Master of Finance Student Profiles

Ria Sharma

Making a career out of a love for math

Ria Sharma

  • MFin '20
  • Originally from: India
  • BS in Economics - Sarla Anil Modi School of Economics at the Narseed Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, India
  • Previously worked as content writer 

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Ria Sharma admits she has a love for applied mathematics. That passion made her interested in financial technology, and that led her to the Rady School of Management's Master of Finance program.

Before coming to the Rady School, Ria (MFin '20) wrote articles for a cryptocurrency website, but she wanted to have a better understanding of the world of finance technology. Armed with that knowledge, she is now a treasury controlling manager at Henkel — a global chemical and consumer goods company that is headquartered in Germany — where she uses the lessons learned in the program on a daily basis. 

Read below to learn more about Ria's Rady School experience, the lessons she learned, and the advice she'd offer to prospective students considering the Master of Finance program. 

How do you like to describe your current role and responsibilities with Henkel?

Being a multinational corporation, Henkel is exposed to interest rate risk from over 40 countries and numerous entities. As a treasury controlling manager, my job involves keeping track of Henkel's borrowings and investments across the world and ensuring that we are exposed to minimal interest rate risk. My team does this by analyzing the data we receive from the regional and central treasurers and coming up with recommendations to hedge our positions. My day-to-day tasks are a mix of periodical reporting and valuation tasks and process improvement projects for the team.

How have you been able to apply the lessons you learned at Rady into your daily work?  

Many of my classes covered the exact topics that I now find myself tackling in the workplace. My exposure to Rady's financial risk management, corporate finance, and derivatives courses prepared me for numerous on-the-job challenges. The team I work with in the office is small, akin to a typical academic group, so I feel comfortable in a collaborative environment. 

I was one of the youngest people in the MFin program and am now the youngest person in my team at Henkel. I draw immense value from the experiences and knowledge of my peers and am not daunted by such an environment thanks to my experience at Rady. The faculty at Rady were always up for riveting discussions and were excellent mentors. Their encouraging attitude made it easy for me to speak up and ask questions, even pose challenges during a discussion. I carried this attitude with me to my workplace and often question the status quo; my colleagues find it refreshing that I bring a new perspective and a willingness to share.

What was it about the Master of Finance program that initially appealed to you?

My interest in finance stemmed from my love for applied mathematics and my desire to gain a deeper understanding of the world of financial technology. The opportunity to learn from some of the world's best finance professors, carefully structured courses, and proximity to the ocean, all played key roles in steering me towards an MFin at the Rady School. Additionally, I was accepted to the undergraduate economics program at UC San Diego in 2016. I could not join the program at the time, so I was extremely grateful to be given another chance — and a scholarship — by the Rady School in 2019. 

What was your goal heading into the program?

My goal had been to enable myself to handle any professional challenges that I saw myself coming across in the future. From career-progression within an industry or a corporation to independent entrepreneurial endeavors, I wanted to pursue a Master's that could help in whichever I chose to pursue and Rady seemed to be an ideal fit since it offered industry-oriented courses as well as an established accelerator program, StartR for entrepreneurs.

What were the three most important lessons you learned during your time in the program?

I learned to build professional and personal relationships that empowered me throughout and beyond my journey at the Rady School. I learned to balance work and life outside of school.  I learned to comfortably use the goldmine of data that is Bloomberg. Being comfortable with the tool goes a long way in helping understand what the possibilities of risk analysis can be. From pulling essential day-to-day information on yield curves to digging up data for exploratory analysis, Bloomberg is definitely a valuable data source and it is important to become familiar with it.

What was your best in-class experience?

Any opportunity to strike up a conversation with Lecturer Chris Girand or Assistant Professor William Mullins was memorable. They made being intelligent and hard-working look fun and easy with their witty anecdotes and engaging style of teaching. 

How did the program help build your quantitative and analytical skills?

The program stresses on building quantitative skills with rigorous econometrics, investment analysis, business analytics, and programming courses. The assignments throughout the program challenge you to implement your new-found knowledge and also acted as excellent examples of real-world applications of the things you learn in class, since the assignments are often based on case studies. 

How valuable were your classmates to your overall experience at Rady?

My classmates were always there for me during my program. From helping me understand complex codes, to packing my room for me when I had to travel for an emergency on short notice, the friends I made at Rady always had my back. My friends were happy to share their strengths and learn from their weaknesses and as a result, are now doing very well in their respective pursuits.

How did you grow during your time in the program?

The Rady School's contributions to my success may not be completely quantifiable, but the merit scholarship I received upon admission and the additional CFA scholarship I received based on my results of the first quarter's exams certainly are. 

Beyond that, the professors were insightful in their approach and immaculate in their preparation for each class in a way that was inspiring. My first internship in San Diego was based on the recommendation of a professor who took the time to notice my skills and evaluate my interests. My second internship was with UC San Diego's Office of Strategic Initiatives, which was an incredible learning experience for me as I spent three months exercising every analytical thinking skill I picked up in class. This was also an opportunity I was made aware of through Rady's excellent career advisors. 

Overall, the program provided me with opportunities that I could leverage to my professional advantage.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the Master of Finance program?

My only advice would be to take advantage of the opportunities Rady presents you with. There is always something brewing on campus that could help you achieve your short-term or long-term goals. Also, there's nothing better than stepping out of classes and looking out at the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean from the Rady School building.
 

Yue (Sophia) Wang

Developing my quantitative and analytical skills

Yue Wang

  • MFin '20
  • Originally from: China
  • BA in Finance from Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Previously was an intern focused on equity research

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Yue (Sophia) Wang (MFin '20) is working for the global research team at McKinsey & Co., where she is responsible for gathering data, developing hypotheses, and performing analyses with focuses on specific sectors.

It is a role she feels perfectly prepared for thanks to her experience in the Rady School of Management's Master of Finance program.

When Wang was considering graduate programs, she wanted one that would prepare her for a career in the financial industry by strengthening her financial, quantitative, and analytical skills. What she found was that and more. Sophia discovered a program that gives students the chance to take elective courses that are most beneficial to them and instructors who have deep industry insights and expertise.

Wang talked about how the program helped her develop quantitative and analytical skills to succeed in her current role. 

What were the three most important lessons you learned during your time in the program?

First of all, be a good team player. At Rady, it’s essential to be cooperative as we have team projects in almost every class. Second, be proactive, because there are a lot of helpful resources and events on campus. Most importantly, embrace the world of uncertainty. At the end of our winter semester, the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world and profoundly altered our lives. Suddenly we had to face so many uncertainties: the spreading virus, the switch to remote classes, the need to social distance while being far from home, decreasing job opportunities. We learned a lot at Rady about how to make decisions in the financial market under uncertainty, but experiencing the pandemic really deepened my understanding of the quote, “uncertainty is the only certainty.”

What was your best in-class experience?

In the winter semester, I did dozens of projects in Valuation in Corporate Finance and Financial Statement Analysis. My teammates and I worked on corporate finance case studies every week and prepared for presentations together. This experience allowed me to build friendships with classmates from diverse backgrounds and provoked my interest in analyzing and solving real-world problems in the field of corporate finance.

How did the program help build your quantitative and analytical skills?

The variety of classes and projects helped us build our knowledge and skills in quantitative analytics. Classes such as Financial Econometrics and Advanced Financial Risk Management gave us theoretical knowledge and methodologies, while empirical classes such as Behavioral Finance, Data Science for Finance, and the Capstone project helped us use those methodologies and skills to solve real-world problems.

How have you been able to apply the lessons you learned at Rady into your daily work?

My classes at Rady empowered my financial and analytical knowledge, while the essential soft skills I developed such as teamwork and communication prepared me to cooperate with my colleagues efficiently and solve the clients' problems effectively.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the Master of Finance program?

Don’t forget to explore the resources and opportunities outside the classroom, start networking, be prepared for any opportunity, and most importantly, have fun.
 

Jeff Yin

Applying MFin lessons to my daily work

Jeff Yin

  • MFin '20
  • Originally from: Hawaii
  • BA in Applied Mathematics from Harvard; Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington
  • Previously worked as a research scientist and Internet marketing analyst

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Jeff Yin's professional background is diverse to say the least. Before applying to the Rady School of Management, the Hawaii-native had a freelance business managing Google Ads for nonprofits, was an online GMAT instructor, and completed his Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences. 

Yin had a strong quantitative and computational background, but he wanted to find a graduate program that would teach him how to apply those skills within the finance world. He found that and more in the Rady School of Management's Master of Finance program.

Today, Yin (MFin '20) is an investment analyst at The Queen's Health Systems in Hawaii. He talked about his experience in the program and how it prepared him for the work he's doing today.

What responsibilities do you have in your current role with The Queen's Health Systems?

I am an investment analyst in the Endowment of The Queen’s Health Systems. Because I am part of a small team, I am involved in a wide range of work, from meeting with investment managers to completing required forms for new investment accounts to projecting potential ranges of outcomes for our portfolio. I am responsible for understanding the performance data that comes in to the Endowment, making sure we are seeing the most current data available, and producing reports on performance on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis. I also receive feedback from our Director of Investments and Chief Investment Officer on the types of information they want to see and use that to develop new versions of our dashboards. Because I am involved in so many aspects of the Endowment, I am fortunate to be learning a lot about institutional investing.

How have you been able to apply the lessons you learned at the Rady School into your daily work there?

I have been able to apply the practical lessons on investments that I gained in the program to be able to discuss what is happening in the markets from day to day and how it is impacting the investments of our Endowment. I have also been able to use the theoretical knowledge that I learned at Rady to, for example, use covariance matrices to calculate how different asset allocations would impact the expected risk and return of our portfolio. In addition, I have applied what I learned about using Excel in finance to generate Monte Carlo simulations of our investments in order to see how different investment and spending choices affect the range of investment outcomes for our portfolio.

The knowledge of finance that I gained in the program opened up the possibility of working in institutional investing, and I would not be where I am now without the foundation that was laid in the Master of Finance program. 

What was your goal heading into the program?

My goal was to prepare myself for a career change to work in finance and investing, with the aspirational goal of eventually doing this sort of work back home in Hawaii. I did not expect to find work in investing in Hawaii right away, but I had the good fortune of finding a job here even before I completed my capstone project.

What were the three most important lessons you learned during your time in the program?

The first lesson I learned was that I find portfolio theory particularly interesting. Not only was it important to learn about modern portfolio theory, but it was also important to understand that I enjoy applying it. Using portfolio theory is one of the aspects of my job today that I like the most.

Secondly, I came to understand how important private equity is to institutional investing. I had no idea what private equity was when I entered the program, but I did my capstone project on private equity, and what I learned doing that project set a foundation to continue to learn about private equity in my job.

Lastly, I realized it is useful to think critically about the work by other analysts. Sometimes an analyst will have a motive for presenting a particular result, or they may make an unsupported assumption, or they might just miss something. While it is often useful to use another analyst’s work as a starting point, it is valuable to think critically about that work to see if there are ways to improve on it.

How did the program help build your quantitative and analytical skills?

While I came into the program with strong quantitative and analytical skills, the program helped me hone them in a variety of useful ways. For example, I expanded on my existing Excel skills and learned how to use it to create financial models. In addition, I learned Python and SQL, and I saw how valuable they can be when applied to finance.

How important were your classmates to your overall experience at the Rady School?

So much of the program involves group work, and I was fortunate to learn with my classmates about how to have our group projects and presentations go well. I learned a lot from discussions with classmates who knew more about finance and investing than I did. My classmates helped me grow through our discussions about our future careers in finance, because these discussions helped me to learn more about what I really wanted to do after completing the Master of Finance program. 

How did the Career Management Center help support you during your time in the program?

I came into the program not feeling confident in my approach to finding jobs, and I got a lot of good advice on how to approach creating resumes, applying for jobs, and interviewing with employers.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the Master of Finance program?

You should be prepared to work hard, but it will be worth it. I also recommend cultivating any existing connections that you have, as well as the connections that you make during your time in the program, because you never know which relationship will lead to your next opportunity.

 

Yurui (Skye) Zhang

Seeing the role finance plays in daily life

Yurui Zhang

  • MFin '20
  • Originally from: China
  • BS in Economics and Pharmacy from Xiamen University

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Yurui (Skye) Zhang wanted to better understand the ins and outs of finance in order to better understand how financial applications can impact a person's daily life. She chose the Rady School of Management's Master of Finance program because she thought it would give her the grounding she wanted and prepare her for a career in the industry.

Today, Zhang (MFin '20) is a business analyst at the pharmaceutical and biotech company Astrazeneca, where she is in charge of data collecting, data processing, model building, and model updating to support the company's marketing and sales group. She talked about how her time at the Rady School prepared her to be in the position she's in today.

What was it about the Master of Finance program that initially appealed to you?

The most attractive part to me was the curriculum. I believe that finance is an essential part of our daily life, and learning different financial applications, such as data analysis, asset management and risk management, sounded really interesting. Learning about the faculty also gave me more confidence in the quality of this program. 

What was your goal heading into the program?

My main goal was to absorb as much knowledge and as many ideas about finance applications as I could. I was also excited to learn how to connect traditional business theory to real world situations.

What were the most important lessons you learned during your time in the program?

I learned about collaboration, which is so important in the business world, by working with my classmates, as well as alumni and cooperating firms. I also learned about leadership through competitions and assignments, which gave us lots of chances to improve our abilities as leaders. I also strengthened my professional skills that are important to the global finance market, like data processing and asset management. These skills will make me more competitive in the job market.  

What was your best in-class experience?

My best experience was listening to lectures by Professor Rossen Valkanov, co-director of the Master of Finance program. He always talked about the latest financial news and provided assignments based on real cases, which let us jump out of the textbook to apply what we learned to the real world. Thanks to him, I am now used to listening to a financial news podcast every morning.

What did you do for your summer internship?

When I worked for Ionis Pharmaceuticals as a finance intern, the lessons I learned in the program helped me a lot with my daily work — especially accounting and valuation. The theories I learned in class helped me understand the business model within the pharmaceutical industry. The programming skills I learned in MFin also let me better support my team to build valuation and marketing models. 

In what ways did you grow during your time in the program?

From my perspective, the MFin program is a fantastic adventure. All the people I met supported me not only in my academic area, but also in my daily life. The 15-month program was challenging, but it helped me broaden my knowledge base, build my career path, and connect me to the finance world. 

How do you think your time in the Master of Finance program will help you continue to grow and advance professionally?

All the courses that I took in this program gave me the power and ability to enter the finance industry. I was given the basic steps to advance in my professional path. I will continue refreshing and updating myself by relying on the values I learned at the Rady School. Last, but not least, the excellent alumni of the program give me more ways to widen my social network and potential career paths.

 

Jose Chig

Jose Chig

Program: Master of Finance

Why did you choose to pursue a Master of Finance?

Main reason was to understand the risk associated with all financial corporate decisions and learn to analyze data in order to select the most efficient option. 

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Why did you choose the Rady School?

Curriculum and faculty were the main deciding factors. Incredible faculty with relevant experience and personal ties to industry, along with a varied and flexible curriculum that allows students to tailor their masters degree to suit their professional aspirations.

What do you feel makes Rady unique? How do you benefit from these aspects?

One thing that separates Rady from other schools is that assigned projects are designed to align with industry expectations. Professors assign projects that will be ascribed to us as analysts, preparing us to excel once we join the professional ranks.

What classes are you looking forward to taking this year?

The class I’m most excited about is Behavioral Finance. I’m looking forward to understanding the reasons humans are not always rational financial decision makers. 

How has your perspective on your career or your life changed since you came to Rady?

Career services provides great insight through the Industry Night Events, I wasn’t informed on the consultant industry and now it seems a sector that I am looking to explore professionally.

What are your goals after graduation?

I am currently exploring analyst and consultant roles. I am looking for opportunities that will allow me to use the skills I learned at Rady to provide efficient solutions to real world problems. 

What advice do you have for prospective students?

I wholeheartedly recommend attending a class if you are interested in the Rady Master of Finance program. I had the opportunity to attend one lecture last year and saw the engagement and interaction during lecture. I gained a better perspective on what to expect from the Master of Finance program. 

 

Seok Byun

Seok Byun

Program: Master of Finance

Why did you choose to pursue a Master of Finance?

I’ve always found the area of finance interesting. That such a tangible thing could have enormous effect on our lives. As an intuitive and analytic person I wanted to pursue an education that would teach me how to better understand this challenging yet intriguing field. 

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Why did you choose the Rady School?

Not only is the Rady School the best program in San Diego, UC San Diego holds a sentimental value to me. My father did his post doc research here and I wanted to study where he studied. It’s wonderful to be back here in San Diego and to be back in school. 

What do you feel makes Rady unique? How do you benefit from these aspects?

Rady’s Masters in Finance program is highly quantitative and challenging. If you can keep up, I believe that this will be a rewarding experience to you. Also, Rady has lots of opportunities to mix with other students such as MBAs and MSBAs and even beyond. If you want to broaden your perspective, Rady is a great choice.

What classes are you looking forward to taking this year?

I’m really looking forward to Behavioral Finance, Valuation in Corporate Finance and Analyzing Large Data. Implementing cognitive psychological theory with finance sounds like a really fun course and I like operating the software programs through Collecting and Analyzing Financial Data. 

How has your perspective on your career or your life changed since you came to Rady?

My perspective has definitely widened on the industry of finance. I didn’t know there were so many different areas where finance can be applied. I would have not learned of such areas and applications if I were on my own and now consider even more fields to work in.

What are your goals after graduation?

Hopefully, I’ll work in an area that handles evaluation, analyzing data and application of such information. I wish to make a positive net impact on not only the area of finance and the corporation that I work in, but also on the clients and society itself.  

 
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