A Glimpse into the MIT MFin Experience of an International Student
Learn how real students navigate their way through the business school admissions process and b-school itself with our What is Graduate School Really Like? series.
Meet Dave, a math buff, beekeeper, and recent graduate of MIT’s Master’s in Finance program
Dave, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Congratulations on your recent graduation from MIT’s Master’s in Finance program! What did you enjoy most about your graduate experience?
Dave: Without a doubt: the people. Whether it’s my classmates or the professors I bonded with, the MFin class is a diverse set of students from different backgrounds and with various career projects, and the faculty is always glad to share their experiences for career advice or personal matter.
I understand you hold a master’s degree in applied mathematics. What inspired you to pursue the MFin?
Dave: My past internships in the banking field convinced me to find a job in finance where I could apply my mathematical skills. What drove me specifically to MIT’s MFin is the fact that here at MIT, they teach ALL finance – whether it’s Financial Engineering or Corporate Finance. After about 5 years of mathematics, I wanted to loosen a bit on the math part to better understand some of the financial concepts I have to deal with.
You’ve spent time working in France, the UK, and Israel. Can you share a bit about your international work experiences?
Dave: I interned as a data-scientist in an early-age startup in Israel, Fanzone. This was my first hands-on experience to apply my mathematical skills to a particular problem – in this case designing an algorithm for carpooling solutions.
I worked as an M&A Analyst intern at Societe Generale in Paris. That was my first big dive into finance. This internship was demanding with the classic working hours in the M&A workplace but I learned so much about finance and this made me want to pursue a degree in this field.
Lastly, I worked as a Quant researcher in Credit Trading at BNP Paribas in London. It was the perfect experience to discover the technical part of the markets and work on some concrete pricing problems. Plus, London is a lovely city!
When and how did you apply for your international internship positions?
Dave: I applied for my international internship positions at the end of my bachelor/master’s degrees. The process was not very particular, I just applied online, then went to the superday, etc.
Looking back, what was your graduate school application experience like? Did you encounter any bumps along the road to grad school acceptance?
Dave: Stressful, obviously, but the MIT Sloan admissions team is doing a remarkable job to ease the process. I called them multiple times to make sure I was submitting the right documents, etc. I did not really encounter any bumps along the road. The admissions committee and the program officers held various webinars to make it clear about the ideal candidate they’re looking for, which was helpful.
During the admissions process, did you face any unique challenges as an international student?
Dave: The one challenge I faced as an international student was probably writing my SOP (Statement of Purpose). I was told by faculty and students that this was the most important piece of the application process so I wanted to nail it. However, the SOP writing is not an easy exercise, especially for an international student who never had to write one before. Finding the right trade-off between showing off skills and experiences and humility with this “American enthusiasm” was an uncomfortable moment for me.
Once graduate school began, what surprised you most about your program?
Dave: The incredible breadth of classes I could take.
Can you share examples of some of the more unique class offerings at MIT? Did you have any favorite classes?
Dave: There are some unique classes at MIT like How to make Hummus 101 or Poker Theory and Analytics. Being a math guy, I really enjoyed the math classes at MIT; they kind of helped me relax though finance classes at Sloan (yeah, I’m weird, I know). That being said, I did enjoy a lot all my business-related classes at Sloan. I’d say that my favorite classes had to be: The Finance and Science of Biotechnologies, which was a thrilling combination of biologists and finance people to tackle the big challenges of biotechnologies and healthcare finance related issues, and Fixed Incomes Securities & Derivatives, because of the enthusiasm of Prof. Deborah Lucas.
What extracurricular activities did you participate in before applying to business school? What activities did you participate in as a student?
Dave: I’m a beekeeper, so before applying to MIT I spent most of my spare time taking care of my bees or educating people at my former engineering school Ecole Polytechnique where I was the president of the beekeeping club.
Besides that, I took professional acting lessons, so the additional time I had I spent on the stage with friends acting some French plays.
Finally, I was on the rowing team of my former school.
While at MIT, I sometimes visited the beehives and rowed when the weather was great (so not a lot actually, haha). Having less time, I could not get as involved as I used to be with MIT extracurricular activities. However, MIT Sloan boasts a great set of clubs to socialize and talk about diverse topics in Finance. As far as I am concerned, I was the president of the Quantitative Financial Markets club, which means my friends and I organized talks and debates on this topic. It was a great experience, especially to share ideas with very techy people from the MIT Computer Science or Math Department, for instance.
What is an MFin Senator?
Dave: The Sloan Senate is an association of students elected by their program to make life at MIT Sloan the best possible. I was elected one of the Senators of the MFin Class to represent it during the Sloan Senate sessions held every few weeks. In addition to that, I sat in the admissions committee (each Senator has to join a committee) to enhance the diversity of applicants to MIT Sloan and make the application process as comfortable as possible.
What recruiting opportunities are available to MFin students?
Dave: Many opportunities:
What industry are you working in at the moment? What are your long-term professional goals?
Dave: I’ve just graduated and was offered a full-time job at JPMorgan in Credit Quantitative Trading. To me, this is a great tradeoff between quantitative and qualitative analysis. My long-term professional goal would be to become a portfolio manager.
If you could share one message with students at the beginning of their business school journey, what would it be?
Dave: My advice would be “Don’t dream it. Just do it.” No Nike ad intended here, haha.
Soon enough, you’ll discover through your journey in business school that there’s nothing you cannot do if you put your mind and actions into it (the famous “Mens and Manus” MIT motto). As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world” and the world needs now more than ever principled, innovative leaders to change the world. So just go for it and do it!
Do you have questions for Dave? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Graduate School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
You can learn more about Dave by checking out his LinkedIn profile.
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