Since writing this piece Sajal Khanter has successfully secured an intership spot at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in IBD in Palo Alto, USA. Congratulations!
Coming from an engineering background, finding resources that deepened my understanding of finance and valuation was difficult. Moreover, as I looked towards preparing myself to eventually pursue a career in technology-focused investment banking, I constantly felt like there was a knowledge barrier preventing me from truly understanding these concepts. Working with traditional resources like reading interview questions' guides and networking through typical cold emails was neither developing my professional skills nor helping me develop a strong industry network.
However, a weekly email blast from the accounting department at my university introduced me to the HOLT Valuation Challenge, and my professional outlook has changed ever since. My initial motivation was the prospect of learning an advanced valuation methodology for free! Week in week out I answered the quizzes, telling myself that the worst-case scenario would leave me with an advanced stock valuation tool. However as time passed, I began to truly appreciate the HOLT methodology and felt the knowledge gap I previously felt slowly wither away. I got more confident with my financial statement analysis skills and became more assertive in my thought-process when I thought about stocks and finance in general. The second round allowed me to put everything I had learned to the test. I had already started to use the HOLT Lens™ more extensively, screening and evaluating equities in India and the US. I would contrast my analysis with that of the market, track the performance of certain stocks, and tweak my understanding accordingly. Reading articles written by HOLT Community members also helped me dive into the nitty-gritties of valuation. The competition supplemented my academic knowledge through practical application and opened doors to a plethora of resources. However, being declared a HOLT Champion was a defining moment for me.
With the HOLT Champion tag on my resume, employers started to take my interest in finance seriously. They would enquire about the competition and what I did, and this would always lead to a sustained and engaging conversation. I landed my internship at one of India’s largest angel investing networks in part due to the work I did in the HOLT Valuation Challenge as it added credibility and weight to my application. It has definitely helped me leap over the barriers of entry I used to face. Till date, I use HOLT Lens™ to analyse equities for UCLA’s first and only student-run investment fund.
Unlike most competitions, my relationship with Project Firefly developed with time and helped me more than I could have asked for. To this date, I am constantly being guided by the Project Firefly Team. They have helped me develop a strong professional network, speak to me whenever I have dilemmas, and have given me the opportunity to contribute to academic discussions like the HOLT debates. Given the fact that my network and knowledge base was nearly non-existent before the competition, I could not be more grateful. From being just another competition host, Project Firefly has truly become an integral part of my support system - and I consider myself privileged to have that.