What do you do?
Financial Engineering is an amalgamation of typically four fields: Mathematics, Finance, Statistics and Programming. My role as a financial engineer is to apply programming/ math skills to solve financial problems. For example, recommending where to invest in bond portfolio management using Machine Learning and Statistical techniques like Natural Language Processing, Graph Algorithms and Regression-which I am working on currently in my internship at a Fixed Income Investment firm.
Why did you choose this field?
After graduating with a Bachelors and MBA in India, I started my career with Consulting where I worked on Financial Risk in Banking after which I moved to working for the largest Asset Management firm - where I realised that the financial industry is in dire need of people with technological skills who also understand finance. The world has become so competitive that all industries (not just finance) require themselves to be technologically advanced. Hence, I wanted to upskill myself and pursue what I was passionate about. After I got married, I started the MFE program at UCLA Anderson.
Even though the industries have their main business models in place, they need to employ people with a strong technological skillset to advance and remain in the competition. Also, once you pursue STEM programs, you feel empowered to create something for yourself, for corporates and for the society as a whole.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I am now confident of saying I can learn something on my own and getting it accomplished. I wish I knew this was possible when I was younger. I wish I was not afraid of trying something out of my comfort zone and seeking advise & feedback from mentors. I wish I knew that making connections helps in terms of acknowledging the various experiences people have had to reach where they are.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the dynamic nature of the field- the fact that it keeps evolving intrigues me. There is infinite scope to grow & learn; and being a student for life.
I wake up looking forward to learning something new everyday, then think and apply that knowledge to something which benefits a business problem (irrespective of the industry). The satisfaction I get when I create something is tremendous- being in STEM gives a sense of empowerment to really create an impact on the society as a whole.
Best advice for next generation?
I would advise the next generation girls to not be reluctant or feel under-confident to pursue the field. I did not know everything when I first began working. We don't have to know all of it beforehand - it is possible to learn things on the job too! Pick up a project to work on and you will learn a lot of concepts which otherwise you might not have even come across. So say yes to all opportunities which excite you and discover your passions by exploring the vast ocean of knowledge out there- make connections, form teams, discuss and take advise from mentors. Think about the bigger picture- the problem you would like to solve, and then delve deeper into solutions. This not only makes you skilled in reaching an end goal but also gives you avenues to explore various solutions.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
'To be interesting, be interested' by Dale Carnegie.
This will make you more curious and eager to learn.
Also, recently heard and very relevant: 'Say- I don't know this YET'. Adding the word 'Yet' will give more confidence, especially to learn what you don't know at the moment and will enable you face challenges and accept opportunities.