Interview With Alumni: Ruiqi(Rae) Zhang’21 shares her experience in Blackstone as Financial Analyst
“Interview with International Alumni” is a program consisting of a series of interviews conducted by the Babson Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) and members of the Undergraduate Center for Career Development. This program will invite several international alumni to share their work experiences and career paths.
Graduation Year: 2021
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruiqi-rae-zhang/
- Financial Analyst, Jun 2021 – present
- Summer Analyst, Jun 2020 – Aug 2020
- Junior Associate Consultant, Sep2019 – Dec2019
Goldsman Sachs| Exploratory Program Participant
- Insight Series Scholar, May 2019 – Aug 2019
- Business Analytics Intern, May 2019 – Aug 2019
JPMorgan Chase & Co.| Exploratory Program Participant
- Corporate Analyst Development Program Summit Participant, May 2019 – Jun 2019
Q: I think the main thing I’m trying to ask you for this interview is that you obviously are a very successful example of landing a high finance position in the US as an international student, right? I think that what we are trying to get is what kind of tips and tricks that you have for other students? So there are a few components to that. The first thing is, a lot of time, many finance students are asking what kind of courses at Babson or outside Babson they should take to acquire skills needed for a position. Can you give students some ideas on what they should learn?
A: So I think in terms of classes, you should take all the basic finance classes at Babson and then on top of the required classes, you should definitely look into different aspects of finance. At Babson, from what I remember, we have Corporate Financial Modeling, Corporate Financial Management, Security Valuation and so on which are required for the finance concentration, and then we have classes like Entrepreneurial Finance, Financial Simulation, and Alternative Investments which give you a much larger picture of the finance space. Taking these exploratory classes to dig deeper into different aspects of finance is something that I strongly encourage students to do.
There’s much to do outside Babson. For example, follow the news, learn about the industry from consulting reports, and just simply do some Google search. In order to learn something, most of the time you really don’t need to go into a fancy database or take an online class for it. Simply start by doing some simple Google researches. Start reading on those websites and articles and acquire the basic understanding of the industry. Then on top of that, you should join extracurricular clubs and orgs inside or outside of school to stay connected with others who are passionate about this industry and stay up to date with trends and topics within the industry. For example, at Babson, we have the Babson Finance Association. There are so many different branches under the club, and all of those branches are great resources for you to learn more of that specific area of finance. And for women who want to get into finance, the Finance Association also has a Women in Finance branch. And in terms of international students, it’s definitely harder in terms of the whole job search process. I would just say, don’t think in terms of you competing against another international student, but think of it as you against the best students out there. No matter if they’re international or local, just try to be the best one out there. I think that’s the only way that you can stand out in a crowd of students going through the job search process.
Q: So just a little clarification. Do you think that any additional classes you take outside Babson would be helpful, such as CFA level one, Bloomberg, financial modelling or coding? Are these useful or not for a job application?
A: I have a slightly different view on this. I know it is almost a standard that you should learn coding, get certificates, and take CFA, but for myself, I don’t think those are key in your job search process. If you have time on your hand and you’re really passionate about those skills, then go ahead and do that. But if you’re doing it just for the sake of getting a job, I don’t think that this will take you there. I think what’s the most important is what you do with your experience in finance. For example, if you take a financial modeling class, that doesn’t set you apart from anybody else who take the class. Taking what you learned and either entering into a competition, or actually doing a real world relevant project, now that would be something that actually sets you apart. Unlike a class, there is no pass or fail, so you just need to get the motivation to start and have the perseverance to finish. So in conclusion, I really don’t see coding skills and finances certificates playing a critical role in terms of helping you land a job. But if you can take what you learned and actually use it for something more substantial and significant then that would be helpful in terms of landing a job.
Q: Thank you for letting us know. So for another question, the typical finance route to get a job is you get into sophomore programs, some people even go to freshman programs. In your case, obviously, you follow the classic route, as I just described. I think a lot of finance students are very interested to know about sophomore or freshman programs. So what are these programs like? What are the typical programs that you should look for? And what is the key to be successful with an application, since obviously as a freshman, you probably don’t have a famous name on your resume, say I already worked for Goldman Sachs, right? So how do you be part of their program?
A: I believe most finance companies have these freshman and sophomore programs but most of them are for minority students. If you are one of them, there’s definitely a program for you, make sure you find it and apply for it. For other students who don’t fit into those categories, it’s definitely harder, but there is something you can do to make your application stronger against other freshmen and sophomores out there. First of all, know more about the industry than your peers. Do as much research as possible on the industry and the company. Second, a lot of the branches that I mentioned before under the finance association send out newsletters. They will send out notifications and remainders when these applications are out. They even have group chats to post information about those programs, so that people can apply. So make sure to sign up, and actually read the emails, there’s a lot of helpful information there. There are also campus ambassadors for different companies on campus and they will be sending out emails related to recruiting as well. So just be on the lookout, read your emails, find these campus ambassadors, and reach out to them.
Q: Thank you for that Information. And then another thing related to application is networking, right? I know you have lots of friends. So from your own experience, can you introduce a little bit about your experience about networking and give some tips for students on how to do that better?
A: I think there are 2 aspects of networking. The first one is networking with people that are much higher up than you, people that are in positions you’re trying to get into. This aspect of networking is definitely a lot harder. For me, at least during my job searching process, I tried and did not really see the results. So I just stopped. The only time I actually reached out to network was after landing my superday interview, to have a chat about the culture of the firm and learn about tips interviewing with the company. That’s just my personal take. If you think that networking is your strong suite then definitely make that call, but I do think it’s very hard to balance between having the sole purpose of getting a referral versus trying to connect and have a meaningful conversation.
So if you can balance that well, then definitely go for it.
The second aspect of networking, which I think is if anything the more important one, is networking with your peers. These are the people that will be applying for jobs with you, they’re the ones with first-hand information of the job market that you’re trying to get into. Don’t ever underestimate the peers around you. You really should connect with them and take advantage of their knowledge of the industry and their network as well. Maybe you’ll just end up landing your internship because one of your friends was like, hey, did you see this? Let’s apply for it together!
Q: Good advice. So now you obviously are a successful example of these strategies. Is there anything that in the four-year process, you regretted and wished that you had known earlier that can make you have less challenges or get to your endpoint faster or smoother?
A: I think looking back, there are definitely setbacks or low periods. I wouldn’t say I regret anything. Just because, you know, this is just life, there are always going to be highs and lows. Even when you’re in your lows, just gotta go through it and believe that life will take you to a better place. That’s what I did, and it took me here today. Everybody will have those periods, just talk to your friends, talk to your parents, try to be well and happy as much as you can and take care of yourself. But at the same time keep in mind that although when you are in college, career sounds so far away, it’s actually super-fast when you graduate and are no longer a student. So you need to make the decisions that are good for your life, long term, not just short term.
Q: Two last questions. One question is about resumes. Students ask what kind of resumes stand out in front of recruiters. What are some of the tips you have about the resume for this industry?
A: I have a few points on this. First thing, it’s important to know that GPA is not the most important thing on your resume. There are higher GPAs and there are lower GPAs. GPA is not everything. I don’t see any difference between a 3.7 & a 4.0 and I believe a lot of recruiters think this way as well. Your experience on your resume is so much more important than your GPA. Then second, you don’t need to stand out with colors, fonts, and formats. Just be as simple, neat and organized as possible. As for content, I think in the finance industry big names do matter, especially for internships and campus hires. It’s not necessarily for what you have worked on and learned at the big name firms, but more for validation, exposure, and systematic training purposes. So you should try to have one or two big names on your resume, either in the forms of exploratory programs, case competitions, or internships. Outside of big name firms, what you did and what your contributions (or value add) were at your other work experiences also stand out to me because sometimes you can’t really control what kind of companies you get to work at. Other than work experience, your project experiences are what really show me who you are, what kind of things you’re trying to do and what you have done with what you have learned in this industry. Class projects are very important. I always put those on the resume. Apart from the class projects, you can also do projects on your own. I feel like people always overlook this part. Students always ask me what they should do when they don’t have a lot of relevant experience and I always tell them that you can literally make your own relevant project and make it worthwhile. There are so many examples of great projects that people did on their own, and they are if anything more impressive since it was you who took the initiative to start something of your own. Lastly, do come to CCD to get your resume reviewed by the PCAs and advisors. Incorporate their advice can help you further improve your resume.
I would say, overall, looking at your resume as a whole, there are 2 kinds of resumes that stand out to me. One is very, very focused on that one industry that this person is trying to go into. Everything is tied back to the industry. Then the other one will be having two different focuses that are interconnected. You don’t want too much focus. You don’t want consulting, finance, data analytics and operations. That’s not good. You can do something like finance and financial analytics or operations and supply chain management. That would also make your resume fairly strong.
Q: Talking about resumes, we need to also talk about interviews. Every company is looking for “the fit”. So how do you present yourself to show you are a fit during the interview?
A: I think while I was in an interview, I actually did think I was the fit. That’s how I went into the interview. But if you’re in a place where you’re not sure whether you would fit into this company, I would definitely suggest doing a lot of research into the company. Look into how the firm was started and the values and history of the firm, look up their investor presentations, annual letters, recent announcements, and industry reports. Find any Information you can about the company and understand the company inside and out. What are their different revenue streams? What are their foundational values? What are they going to do next year? What are their goals？So definitely do that for all the companies that you will interview with. That’s what I did. And I think that is definitely the key.
Q: Thank you so much. Those are very useful tips. Really appreciate all the solid tips that you give to us today, and have a great night.