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Matt Palma

Matt Palma

Set for a Career Bump

Matt Palma (MQF '23) is used to working hard for what he accomplishes.

He came to UC San Diego as an undergraduate student, joining the school’s volleyball team as a walk-on. By his junior year, he had earned a scholarship and, a year later, finished out his career as the team captain.

Now, Palma has embarked on a new journey with different but equally formidable obstacles – working part time as a private equity analyst at UPS while being a full-time student in UC San Diego's Rady School of Management's Master of Quantitative Finance program.

“My experience in the program has been challenging but rewarding,” Palma said. “I know that the payoff for a program of this caliber comes with those challenges of having to sacrifice.”

So sacrifice he does.

Palma gives up nights out with friends for intense study sessions. He replaces hanging out among familiar faces with developing new relationships with those who might be key to his efforts to grow his career.

“When you have a seminar class where every single high-level executive from top financial institutions is telling you that the business is networking, it adds more to it,” he said. “Everybody applying to similar positions as me may fit the technical qualities better, but it’s who you want to work with that is beginning to matter a lot more.”

Palma’s volleyball history is an asset when it comes to forming and nurturing relationships. It’s something he did as an upperclassman with the newcomers on the team and a role he relished as captain his senior year.

“I took more of an inspirational, fun approach to motivating my teammates,” he said. “I had to work to earn my spot. I wanted to make sure the guys knew to appreciate the situation they were in, but to also know that they can’t be content.”

That lack of contentment with the current situation was part of what led Palma to the MQF program.

Faced with a challenging job market as the end of his undergraduate days drew near, Palma leaned on the advice of family and professional associates when figuring out his next step. Armed with their input, he developed a plan to help differentiate himself from others in the field into which he’d eventually like to move – financial analysis.

“I researched Rady and realized that the technical exposure to finance would be perfect,” he said. “I felt adding this skillset was necessary for my career growth.”

The designation as a STEM program, ensuring its graduates will be equipped with in-demand quantitative and analytical skills, played an important role in his decision.

“I think it’s very beneficial that the MQF is a STEM-designated program,” he said. “STEM programs instill essential skills such as collaboration and critical thinking, fostering fundamental knowledge that often translates into an improved overall life satisfaction.”

Palma is finding value in the program beyond the more traditional STEM lessons, as well. One of his favorite classes so far has been the Professional Communications course, which taught him the importance of presenting financial data as a polished, confident speaker.

He recently accepted an offer to work as a financial analyst for Midland Credit Management, a subsidiary of Encore Capital Group located in San Diego. Encore Capital is one of the largest debt recovery and debt management groups in the world.

Thanks to his experience in the MQF program, Palma has become an advocate of the program for those looking for a boost in their careers.

And yes, San Diego itself is part of his sales pitch.

“I always tell people San Diego has the best weather in the world,” he said. “Location is very important to mental health, and with San Diego having so many different things to experience in your free time, it’s hard not to fall in love.”