March 2018: working as an Investment Banking Analyst
Being an extreme case of what is usually referred to as a “morning person”, I was always first to arrive in the office, around 7am – the screens dark and the otherwise lively floor, calmingly quiet. I took a lot of pleasure in sipping my coffee while reading the news of the morning, working on a piece of my writing and planning the tasks ahead, undisrupted by the Director on my left or the Associate on my right.
On this day – with heavy snow unusual in March – I had to finish a pitchbook on an education mandate we were hoping to win, finish the DCF model and work with the Japan team for a CEO meeting next week. But instead, I was deep in thought. Joining the world of investment banking when barely 20-years-old was the best teacher I could hope for. Harsh, persistent and not always fair, but always keeping me on my toes and teaching me something new.
Not even moving abroad by myself at 15 or the novelty of university life made me sprout as much as the colourful environment of the office. Personalities, complex discussions and a constant rush clash into a vibrant mix. As the days and hours were passing me by, filled with late nights, close comrades in the faces of the fellow analysts, LBO models and takeaway, I began to question whether I was missing something.
I enjoyed what I was building of myself and I woke up every morning knowing this is my “dream” career path. Alas, in the back of my mind, I was all too familiar with feeling lost. I knew I wanted to be a student again and complete my Master’s degree. I knew I wanted something more out of my job.
September 2018: MSc Finance at Imperial College Business School
When Imperial offered me a Women in Finance scholarship to join the Business School, I was sure this is the moment to not hesitate and take the leap. Lewis Carroll famously wrote that “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. I definitely felt a little uneasy about what would greet me next, having previously planned every step of my life, but I knew it could be something amazing.
After announcing my next move to my team, I was prepared to head to beautiful South Kensington and join the vibrant, diverse and frankly incredibly intelligent cohort of MSc Finance.
It seems like it was yesterday that I walked through the revolving doors of the contemporary Business School for the first time in September and I can barely believe it has already been five months. Looking back, I get a mix of warm feelings, mostly grateful, for what seems like everything I had wished for. I became part of a big family of incredible individuals – students, professors, and programme team alike, who one always sees hustling and bustling across the floors, but will always sit down for a cappuccino with you and encourage your next endeavour.
Most nights, you can find me at a different company event, entrepreneurship talk, networking event or social at the student pub. During the day, lectures, employer fairs and variety of skills sessions keep us busy and on track for interviews. It feels like I am never home as there is so much happening. The careers team were also relentless in bringing us the best learning opportunities, one-on-one discussions and case study training, making sure we were progressing with our career goals.
One event that left an imprint on me was the book signing night of Ashoka Mody’s new masterpiece about the Eurozone and the engaging discussions that followed with professors and industry experts. We didn’t feel like students – we felt like seasoned financiers who have a word or two to share. A few days later, the team also brought us all together for a night at the Natural History Museum, which was also memorable to say the least – dancing under a huge blue whale skeleton and enjoying champagne amongst large mammal species left us with a lot of stories to bring home.
I am also lucky enough to be selected as the Vice President of the Finance Club, which allowed me to bring a committee of MBA and MSc students alike to come up with and execute events for everyone across the School to benefit from.
We also got stuck in some exam studying occasionally – although I was never in the library, which seems to be everyone’s sacred hideaway, but rather often spotted at one of the quirky local coffee shops, evaluating their lattes while typing away the latest corporate finance coursework. Of course, exams did arrive with full steam, as well as interview season.
By that time, I was certain in what to pursue as my next career step – not sure whether it was all the exciting companies I met, Mark Daley enthusiastically teaching us how to market size the number of passengers at Waterloo or the stimulating conversations with my new friends, but I thought I would thrive as a consultant. I figured I had an innate curiosity about all businesses and individuals and their walks of life and consulting seemed to check all the boxes. I am lucky to have been offered to join McKinsey London and can confidently say that it does not only boil to hard work but the Business School’s support every step along the way.
Being a Master’s student is not only what it seems on the surface. Hidden behind all the amazing opportunities sit many nights of research and stochastic calculus, crammed tube trips to your interviews and a few rejections; trips to the newly renovated gym for a morning swim, cocktails in that trendy rooftop bar and long lunch breaks to see Frida Kahlo at the V&A across the road; sometimes you are inexplicably happy, sometimes you find it all a bit overwhelming. It is similar to anything in life, really.
When I was a young child in Bulgaria, for years I used to relentlessly write in a big diary that kept all my thoughts. Now more than ever I wish I have been doing the same as a student, so I could remember the plethora of events that hit me in the scope of a single term, all the incredible things I learned and the people that helped me find my new way that I was searching for all along.
As I am writing this, we have just landed back in London from our MSc Finance Dublin Trip, where we indulged in a lot of Guinness and talked all tech startups. Now I am even more excited to see what this term will bring – I am not entirely certain, as one can never be, but I can positively say that being a little lost in my way helped me make my brightest choices yet.