March 29, 2011

MBA Time Machine

(above) Ajay and other Cohort D students enjoy their trip to Guatemala

Post By Ajay Mehta
MBA Candidate 2011

MBA Time Machine

Two years of school in the middle of my career was the perfect break from the working world. It was tough to adjust to the no-income student lifestyle but looking back it was one of the best decisions to advance my career and grow as a professional. BU was able to give me the tools necessary to succeed, but I think that’s only part of the business school experience. For me it was the group of friends and team members I will keep in touch with throughout my career, as well as travelling with them across the world learning about business and experiencing different cultures. From drinking Gallo in Guatemala to climbing the Great Wall, all of these experiences have shaped me as a person and as a leader.

As corny as it sounds, it did change my outlook on life and help me organize my career. Looking at my classmates and the wide variety of career and job possibilities let me really understand what I want in life and my next opportunity.

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March 25, 2011

Math Finance: To Gamble or not to Gamble

Post by:
Rob Pierce
Math Finance candidate

Math Finance: To Gamble or not to Gamble

Hey everyone, Rob here!

I have another blurb from my life as a Math Finance student this Spring. We were smack in the middle of our midterms 2 weeks ago, having completed 2 out of 4 them, when everyone decided enough was enough! So we all took a break for a week, each of us spending some time to recuperate and relax, some of us traveling farther away from Boston than others to do just that. Yes spring break was upon us, but just as quickly as it sprang upon us (pun intended), it also came to an end. Time for 2 more midterms!

So what did I do over my spring break? I studied for my classes, but I also had fun doing it; let me explain. Right now we are enrolled in an algorithmic trading class, where we are being bread to think in the fast paced world of letting our computers trade for us. In courses like this, it is becoming apparent that having some experience playing games like poker or blackjack, where probability takes over in our decision making process to make money, could be very important. It’s not a coincidence that many poker players seen on TV in the World Series of Poker were former traders and employees on Wall Street.

So I decided to try my luck, and with a couple of friends, went to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. There, we tried our luck at the poker and blackjack tables. It was very fun and exhilarating, but scary at the same time. You are putting your chips on the table, and trusting the odds that your hand beats your opponents’ hand (or in blackjack, the dealer). Sometimes things didn’t go your way, and sometimes things did, but in the end, if you rely on your best guess (the expected value), then, you have the best chance of winning (which is usually below 50-50). I would say that poker is the closest game that we played to trading and finance, because you are competing against several other players at the same time. You have to constantly be updating your perception of how good your hand is, based on the bets made by the other players, and the extra cards that are being put on the table. You can also bluff, and push the other players at the table to believe something that is not true, which is akin to pushing the market by moving a lot of shares, for instance.

All in all, I would not recommend going to the casino to everyone, because they are very good at taking your money, and it can be very nerve racking for people who are risk averse. It was, however, a fun and educational experience, and I’m glad that I went!

Thus, that is how I studied for my classes, and enjoyed it too! Sometimes it’s a good idea to find the unusual ways to get your work done, which helps you appreciate the material you are working so hard to learn, just a little bit more.

Now, it’s back to the usual form of studying!

Until next time,

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March 21, 2011


Post By Juan Estrada, International MBA candidate.

I continue to write about job search related subject as this is my top priority this semester. Last semester I focused on raising my GPA and didn’t do much more related to looking for a job than attending the NSHMBA conference in Chicago and interviewing with a couple of companies.

This final semester I am spending just enough energy on keeping up with my courses. They are a little less demanding and more qualitative oriented than the courses in previous semesters, which helps. Plus, I feel I’m forward in the learning curve, I spend half the time I used to at the beginning of the MBA reading and analyzing a case and I am able contribute just as much during class. Most of my energy I am spending building up a network. Following the advice of a speaker that was brought to school by the Feld Career Center, Dan Beaudry, author of “Power Ties” (a guidebook on job search strategies for international students in the US), I am looking for a job through this method instead of the traditional, direct approach of filling out internet applications and the upfront “I’m interested in applying to position X at your company” at career fairs.

As explained by Mr. Beaudry, the traditional approach always goes through the Human Resources department, which he explains (and I have experienced it) is not anywhere close to being an international student’s best friend. They are not to blame; their job is to deal with company policies and human capital. Policies and standards require criteria to filter candidates and very common criterion is to avoid the hassle and the cost of sponsoring an international student for a work visa. Perfectly understandable, but it doesn’t help me. Plus, he estimates (don’t ask me how), that only 20% of jobs and open positions get posted through the traditional channels. The remaining 80% are filled through word of mouth and personal acquaintances. It’s cheaper for a company to rely on one of its manager’s recommendation or instruction to fill out a position with someone he knows than the costly and lengthy process of screening and interviewing candidates. He recommends international students to pursue the constructions of relationships and networks of people that will keep you in mind when they come to need to fill out a position, and most importantly, of people who have the power to do so (regardless of the HR policy- so managers and high level executives).

I decided then to attend conferences and career fairs from a different angle. I don’t ask for open positions or jobs but instead I look up the companies beforehand, find a concise reason to justify my interest for them and ask the recruiter for 10 minutes of their time for a meeting in person some other day. This got me five contacts at companies I have an interest for at the last Harvard Healthcare conference. Three of them actually got back to me and two have kept in touch. One I already met in person (for almost an hour), and he provided me with a list of companies similar in size and industry, a referral to the recruiting manager and personalized tips for future interviews. It’s not a job, but it is certainly much more useful than the “Thanks for applying” the computer displays when you submit an application online.

Additionally, I have let a lot of the people I work with and go or went to class with in the past that I am looking for a job in the life sciences industry. At least five good contacts and a couple more informational interviews (also over half an hour) have emerged from people who know people and who have been willing to help.

The process doesn’t necessarily go fast but it is certainly much more dynamic, didactic and in parallel than the traditional approach. When a lead or an application doesn’t turn out to become a job it doesn’t get to you because you have a bunch of remaining leads on the works. Slowly but surely, and hopefully, one of these leads will land me the job I am looking for.

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March 3, 2011

BU Life and Math Finance

Post by:

Rob Pierce
MS in Mathematical Finance Candidate

Hi Everyone! I am a new Graduate Assistant at the GAO, and I am a first year student in the Mathematical Finance Program! I just wanted to chime in with a few comments about my experience here at BU.

First let me give you a little background so you know where I’m coming from:

I grew up in the Boston area, just South of the city; In High School I was really interested in Finance and Marketing, but at heart, I was a Science geek; I went on to study Physics and Geology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst; I bridged my interests in Science and Finance through the Mathematical Finance program here at BU!

So, did I make the right decision?

I’m confident that I did.

The Math Finance program here at BU is extremely difficult, but is also extremely rewarding. I’m sure that if you’ve already been accepted, or if you’re researching the program for the first time, that this was one of the first things you learned about the program. But then again, why would you be applying to Graduate School if you weren’t expecting a lot of work? I’ve already met some great friends, great Professors, and of course Boston is the greatest city in the world!

Anyway, let me tell you about our courses. We just finished our first semester where we studied Fundamental Theory in Finance, Probability Theory, Fundamental Stochastic Calculus, and Optimization in Economic Theory. These courses were deeply involved with the Mathematics needed to understand real world financial applications, and less involved with the applications themselves. The hardest course, in my opinion, was Stochastic Calculus since this had the most theory, much of which we were seeing for the first time. But, the professor of that course, Dr. Kostas Kardaras, was a very formidable teacher and definitely up to the task! Overall we had some late nights working on homework assignments, but we all got through it!

Since the spring semester has only just begun, I can’t really say much about our courses now. We are taking Programming in C++, Fixed Income Securities, Statistical Methods applied to Finance and Economics, and Stochastic Optimal Control Theory. The courses are definitely starting to move towards teaching real world applications of the Mathematics we learned in the first semester. And, obviously, the Math is still there, and what we are learning is also building on what we learned in the first semester. For example, Stochastic Calculus is still everywhere!!! There will be more to come about our courses this semester.

The other really important aspect of our education right now is the hunt for an Internship. This is arguably the most demanding aspect of our lives right now because we are all competing to work for some really fantastic companies in Boston and other parts of the world. We are learning some great advice about how to present ourselves to companies, what life is like on the job (for example, two gentleman from Fidelity told us about their work life, and what we need to learn to be like them), and also how to build our résumés. I’ll let you know more about this in the future as well.

As for life in Boston, I love it, but I grew up here, so I might be a little biased. It’s still pretty cold, but it hasn’t snowed in a couple of weeks. We can finally see the ground beneath all of the snow we got in December and January. Now that we are getting back into the swing of things, we are starting do more activities together outside of classes. We have had some functions at restaurants/bars, we are spending time at the BU gym (which is amazing!).

All in all, things are great, but still very difficult! Diligence is necessary, but with it good things will come.

Until next time,


About the author:

Rob Pierce is a first year, full time Mathematical Finance (MSMF) student. He graduated from UMass Amherst in 2010, where he Majored in Physics. While at Umass, he analyzed models that predict future climate change in Antarctica due to global warming scenarios. In his free time, Rob likes running, going out with friends in the city, playing fantasy sports, and listening to classic rock music on his iPod.

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