An enormous advantage I’ve encountered throughout my MBA experience is the unexpected connection between academics and networking. After months of studying for and finishing the GMAT (not to mention filling out countless B-School applications), my brain was anticipating a fact–filled graduate experience similar to several of my math classes in Undergrad (the ones you just know you’ll never use again after you finish the final exam). Only after getting to know my cohort and spending time with my professors did I realize that the MBA is just as much a professional incubator as it is a set of academic tools.
When classes began at USD, I was yearning to take on the world. Surrounded by a new cohort and a fresh fall campus full of energy, I soon found myself eager to apply my developing business skills. After a couple hours of a particularly “interesting” corporate finance lecture, Marko (professor extraordinaire) briefly mentioned a competition in which a small number of students could test their financial prowess against other graduate programs around the world. Still unaware of the direction I wished to take my MBA, I figured what better way to sample finance outside of the classroom than trial by fire?
After digging around for some info on the competition (the CFA Institute Global Investment Research Challenge … CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst), I realized what an incredible opportunity this could be. Not only would I have the chance to apply the skills acquired throughout my various finance classes, but I would also have unparalleled access to investment industry professionals and publicly traded companies.
Excited about the competition, I soon began to wonder who from our cohort would join my equity research team. Would it be Bryan the presentation guru? Robin the Chinese numbers wiz? Or maybe even Frank, the quiet genius… I soon discovered that the team was composed entirely of 2nd year MBAs. As the only 1st year, I put my premonitions aside and realized that such a team was in fact a blessing in disguise. Not only would my team have access to elite industry professionals to guide our equity research report, but also I personally had the opportunity to learn from my more experienced teammates.
After months of preparation and excellent time management, our team executed a professional grade research presentation to a panel of high-ranking finance professionals. Although we didn’t win the challenge (or even come close), the overall experience opened more doors in my future than I could have possibly imagined. I realized that, yes, exercising my financial skills was great, but the most beneficial component of the CFA challenge was adding valuable contacts to my professional network.
Matt is a 2nd year MBA student, works at Pacifica Equity Partners and was a Biology major at USD.