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Rising Stars: From Academia to Finance
My first job was as a research assistant at the Swiss Banking Institute, the University of Zurich, while pursuing a PhD degree in Finance. To be successful, it is important that one has a strong academic curiosity, as it creates the urge to explore behind the veneer and compels to wane your interests down.
School: Harvard University
Years Out of College: 5-10
My first job was as a research assistant at the Swiss Banking Institute, the University of Zurich, while pursuing a PhD degree in Finance. Research is a very rewarding activity for people who always seek an industry where they can advance themselves all the time and grow intellectually. To be successful, it is important that one has a strong academic curiosity, as it creates the urge to explore behind the veneer and compels to wane your interests down.
Research, in particular in the area of finance, is full of ups and downs. In order to be a good researcher one needs to be a "risk-lover." You should be able to live along with the idea that a several months' work might bring contradictory or oftentimes just useless results! It is always very hard to measure the reality on paper, and together with being intelligent and creative, one needs to be tolerant and hardworking. There is hardly any fruitful research output without a number of pitfalls on the way, and one should be able to face them, redo the research over and over again and find new solutions. (There isn't a rose without a thorn). Being tolerant is not easy, and I believe this is where I lack the necessary skills to some extent. In the beginning I faced my unlucky outcomes with patience, but with time they made me change my preferences in favor of practical and applied work.
My typical day now includes visiting my PhD office and doing research from 9 am till 7 pm every day. This may include looking for data, estimating models, solving theoretical exercises, looking for new research ideas, or just simply reading other people's research. I have been doing this for 2 plus years and will do it for one more year. Any success in my own work excites me very much. But frankly, I also enjoy good research done by other people, I enjoy discussions with my supervisor on my or his own research, I enjoy meeting new colleagues from all over the world, and talking about their work, or just presenting my work before a new audience and getting feedback. At the end of the day, it is a lot of fun!
In my next job I expect to have "daily boss", "daily deadlines", and "daily stress". Working for a financial services company will probably impose no less competition than in academia. You have to be hardworking and patient in finance as well. In my opinion, however, you see your results in finance in a more obvious way. Day by day, you see you have created value for others, and by doing so, value for yourself. You understand you meet people's requirements by providing services others need. This being true, however, you lose the independence of mind, something that you had in academia, and something that many value so much. I guess I appreciate this independence no less, but for reasons mentioned earlier, I believe my "observable daily output" will more than make up for what I lose from the past.
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