What brought you to business school? Why did you choose Columbia?
After more than four years working at the central bank of Mexico, I felt that I needed to enhance my quantitative skills in order to advance my career in the financial industry. At some point during my undergraduate and up until I had been working for several years, I thought about obtaining my PhD. However, while I was working, I noticed there was always a slight difference between theory and reality and in the investment management world, that could make the difference between making or losing money.
My interests were and still are discovering methods to implement theory into the investment decision process, but I also wanted a rigorous training in programming, statistics and asset pricing. Taking that into consideration, the MS Financial Economics (MSFE) program was particularly attractive because it allowed me to get a highly technical education without the need of having to go through the 5+ years of getting a doctoral degree. Furthermore, being in New York, the financial capital of the world, allows for the opportunity to get face to face contact with the major players in the industry.
What’s your favorite part of the MS experience so far?
My favorite part was to be able to fully dedicate my time to learn new things and re-learn others, some of which I knew from work but had never really had a formal training on. It was particularly rewarding to learn new things that had pose a challenge while I was working and instantly knowing how I could implement them in real world situations. Finally, being able to tailor the program to the things I knew I wanted to learn allowed me to strengthen my skills, but more importantly it broadened my areas of interest.
How have you been involved in the student community?
I befriended a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds. This gave me a diverse perspective and I learned a lot on how other places in the world operate, and gave me the opportunity to share a bit of Mexico with them as well. I was able to immerse myself in some American traditions that we don’t have in my country, like Thanksgiving, but also from other countries like India and China. It was personally surprising to find out how similar the cuisines of Mexico and India are even though they are thousands of kilometers apart.
In my second year, I was the TA of the Portfolio Management course, which allowed me to connect with younger students as I helped them navigate the class.
Which faculty member(s) and/or courses influenced you the most, and how?
During my first term I took Continuous Time Finance with Michael Johannes. It was the first time in my life I saw stochastic calculus, but it set the tone for the rest of the program. It was “baptism by fire”, but it confirmed that I was getting the rigor that I wanted. The class served as a great introduction to many topics that I later picked up in other classes.
Another important course that I took was Portfolio Management, offered by the math department, which showed me how to use math and statistics in making the investment process of a multi-asset portfolio more quantitative. I knew immediately it was the career path that I wanted to take, which was later reinforced when I took the course, Quantitative Hedge Fund Strategies. It was a brand-new class when I took it in spring 2021 and the mix of theoretical and empirical approaches to systematic strategies helped me figure out this was an avenue I wanted to explore within the industry.
What are your long-term career goals? How has your MS experience translated into growth in your career?
My long-term career goal is first to manage a portfolio in one of the top asset managers or hedge funds until I gain enough experience to open up a boutique shop of my own. I’m still a long way of doing that, but I’m sure the program will be instrumental in achieving those goals. For starters, I know much more than I did at the beginning of the program and I’m happy to say that most of the things I have learned can be implemented in the investment management industry.
What’s your top advice for new students?
Start looking for summer internships even before arriving to New York. Doing that will give you a much better chance of getting into a place that you like, and it could potentially facilitate getting a full time offer. If I went back in time and had the possibility of changing something, I would start applying to summer internships as soon as possible.
My second advice is to try to balance schoolwork with social life. I know that especially for individuals fresh out of college, it seems that school and grades are the most important things in life. However, making connections with others might prove to be even more valuable in the long run. New York is a great place to live in and getting to know all it has to offer, and its people is also part of the experience - so try to enjoy it just as much as school.
What will you take with you from your CBS experience?
I will obviously take all the knowledge and skills that I learned while being here, but I think the mark that the experience has left at a personal level is something I will cherish forever. Getting to know people from different countries, cultures, and ideas and being able to incorporate them into the way I perceive the world is extremely valuable. Furthermore, being able to contrast the life quality and the professional opportunities of New York to the ones from Mexico was eye opening and it has helped me to dream bigger and bolder.