears. Just remember to not only talk to your friend.

Focus on the other person. Divert attention from yourself by asking questions to put focus on their career stories, experiences and advice. This will help to reduce your stress, and provide you the information you are seeking.

Finally, smile. 🙂 People who attend networking events are there to help others or gain advice and help for themselves. They want to meet you!

“Meet our Financial Math Alumni Series”- Meet Yi Chao

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"Speak to people…Increase your network!"- Yi Chao, May 2015 Graduate

Yi Chao recently graduated from the Financial Math program in May 2015. She was an active student in our program as a Career Ambassador and Intern. While studying hard to be among the top of her class, she also took full advantage of all career development activities. Her hard work paid off as she received a full-time job opportunity to work at Maxpoint.

Yi Chao is currently working as a Product Analyst at Maxpoint in RTP (Research Triangle Park) in North Carolina. We are glad she took the time to share her experiences and advice to incoming, current and prospective students. Her interview below- by Preethi Kankanala

Why did you decide to get a Master’s Degree in Financial Math program at NCSU?

Yi Chao: I received a Bachelors in Applied Mathematics in China. While I was studying I always wanted to do something that can be applied to daily life situations. After taking courses Microeconomics, Econometrics and Game- Theory, I felt finance was the best direction for me to take as a career choice.

I was fascinated by real-time data, the movement of stock prices and how the daily market situations affect the price. With the Mathematics background I had, Financial Mathematics was the best field to choose.

How did the Financial Math program prepare you for your job?

Yi Chao: I took mostly statistic courses as I was interested in analyzing data. Also, I enhanced my programming skills after coming here. I did not have much programming experience before coming here, but after the Monte Carlo class, the assignments and projects in the course helped me improve my programming skills and I ended up with an A+ in that class.

Also it is very important to concentrate on all the courses equally, because you never know which one will help you more during the job search, so I put equal effort in all classes.

How was your experience with your summer internship at Altrius Capital?

Yi Chao: Working with Altrius Capital Investment company gave me a great hands-on experience on valuation and real world concepts behind trading. My project at Altrius included doing market research for a fixed income market trader. I used financial statements & balance sheets to analyze the different companies, and give suggestions to the trader.

The other project I worked on is more quantitative, using Morningstar software we transferred the data to excel and analyzed the data of public companies.

Can you explain more about your current job? And how is internship helping you for this job?

Yi Chao: I am now working in Maxpoint as a Product Analyst. My job mainly consists of market research, analyzing data, try to get insights from it and improve our product. My project is mostly done in Python. We use statistical models to analyze the data, find target users and serve advertisements.

From the surface, my present job and the internship projects seems to be different but at the core they are almost the same. The thinking method is similar by using quantitative methods to do research and solve problems.

Important to note, at work we give lot of presentations. My internship allowed me to enhance my soft skills and learn how to communicate better. I am now more confident in giving presentations in my current job.

What are the different position you have applied for the full time and how did you apply for those?

Yi Chao: I applied mostly for the Quantitative jobs, Risk Management and Data Analyst roles. Most of the jobs I have applied were through LinkedIn and Glassdoor. However, besides applying to jobs online, it is also very important to follow up with the application through the respective HR manager or with any alumni working in the same company (If there are any).

How did the career fairs help you?

Yi Chao: Career fairs gives you a lot information. You will get to know the companies and the different positions they offer. It is the best place to network and market yourself. Many job requirements ask for 3-5 years of experience in any of the programming languages, but if you show you have great analytical and problem solving skills and learn quickly, there is a chance they may hire you. It helps to be confident in the skills you have.

What are your suggestions for the current and future students?

Yi Chao: The main advice I would like to give to the students is, network with the people, do not let your fear or inhibitions to take a back step on this. There is never a harm if you speak to people, only good happens. Keeping aside about job, you will get to know lot of information from their experience. Also contact people through LinkedIn. I talked to lot of Financial Math Alumni and learned a lot from them. I also got a few interview calls because of my network.

Grasp every opportunity to talk to people, professors, alumni and people coming from industry. Keep looking for what you are interested in because that is what gives you the passion to learn or work. Push yourself to be the best you can and then you will know your potential.

Regarding jobs and internships, make sure you start applying as early as possible and make a very good resume, and be clear on each and everything that is written on your resume.

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Thank you Yi! We appreciate your time and advice.

Meet our Financial Math Alumni- Brandon Blevins

Meet Brandon Blevins, Product Controller at Credit Suisse in New York City. Brandon graduated from the Financial Math program in 2009. We were glad to catch up with him in Manhattan and learn about his job and life in the city.

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Part I: Education & Job Background

1) How did the program prepare you for your job?

Brandon: The Financial Mathematics program gave me the background about quantitative finance. It provided me with the basics on how financial assets work, how models applied to assets, and how interest rate curves work.

2) Describe your job.

Brandon: Currently, my job is Product Controller at Credit Suisse. The main point of Product Control is to ensure that the Profit and Loss (PL) generated by portfolios reviewed gets to the general ledger of the bank, which then is reported to shareholders and board members who make financial decisions based on Credit Suisse earnings.

My day involves reviewing risks on books, making sure risks are within tolerances, and P/L are in line with the risks. For example, suppose you have net Vega on a single position of $100K. The volatility moved on the position by 100 basis points and you did not make or lose any money on that position. Did that make sense? It is the Product Controller’s job to make sure it does makes sense. If something is wrong, we flag it. We make comments on any big moves, big losses, and provide reasons why money is lost.

Part II: Analytic techniques

3) Does your company use stochastic models? If it does, what kind of models are used? Is there any reason for choosing these models?

Brandon: We use Black-Scholes formula to build up implied volatility curve. Options with the same underlyings and maturity but different strike prices have different implied volatility. The same options with different maturities may also have different implied volatility. Thus, implied volatility is a function of strike price and maturity, and we can define a volatility surface. We also use jump-diffusion models to model certain protocols. For example, is there a big court case coming up in the next few years for a specific company, or does this specific company have any big products coming out in a few years? That is where jump-diffusion comes into play.

Part III: Risk management

4) How does the crisis and the regulation policies enacted afterwards affect the behavior of your company?

Brandon: Radically. Since then, many parts of businesses have been shut down. Interest rate products have been drastically cut by 90%, because the Feds have kept rates low. There is a huge push to move everything onto exchange and standardize all products. Any flow business has been hit hard such as the credit default swap (CDS) market. Junk bond market has been on fire lately. But it did excite the mortgage back portion.

5) The goal of risk management is to achieve a balance between returns and risks. Thus, with lots of capitals and human resource spent, risk management may, to some extent, reduce a company’s profits. Now suppose you are a leader of a financial institution. Driven by the motivation of maximizing the profits, will you pay enough attention for risk management?

Brandon: Lead traders will listen to risk management and work in conjunction to set risk limits and VAR measures. If the limits get breached, everyone will look at it.

6) You used to be an interest rate derivative analyst, but now you are focusing on equity derivatives. So in your opinion, what is the difference between the interest rate derivative market and the equity derivative market?

Brandon: Interest rate market and equity derivative market start to look alike with low volatility. The bond market did very well in the past, but now it hover sideways because of the flat yield curve environment. Equity market is experiencing the same problem. Rates are not moving and are low.

Part IV: Suggestion & Advice

7) What skills set are important to succeed in your field? And what kind of courses will you recommend for current students to take.

Brandon: Networking! Make sure people like you, so they will recommend you. I landed all of my jobs because I knew people who worked for companies that I wanted to join as well. I got the interviews because people recommended me. Therefore, students should get out there, meet people, talk to them, learn from them, make relationship with them, and then they will recommend you for jobs. Just get connected! People can put you in positions to succeed, and give you opportunities to help you succeed. If they like you, they want to you succeed.

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Thank you Brandon!

NC State’s Financial Math 10 year anniversary celebration

On Friday, April 25th 2014, NC State's Masters of Financial Math program celebrated it's 10 year anniversary. Alumni, employers, faculty and current students enjoyed an evening together catching up, networking and enjoying authentic Szechuan cuisine in SAS Hall. Big thanks to our sponsors: Andrew Davidson & Co., Progress Software , and The Sloan Foundation.

Below are a few pictures that captured the fun event.

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Thanks to everyone that came!

Keep a lookout for an upcoming post on the recap of the Alumni Panel discussion that proceeded this event.

NC State's College of Science article about the Financial Math program

Photography- Michael Zirkle

Music- Bruce Emery

Networking and the Financial Math Board – a student’s perspective

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Every year, NC State’s Master of Financial Math (MFM) program holds Fall and Spring Board meetings. (Background- “MFM’s Board consists of alumni, faculty and professionals from industry. They meet to support and discuss the future direction of the program. The Board advocates for the MFM program within NC State and with external constituents. Board members may mentor students and provide related work opportunities such as internships and job shadowing experiences,” Leslie Bowman, Director of Career Services)

This past fall semester 2013, was my first opportunity to engage with board members from SAS, Genworth, Duke Energy and Local Government Federal Credit Union. The Career Ambassadors, including myself, helped the Director of Career Services ensure the board meeting events occurred smoothly. Their appropriate behavior and professional dress received compliments and left employers a wonderful impression.

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“I am excited that it is my first time to exercise my elevator pitch”, Yi Chao (May 2015 Graduate) “My task was greeting the employers upon arrival and showing them to the meeting room. I was still a little shy and nervous when leading the first employer; however, I turned out to be more brave and natural the following time”.

“I talked with Mr. Jeffrey Lovern from Genworth with my elevator pitch”, said Xun Ma(May 2015 Graduate), “The employers are much nicer than I imagined. Just be brave and talk to them; you’ll find any anxiety you have will decrease as the conversation continues. Just be yourself!”

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After the Board meeting, there was a reception where all MFM students could engage with the Board members. The discussion topics covered specific skill sets required for internships, future job opportunities and the future development of course selection.

Catherine (May 2015 Graduate) felt very beneficial from talking to Mrs. Megan Jennings from Duke Energy (MFM Alumni). “Our talk initiated my passion to work in the energy industry”, she said, “I think it is suitable for me. However, the job will demand more statistical knowledge. So I will consider taking more statistic courses.”

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Yi Chao, Jason Massey (May 2015 Graduate) and Priya Padher (May 2015 Graduate) had an interesting conversation with Mr. Albert Hopping from SAS (MFM Alumni). Mr. Hopping’s success and experience in risk management was inspiring. Yi Chao asked technical questions about catastrophe risk controlling which created the group's interest in learning more. Priya asked the qualifications SAS requires in potential interns. “It is never too late to improve our technical, communicational and problem solving skills to become qualified candidates.”

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The board meeting and reception was successful, and the students were happy to meet and converse with the board members.

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“I am glad I was an active participant in this event. I really learned a lot and improved my conversational and networking skills. We appreciate our time spent with the Financial Math board members, and are thankful for their knowledge and support with our program.”- Yi Chao

By Yi Chao, May 2015 Graduate, Financial Math Intern & Career Ambassador

We look forward to the Spring Financial Math Board Meeting to take place this Friday, April 25th, 2014 along with a celebration to mark 10 years! 

Meet Xiaohong Chen- Career Ambassador of the week!

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"Hello, My name is  Xiaohong Chen, a current student in the Masters of Financial Mathematics Program of NCSU. I have been in the United States for over nine months now and I feel this is one of the greatest times in my life!

To me, ‘quant’ was once a mysterious but exciting word, which captured my imagination. I can still remember the first time I learned about the binomial tree option pricing model; I became instantly fascinated with learning more. Since then, becoming a 'quant’ was my dream. Thus, I decided to come to NC State to chase this dream!

During my time here, I have realized that being a quant is challenging. Through the Financial Math’s career development services, I attended a job shadowing program to a local financial institution. Through this learning experience I got the chance to communicate with employees (in risk management and investment departments) to understand their job responsibilities. The job shadowing event was a great opportunity and I realized which career path I did and did not want to pursue. (Tip- it is just as important to know what you do and do not want to do in life) 

After carefully consideration, I have decided to pursue a Ph.D. in math after graduation. I know there is long way to go, and I will never give up my dream. If possible, I wish to be a Quantitative developer one day. I have talents and gifts in programming and I want to make full use of this skill in my future position. For next several years in academia, I plan to build a solid foundation for math and complement my background in computer science in order to make myself qualified for this job. This is a long way off, but it is a laudable dream. And I believe I can make it one day!

Life here is not tedious. I have enjoyed some of the greatest moments of my life and I made best friends in the past year. NC State’s Financial Math program offers several professional events during the year, and I am honored to be a Career Ambassador and actively participate in these activities. These experiences have already helped me improve my social skills and professionalism, which will help me network to land my dream job one day. I appreciate all these opportunities I have within this program and I quite enjoy my life here."

Xiaohong Chen, May 2015 Graduate, Financial Math Intern & Career Ambassador

Bloomberg visit- women have more influence on the economy than men!

He is one of Bloomberg’s top economists.

He predicted the 2008 financial crisis in 2007.

He was hailed as “Nostradamus of the Financial Industry” by Bank Advisor in 2008.

His name is Richard Yamarone. Mr. Yamarone recently visited North Carolina State University and talked with Financial Math students about career paths in Wall Street, and well as outlook on the economy.

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Mr. Richard Yamarone started his speech by talking about how to prepare for jobs in Wall Street. He stressed the importance of networking, pointing out that even your classmates and alumni are great resources to socialize with. He also stated that grades may not have much impact on your career developments. Instead, your transferable skills and personal ability matters more and should be highlighted in your resume and interview.

In terms of preparing for interviews, Mr. Richard Yamarone suggested that we should read the news everyday to keep up to date on the latest trends and news in the industry. He also discussed the tough job market and getting used to rejection. He shared his personal experience as an example, and how he landed a job in Wall Street.

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Later, Mr. Richard Yamarone changed his topic to indicators for economic forecasting. He believes that there is no holy grail of economic indicators but the ‘Fab Five’ indicators he summarized may shed some lights on predicting. The ‘Fab Five’ refers to:

(1) Dining out

(2) Casino Gambling

(3) Jewelry & Watch

(4) Cosmetics & Perfumes

(5) Women’s Dresses

Yes, these are all related with women’s consumption. Mr. Richard Yamarone concluded that women have high influence on the economy not men!

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Thank you, Mr. Richard Yamarone for your wonderful and enlightening presentation!

Share your thoughts- Do you think women have more influence than men on the economy? Do you think grades matter or not?

-Xiaohong Chen, May 2015 Graduate, Career Ambassador

Meet Yi Chao- Career Ambassador of the Week

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"My name is Yi Chao (May 2015 Graduate), currently a first year graduate student in Financial Mathematics at NC State. I grow up in Baoji, a small city in the middle of China. During 4 years’ college life in Beijing, the capital of China, I found myself really enjoy modern city life. For example, I enjoyed spending all the day in museums and art galleries. After arriving at Raleigh, North Carolina, I quickly adapt life here such as enjoying nature by hiking in the parks around the city. I have also fallen in love with the warm sunshine and fresh air here.

Since I major in math during undergraduate, it may be a natural choice for me to pursue a Masters in Financial Math. I have enjoyed the feeling of applying the mathematical knowledge I learned in classes into reality by receiving several prizes in mathematical modeling contest. As my graduate studies have progressed, I realized Financial Mathematics is much more than I thought. Now I focus more on the risk management field by taking the extra steps with the Financial Risk Analysis and FRM certification this semester.

My interest in risk management came to be through an internship in the “Enterprise Risk Service” department at Deloitte in 2012. During that internship, our team worked hard building a risk appetite system for a large reinsurance company. We researched and modified the well-known Qis5 model according to the company’s real situation. Although this was challenging and we faced many technical obstacles, we finally made it out.

Comparing to myself at that time, I have much more knowledge both in math and finance now through the Masters in Financial Math program. Together with this, I engaged in leadership positions as a Career Ambassador and Financial Math Intern this semester. Our Director of Career Services, Mrs. Bowman, provided opportunities to understand more about networking with employers, and interview and presentation skills. I am looking forward to future opportunities to apply these new skills with my past work experience and enhanced knowledge in the risk management field."- Yi Chao

Spring 2014 semester kicks off with SAS Alumni presentation

"Financial Math students at NCSU started this spring semester with gusto. After a relaxing winter vacation and eager to get back to studies, students had their first meeting with the Director of Career Services, Mrs. Leslie Bowman. In this meeting students were briefed about professional etiquettes and were given tips on how to engage potential recruiters in conversation.

These activities make the Financial Math program at NCSU unique. It is not just the interesting classes, the supportive professors but also the keen interest taken by the program in their overall development which attracts the best of students to the university.

The Director of the program, Dr. Jeffrey Scroggs leaves no stone unturned to give students exposure to the working of the real world of finance. As part of these efforts, Dr. Scroggs and Mrs. Bowman invited alumni of the program, working with SAS, to talk with students.

The session was interactive and carried valuable insight into the software industry. Alumni of the program like Mr. Albert Hopping are a valuable asset to the program, and are intimately involved in adding value to the program. Thus, graduate students of the Financial Math program get the best of both, academic and professional worlds."

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SAS employee and NCSU Financial Math Alumnus, Albert Hopping, presenting to the class about SAS.

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SAS Employees and Financial Math Alumni- Sara Meadors, Ling Xiang, Mark Jayne, Albert Hopping

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Q&A networking session after SAS presentation

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"With such a wonderful start to this semester, the students eagerly look forward the rest of the semester and the engaging activities that follow as a part of being a student of Financial Math at NC State."- Priya

(Post written by Priya Padher, Financial Math intern- May 2015 graduate)

How I landed my dream job two months before graduation

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.