The Project-Firefly London Chapter Meeting was a superb learning and networking experience. I met exceptional individuals (students and professionals) who were enthusiastic about sharing insights and advise relating to the financial industry. I met Daniel Garraty (co-founder of Project-Firefly) who spoke about networking techniques, particularly around reaching out to a professional in an area you are interested in. You should thoroughly research him/her and express just how much respect and admiration you have for his/her achievements. Promote yourself by connecting your aspirations and qualities with theirs to encourage enthusiasm in the conversation. You would have left them feeling positive about the encounter, and by extension they would feel positively about you too.
Jorge Palomeque (Current HOLT Valuation Challenge participant), shared his experience as a Masters in Finance (MiF) candidate at London Business School (LBS). He stressed on the flexibility to acquire either a generalist or specialist approach, with him aiming for the former. He previously held a position in M&A advisory where his clients expect their trusted advisers to have a broad exposure in all aspects of finance. Narendra Sousa, (one of the top performers in the 2013 HOLT Valuation Challenge) agreed with this sentiment as he spoke about his advisory role at a Boutique Investment Firm, where he must have enough understanding on a spectrum of financial products to effectively address his clients’ bespoke needs. If more specific knowledge is required, advisers are required to be the “middleman” between their clients and the respective subject matter experts. On the other hand, many post graduate students who come in with professional experience either want to gain knowledge to move laterally into another area of finance, or hope for a promotion by acquisition of in-depth expertise in their current area. Candidates like Alexander Kostyra (The Emerging Leaders 2014 Competition winner) leveraged his MiF at the London School of Economics (LSE) to gain more skill in the quantitative side of finance, which has helped him in his role as an IBD analyst covering the pharmaceuticals industry at Citi.
In assessing whether pursuing an MiF was a choice to consider for me, I was curious to know when the perfect time was to do so. Jorge mentions that he is one of the youngest in his cohort and often is left to compete with colleagues who have had experience in areas like management consultancy, corporate finance, and engineering. The average years of work experience can be as high as five years in applicant pools of hiring programs that require applicants to have a post graduate qualification. If you are still quite fresh out of undergraduate school with minimal work experience, you would be an outlier. If you do decide to pursue it earlier, you will need to differentiate yourself and stand out by ‘compensating’ for the lack of experience. Participation in competitions organized by Project-Firefly, among other involvements, are a good way to stand out through receiving recognition from its esteemed Academic Review Board and Corporate partners.
Through the London Chapter Meeting, I made new friends with similar interests, who have been a tremendous help in instances where I needed their thoughts and feedback on articles that I am working on. They have also introduced me to useful contacts that can help in my career progression. This event allowed me to evaluate my current position vis-à-vis other successful Fireflies, giving me a better idea of where I want to be in the near future, and most importantly, the best way to get there.