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How hard is it to go from engineering to finance with the help of an MBA?


Replies to: How hard is it to go from engineering to finance with the help of an MBA?

  • jdcollegedadjdcollegedad Registered User Posts: 227 Junior Member
    @Collegesurfer093 If you are interested in finance, you should absolutely pursue an MBA! A lot of the advice you are receiving here is uninformed. In the way of background, I earned a BSEE and a BA in Economics undergrad, and decided at the end of undergraduate that I had no interest in engineering as a career. I went on to earn an MBA with a concentration in accounting and had an internship in a corporate finance department of a large technology company arranged by a college advisor. From the MBA, I went to work as a bank regulator in NYC, earned a CFA, attended a MS program in computational finance, worked as the head of market risk management for an international bank in NY, the head of risk management for the US office of one of the largest pension funds in the world and as a product manager/developer for a major prime broker in NYC. As a graduate of a rigorous undergraduate program, I ran circles around MBA students that studied business undergrad, and the same has been true in my jobs in finance. I interview summer analysts and associates for my investment bank. I can tell you that an engineering background would set you apart in a positive way from other applicants. I sat on a committee that decided which analysts and associates to make full-time offers to at the end of the summer. In general, analysts and associates were viewed as inexperienced, whether they happened to have a couple of years of experience in finance or another discipline. The analysts and associates that received full-time offers took it upon themselves to network widely within the firm, conveyed a professional impression and fully embraced their assignments. A lot of the assignments seemed like busy work (hard to assign something useful to someone inexperienced and only working the summer), but I always try to assign projects that have value to the firm and provide an opportunity for the interns to prove themselves. At the end of the summer, they present a summary of their work. The hiring committee sits around a table and discusses the intangibles of each candidate, and the candidates with the most vocal and numerous advocates tend to get hired. In those discussions, I never heard anyone recite someone's job before they were an intern. So, if you are interested in working in finance, approach it with your full energy and turn your problem-solving background into an asset and differentiator. I have a son that is a high school junior and looking into what to study in college. My strong advice to him would be to NOT study business undergraduate, unless he is specifically interested in accounting where that is the only path to becoming a CPA. The quicker someone becomes a CPA and on the path to partnership the better. Do something different first that is interesting and develops other skills. Don't be that person who studies business undergrad and then studies the same thing with an MBA. Otherwise, you are going to look just like everyone else...same dress, same language, same way of looking at the problem, basically a carbon copy. Do something that provides you with a unique perspective! Don't listen to someone that tells you that there is only one path to a particular career! That's ridiculous!
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 7,322 Senior Member
    edited February 13
    @jdcollegedad: It is important to highlight the continuous path of structured learning followed by this poster. BA/BS followed by an MBA, then CFA, then MS in computational finance. And to note that a background & ability in "problem solving" is viewed as a significant asset & talent.

    But I also think that it is a bit unfair to label some other posters as "uninformed". Several of these posters focused on what they perceive or experienced as the difficulty of getting one's first internship or full time job in finance without prior work experience in finance. Hopefully, this is an area which the above poster might be able to address more fully.
  • jdcollegedadjdcollegedad Registered User Posts: 227 Junior Member
    At the firms where I worked, most of the full-time analysts and associates worked first as summer interns for the firm. Many of the summer interns either knew someone in the firm that tied them into the hiring process or went to a short list of colleges that the senior hiring managers were high on. It is possible to make a connection to an existing employee through networking, which is what one of my interns from a second tier college in Canada did. From there, it is up to every candidate to make the case in their resumes and interviews what they bring to the table that is special or unique.
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,913 Senior Member
    FWIW, while I don't know everything about everything that goes on, as I said in post # , I wouldn't agree that I am "uninformed", fundamentally.

    However it is the internet. so y'all can decide for yourselves.

    I went from engineering to finance with the help of an MBA.
    I then worked front office at investment banks for over a dozen years, then worked on the trading floor of a commodities trading firm.
    I am informed to that extent, based on what I lived and observed over those years. YMMV.

  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,913 Senior Member
    edited February 13
    I would agree that the most quantitative people can go into financial engineering and risk management , At my firm these were not MBA jobs. At my last firm they were held by ex-physical science PhDs and the like, and others who had advanced training in financial engineering ( specifically; not MBA). Based on quoted GPA, and choice of MBA rather than financial engineering master's, I assumed OP was not likely headed that way.

    I do recall someone who went that route via a "Mathematical Finance" program at BU, FWIW. He was brilliant. That was some years ago, by now . That was not an MBA program.
  • jdcollegedadjdcollegedad Registered User Posts: 227 Junior Member
    edited February 13
    I know plenty of people across finance that have engineering degrees - option traders, credit analysts, product developers, sales people, project managers, technologists, corporate finance professionals, etc. In my specific case, I leveraged quantitative and technical skills in risk management and product development, but all job types are available. My first job was regulatory rather than quantitative, but eventually stumbled into a niche in risk management that led to a position at a bank in risk management. Eventually, I got bored with everyday risk management and moved to product management and development where I could work with teams to build out products. I am working now on picking up skills in data science and artificial intelligence.

    When the bank I work for brings on summer analysts and associates, they are not pigeon-holed into technical jobs, but do a rotation through 2 or more front office trading and sales desks. It's only at the end of the summer where they are hired for an opening on a particular sales or trading desk.

    My point to OP is to let your imagination and ambition run wild! You can work in finance if that is what you want to do. Over the course of your career, you are going to have several different roles and jobs. Identify and communicate your transferable skills and work toward continual self-improvement.
  • perazzimanperazziman Registered User Posts: 2,420 Senior Member

    “Many of the summer interns either knew someone in the firm that tied them into the hiring process or went to a short list of colleges that the senior hiring managers were high on.”

    Exactly. To get hired as a Summer Analyst or Summer Associate thru on campus recruiting, one has to attend one of these target schools. Otherwise, get hired laterally thru someone you know at the firm.

    Even to get hired laterally, one needs to demonstrate interest to someone you know at the firm. The bar is lower, but still exists.

    In your case you apparently had a BA in Economics, earned an MBA with an Accounting concentration, a CFA and a MFE before joining IB. That is pretty substantial

    Would you be willing to share where you did your UG MBA and MFE?

  • jdcollegedadjdcollegedad Registered User Posts: 227 Junior Member
    edited February 13
    @perazziman I went undergrad to University of Rochester and MBA at RIT (where I had a full tuition scholarship). RIT Saunders school is currently rated #73 in USN business school ratings....far from top tier. In one of my finance classes, I wrote a three-page paper on the negative impacts of Federal Deposit Insurance. Being interested in banking regulation, I identified the heads of banking supervision at the Federal Reserve Banks around the country and forwarded a copy of my paper with a cover letter telling them that I would be visiting and asking to meet them. I scheduled trips at my own expense and had several meetings that gave me the inside track on several offers. I wasn't waiting for the companies to come to me, because I didn't go to a top 25 business school.

    When I wanted to change jobs from the pension fund, I happened to meet a salesperson from Lehman Brothers who connected me to some people in NY for networking, which provided me with information about the prime brokerage industry. I used that information to network into a couple more prime brokers. In my meetings, I asked each to tell me what they saw to be their biggest challenges. I synthesized this information into a presentation outlining the key challenges in the industry and sent this presentation to the heads of prime brokerage at the major players in the market. One of the heads sent my presentation to his head of product development who called me for an interview, leading to a new job two weeks later.

    In both of these cases, I made my own opportunities. Many people search for jobs through online postings or waiting to see who happens to visit campus. In my case, my major job changes have come from clearly defining my goals, selecting targets, identifying the decision makers at those firms and taking the initiative to make contact. Yes, getting hired without going to the right school or already knowing someone is hard, but definitely something that can be done with enough initiative.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 7,322 Senior Member
    edited February 13
    @jdcollegedad : Thank you for sharing this information. I have been communicating with the OP via PM for some time encouraging him to make his own opportunities just as you did.

    OP has the advantage of attending MBA school at BU in a major US city (Boston).

    Everyone has been great sharing inside information !
  • jdcollegedadjdcollegedad Registered User Posts: 227 Junior Member
    @Publisher You are welcome. Happy to share my experiences. If someone wants something badly enough and is willing to go the extra mile, great things are possible!
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