November 11, 2013

Something New? Something BU! (MSMF)

One year ago, the words ‘Masters in Mathematical Finance’ flashed on my screen as I combed through the vast amount of graduate programs geared towards students with quantitative backgrounds. It felt like every day I woke up I had a new idea about how I was going to use my highly theoretical degree in math to study something with more tangible application and direct relevance to my life. Financial Engineering was an ideal medium by which I could use mathematical modeling and data analysis in the dynamic and exciting context of financial markets. By the end of October, I had taken the GRE, secured letters of recommendation, and submitted my application. Before I knew it, I had submitted my letter of intent and paid my deposit.

I was going to Boston. I WAS GOING TO BOSTON?!
My undergraduate school located in Spokane, Washington was nestled in a suburban neighborhood with about 2,200 undergrad students. Suddenly, I was signing up for something much larger, much more fast paced, and much more unknown to me.

Fast-forward several months to the middle of August. I found myself sitting in a Math refresher course where the humidity made my skin instantly sticky as I sat in a room with several other students anticipating the storm that everyone said would hit us and hit us hard. My emotional radar hit several extremes for those first few days: excitement, fear, anxiety, anticipation, happiness, homesickness, you name it! This time provided an excellent transition period with a nice balance of sitting in class, meeting classmates, and most of all, having free afternoons to find footing in such a lively city.
It has been about two months in Boston and school is in full swing. We have been through the math refresher course, were sufficiently oriented and welcomed during orientation week, had a few days to prepare for the beginning of the semester, and now are just on the verge of panic mode as we persevere through difficult problem sets, attempt to identify our career goals, and anticipate midterms. However, the amount of personal, professional, and academic learning that has taken place just in this brief time is absolutely incredible. We have built relationships with faculty, forged friendships with classmates, gained exposure to the industry, and probably had a few “Why on Earth did I sign up for this program?” moments. From what we’ve been told, we are right on schedule! We are fortunate to have a cohort of second year Math Finance students who are willing to advise, guide, shed wisdom, and empathize.

The opportunities that come with the Boston University Mathematical Finance degree are vast – even more than I was aware! Weekly emails signal to us important deadlines, networking opportunities, alternative lectures, and social events. There is a prestige that comes with the Boston University SMG and I am so grateful to someday be apart of the network of BU professionals. The relationships I have formed with classmates and professors are rich and will reap many benefits. Learning alongside classmates who have different intuitions and thought processes encourage different ways of approaching similar problems. There is nothing more inspiring than walking into a classroom that is led by some of the brightest minds in the industry, is unified by the passion to learn math, and that requires us to wrestle with theory and application.

If these next 17 months are anything like the first few months, I know I am setting myself up for personal, professional, and academic development and success.

Annika is using an academic background of mathematics and a passion for financial markets to leverage career opportunities in quantitative portfolio management or risk management. Annika enjoys cooking new food, drinking coffee, running, exploring Boston, and playing Sudoku. 

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November 8, 2013

My exciting -working- summer in Boston with Education Pioneers!

I had a great experience working to the Graduate Summer Fellowship at Education Pioneers, a national non-profit organization that promotes leadership towards the Education Reform. I am passionate about reducing inequality and better understanding of the education issues would allow me to find my niche in this sector. From a social perspective, there isn't anything more important than education as it is the best way to equip people for life!

As a fellow, I worked for the Strategic Planning Office at Boston Public Schools. The district is changing its student assignment policy to prioritize quality and options closer to students’ home. This policy is going to be implemented next year and it will impact the enrollment of the entire district. There, I created a progression model to find out building usage efficiency opportunities and prepared enrollment projections for SPED (special education) students. Both projects are connected to the long-term capital investment plan and the district initiative to increase inclusion opportunities for students with disabilities. I took advantage of this opportunity to learn more about finances, evaluations, development, IT, budgeting from the school and central office view.

On the other hand, I enjoyed a great cohort experience as I talked to people with different backgrounds, professional experience (ie, teachers, policy mindset guys) and schools from all over the country. I got a better understanding of education reform and the opportunity gap we are facing. More importantly, I had the chance to have really open and honest conversations about issues in education in a very casual and open-minded environment. I met entrepreneurs, tech people, school leaders and funds that are supporting innovation at schools – I would not know about all these initiatives otherwise!
Last but not least, the program promoted social interactions and the opportunity to share leadership stories among fellows, and all of which were as cool as inspirational! Personally, I appreciated close contact with teachers and getting to know professionals that are working passionately every day to improve education!

Felipe is a 2nd year MBA in Boston University's Public & Nonprofit Program. He is interested in the social sector and enjoys conversations about how to solve complex social issues. During the first year he collaborated to run the Internship Fund, a student led-initiative that supports financially students that want to pursue social impact and career accelerating internships. Last but not least, he loves spending time with his nephews and playing soccer.

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November 4, 2013

3 Steps to Landing a Silicon Valley Internship from Boston

Before setting foot in Boston for the start of 1st year, I targeted Khan Academy as the place I wanted to intern. I've been a long fan of the organization's mission of providing a "Free world class education for anyone anywhere" and was excited by the wave of disruptive innovation they are bringing to the education sector. But with an internship target on the opposite coast and little background in the education industry, I faced a few major questions around how to get there. 

One the most under-promoted skills you gain in business school is strategic planning. This goes beyond big firms making decisions about which project to launch next, customer segments to target or companies to acquire. Strategic planning in the "life-sense" is picking an ideal scenario in the future and building a road map backwards to look at the paths that will take you there. Here are the three ways SMG friends, clubs and resources helped me land a spot at Khan Academy:

1. ITEC New Venture Competition
Participate in a business plan competition, regardless of whether you want to peruse an entrepreneurship career path. Venture competitions force you to get out into the real world and do your own industry analysis, find out the holes in a market and explore different business models. I pitched my way to the final round of BU's New Venture Competition based on a concept for a new mobile product to increase parent engagement in K-12 education. To learn what parents, teachers and students cared about most in a new potential product, I had to go and interview tons of parents, teachers and students. The process both clarified the product vision and armed me with the language and trends in the education technology sector. 

2. West Coast Networking Club
Location matters. Khan Academy is based in Silicon valley, so I joined the West Coast Networking Club for the Tech Trek learn the culture and visit firms in the Bay Area. The trip is student coordinated so we get to both leverage SMG's West Coast network and build new relationships with target companies. Twenty of us escape four days of class in early February to visit Google, HP, Zynga, NetApp, Chevron and an interesting collection of startups. I also took this opportunity to arrange a personal informational interview at Khan Academy to learn what they were looking for in candidates and areas where they planned to grow so I could figure out how to align my skills with their needs. I can't stress enough how valuable the process and knowledge that come from the New Venture Competition was in giving me the background to have a high quality conversation in an newly familiar industry. (Photo: so shocked by finding the House from Full House that I leapt into the arms of my fellow MS-MBA cohort-mates, Adhiraj and Shourya)

3. Classmate Connections
You can never stop networking. I got the chance for the informational interview by reaching out to all of my SMG classmates who had LinkedIn connections to the organization. People at SMG really are excited to help each other, so the clearer you can articulate your goals, the more likely you are to find a friend who can put you on a path to landing that dream internship. (Photo: damp after a foggy bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge with fellow SMG Bay Area interns Mark, Adhiraj and Jon. This pic also proves how few clothes I brought with me for the summer.)

Matt was a finalist in BU’s New Venture Competition based on a mobile product to increase parent engagment in K-12 education. He is focused on technology strategy and developing new media products and services. Outside of class, Matt bounds around Boston visiting tech networking events, applies strategies from his Negotiations class while planning his upcoming wedding and is the reigning champion in his Fantasy Congress League.

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