Presiyana Karastoyanova

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

I began exploring investment banking in my first year of my undergraduate studies at Bristol University with internships at Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Later on, I joined the TMT M&A team at Goldman Sachs, as well as becoming a McKinsey Discover intern. After that I worked at Nomura for a year in their consumer and retail M&A team.

Why did you decide to study an MSc Finance at Imperial College Business School?

When exploring different higher education options, I was always drawn to Imperial because of the quantitative nature of the programmes offered, world-class professors with industry backgrounds and impressive career resources and alumni base. When I attended information evenings and learned even more, I realised this is a university which is truly a hub for business, innovation and entrepreneurship and I could feel the energy and passion in everyone I met – then I knew, this is where I would truly grow and learn. Also, the campus location is, in my opinion, at the most beautiful and buzzing part of London, which makes the experience even more exciting.

Did you receive a scholarship?

I was very fortunate to receive a Women in Finance Scholarship. The benefits are immense – not only financial but being awarded allowed me to build valuable relationships with inspirational women at the Business School and lead the way myself. I have always been passionate about changing the way women are seen in the finance and banking sector, tech and consulting - this scholarship is a proof to me that the Business School has similar aims. Upon receiving the scholarship, I had a conversation with Leila Guerra, a truly inspirational leader that encouraged me to pursue all my goals during my Master’s; I also attended an event for scholarship recipients, where I got to know my peers better and now I continue to give back to the School by leading a society, being an Ambassador and helping many prospective students who reach out to me and are interested in scholarships.


What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy the most?

The Finance programme is incredibly diverse and wide-ranging – it covers all aspects of the industry and it’s flexible enough to be tailor-made to suit your interests. I was unsure of my next career move, and thus, wanted to be part of a degree where I can learn about a variety of topics from derivatives pricing to private equity to coding - and this is exactly what I experienced. All modules are very well structured and taught by lecturers and professors with industry experience which makes it all very applicable.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

My favourite module so far was Private Equity and Ventura Capital, which is a Spring term elective. On the PE side, it equipped us with an in-depth understanding of how leveraged buyouts are modelled and executed, and the inside mechanics of a private equity firm; in terms of Venture Capitalist (VC), we learned all about startups funding stages and what venturis’ are after and how to model returns. However, what made the overall programme exceptional was our lecturer - a highly experienced industry professional with PE and M&A experience, author of three books relevant to the subject with a greatly engaging and humorous delivery of the lectures. He also brought a variety of guest speakers from the industry to our class, which allowed us to truly picture ourselves joining a fund and apply what we learned at Imperial.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

I believe the most rewarding and memorable part of my time at Imperial has been the people I have met and the relationships I have built. I have always been interested in joining a Business School that is not only academically excellent but has a strong community feel to it. It’s been invaluable to me to work and study alongside peers who are always excited about new challenges and eager to learn something new every day and I am honoured to be part of this cohort and to have made some life-long friends along the way. I also had the chance to run the Finance Club, be a Student Ambassador and take part in the Student Content Creator scheme and as such have been lucky to build strong connections with professors, fellow students and staff at the School which will stay with me for years to come.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme? 

The programme is intense in many ways and is designed to challenge you and develop you daily. The most challenging part is to strike a balance between the demanding and quantitative nature of the programmes offered, which are taught by experienced professors and industry professionals that know how to stretch your mind. The first term is always the most difficult, while one finds their ground and is exploring different job opportunities and going to interviews - this period is the so-called “milk round” with most employers on campus – I was rarely at home in autumn! The answer lies in being very organised and prioritising and trying to make the most of the plethora of opportunities, but also focusing on performing well on modules, given the challenging mathematical nature of the studies.

How was the international trip to Dublin and did you attend an international elective?

The trip to Dublin was a great way to see a new city with a business twist and re-connect with our cohort. We learned about the local thriving startup ecosystem that is growing fast and becoming ever more relevant from Dublin professionals. The most memorable part was a charity game, where we were all split into groups and had to raise money in a variety of imaginative ways and purchase a list of items around the city. I absolutely loved meeting locals on the street and gaining an understanding of their daily lives. I also really enjoyed seeing all that the city has to offer while raising funds for a local charity. Plus, our team was ranked second, which was really rewarding!

I believe that the trip to Dubai will remain as a definite highlight in my memories of Imperial. It was a truly unique experience that combined applying our academic knowledge to the real world with a week full of local exploration, a variety of cultural events and brand-new experiences. We were lucky to be able to visit Dubai Islamic Bank and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates, which gave us an insight into how Islamic Finance operates and what would it be like to pursue a career in the Middle East. In the afternoons, we explored Dubai and all that it has to offer, from a cultural afternoon learning about customs and traditions, - cuisine tasting, climbing up to the top of the Birj Khalifa, an exciting desert safari and enjoying dinners near the musical fountains in the desert sun. It was an unforgettable experience that made me curious about working on the various initiatives the government is pursuing on diversification. away from fuel, and a potential career in the region.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

Our cohort is, before anything, always striving. It is a group of incredibly intelligent and ambitious students, who have some of the most diverse backgrounds and interests, which makes for a truly vibrant experience; and put together, we turn into one hub of thinkers. One becomes part of a constant flow of ideas and projects, combined with hard work and plenty of social events; the people you are surrounded with inspire you and make the Imperial experience one of a kind. 

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

With so many programmes to experience, I am always so impressed by the wonderful lecturers we are lucky to have and how passionate they all are. However, my favourite professor is Dr Harjoat Bhamra. I remember being anxious about our Derivatives elective, with it being the most quantitative and technical in nature, focusing on derivatives pricing and heavy on mathematical derivations. As soon as we began with our first lecture, all my fear was gone – we were faced with the most experienced, calm and at the same time full of wit and passionate lecturer, who not only taught us the material in a fantastic way but got to know us on a personal level and made us laugh. I will remember what I learned in those eight weeks for a long time to come and how enjoyable each lecture was. Dr Bhamra made sure he got to the essence of our queries and always had time to chat and connect with us on a personal level. He really is an inspirational teacher with a truly kind spirit.


What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

The greatest opportunity for me was the opportunity to take on several leadership positions. As an aspiring management consultant and hopefully one day – an entrepreneur, it was vital for me to experience both being part of a team and leading one. I am the Vice-President for the Finance Club at the Business School, which is an invaluable experience to run a team of dedicated students, work with alumni, organise events from start to finish and liaise with the staff at the School. I developed strong inter-personal skills, planning and executing events and built great relationships with industry professionals. As a Student Ambassador, I developed communication strength and gave presentations to prospective students, both in person and at webinars, along with helping incoming offerees through online applications and meeting many of them for coffee. I have not only learned a lot about myself but have grown as a person and as a future hopeful entrepreneur, I feel confident that I can work well in a pressured environment.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the School have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

There have been a plenty of opportunities to develop as a confident leader of a team to learning how to code and understanding how Venture Capital funding works. At Imperial there is something for everyone, whatever field of Finance you are interested in, the Business School would have an event or a workshop on it. Once you join in September, there are numerous soft skill workshops, where you can learn the values and importance of networking, public speaking, leadership and how to find mentors. Employer events were vital to me too – I met such a wide variety of professionals from different companies and practiced how to effectively network and ask insightful questions. A lot of our modules included guest lectures by industry experts and practitioners (these were my favourites) – we got to hear from managing directors, entrepreneurs and analysts in investment banks, which was a great application of theory to real-life and they were always happy to share their contacts and grab a coffee with us later.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

I have been fortunate enough to be selected as Vice President of the Finance Club at the Business School, which has been an invaluable chance for me to develop my leadership skills and work with a variety of people with differing backgrounds. The President as well as some of our committee members are from the MBA Programme, which is a great way to mix and get to know their cohort and way of work. We all work hard, together with the Employer Relations Team to organise and bring a variety of events and speakers to campus, in order to educate and introduce our members to what the finance world has to offer. We also focus a lot of networking and relationship building with several events focused on inviting Alumni and industry professionals to campus e.g. our Networking mentorship café where students experienced “Speed Networking” and had insightful conversations and new-found mentors. The Club also brought not only banking to campus but also Venture Capital, Fintech, Private Equity and Wealth Management in order to cater for the diverse interests of the students. One of the highlights was when we secured funding and organised a full day of financial modelling training for 60 of our members, with an external training company that works with the largest investment banks and PE funds to train their new analysts. Looking back at the year with the Club, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had with Imperial.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?

I believe that this will become more prominent with time, once I am an Imperial alumnus and get involved with the wider community and am able to contribute. However, I have already benefited from the Alumni office by connecting with several people who studied at Imperial. They were always happy to answer all my questions about their careers and give me advice. It has been invaluable in helping me navigate my career choices and building my network. I am excited to be able to give back and help future students in the years to come.


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

It is always a tough question – I dedicated a couple of articles on our Imperial student blog exploring the topic of career aspirations and what I want to do in the future. For the time being, I have a flavour for investment banking and have decided to go into strategy and management consulting; long-term I see myself in entrepreneurship and venture capital or potentially financial journalism. Luckily, we have all the time ahead of us and Imperial is a launchpad for some exciting opportunities. Being a student at the Business School has helped me get to know myself better, and through meeting so many professionals from a range of companies and working with different people, I have discovered what I am good at and what I truly enjoy doing.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

Since I decided to pursue strategy consulting, I received a couple of offers for different firms at various locations globally and decided to accept McKinsey London as it offered the most global and diverse experience, being a strength in most industries out there. I wanted to see a bit of everything and understand the drivers and challenges behind business in natural resources, healthcare, consumer goods and more. Consulting is one of the few places which would give me that variety and will put me face to face with some of the most influential C-Suite executives from day one, something that truly excites me. The Career service at Imperial is incredibly well run, with a true focus on helping students before they join the School to helping them succeed during and after their time at the Business School. I benefited from one-to-one CV and cover letter detailed checks, numerous case study practices, skills workshops, employer events and careers fairs. Whenever you have an interview coming up, the team will organise a mock interview or an assessment centre, specifically tailored to the company you are going for, since they have such a wide variety of consultants. I would say that it has been a key factor in my success.

London Location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

Having completed my Undergraduate studies in Bristol, I knew I wanted my Master’s degree to be in London, since this is where it all happens. All the investment banks, funds and consultancies are based here, and they are active in meeting students and organising networking and learning events; those are invaluable in getting to know a company from the inside and deciding if a place is right for you. London brings you something new every day and with Imperial being right in the centre of the city, it means we can make the most of it. In the first term, I attended many events at Bain, McKinsey, EY, Oliver Wyman, which was instrumental in building my network and deciding where I might want to apply; I also followed up with the people I connected with and met them for a coffee near their office and they gave me valuable advice on my career choices. If you want to work in London for in future, it is key to stay close to where the “magic” happens!

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I chose to live near Gloucester Road Station, which is one stop away from South Kensington station, a walking distance to campus. I chose to live there mainly for the proximity to Imperial, but also because it is a very lively and vibrant part of London - full of a variety of cafes, restaurants and shops but also beautiful neighbourhood parks; it is also a five minute walk to Hyde Park, which is always a great place to go for a run and relax.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

My favourite things to do are to explore London through its cultural offerings – you would find me at a different exhibition, museum or performance every week. This city offers literally all that one can desire and I find myself constantly curious and learning something new. I also enjoy reading and writing, whether it’s for the Student Content Creator scheme or for my personal blog, as well as going for a run or to the Imperial swimming pool. London is an incredible city which never leaves you unentertained - it really is a fun place to be a student.


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

The first webinar I tuned into was a Women’s Webinar, discussing and empowering females in the field and what Imperial does to support the efforts of equal gender representation. This is where I first heard about the Women in Finance scholarship and was also inspired by the incredible success of the students. I also attended a few information sessions, which were always a lot of fun and a great way to find your way around the Business School, meet your future professors and peers, along with being able to picture yourself being part of this vibrant community. The website is a great source of information – but hearing first-hand from the Imperial community at such events is the only way to grasp what the Business School has to offer and how you can make it your own unique experience.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

I think it would be appropriate to quote a sentence from my latest student blog on how I felt a couple of weeks before joining: “I already knew – I don’t know what I truly want to do in life yet, but for now, I am going to Imperial and it will be a hell of a year to remember.” My advice would be, prepare to be challenged, stretched and encouraged to think and create every day. Have an open mind to new people, companies and experiences and do not be afraid to fail – no one’s path is linear and that is what makes life a lot of fun.