Job title: Desk Strat (Strategist)
Employer: Morgan Stanley
Year of graduation: 2014
Supervisor: Associate Professor Krešimir Pripužić, Ph.D./Professor Ivana Podnar Žarko, Ph.D.
Study profile: Computing/Telecommunications
Hello! My name is Antea and I graduated from FER quite a few years ago. Unlike many of my classmates, I didn’t enrol in FER because I fell in love with programming in high school. In fact, I went to a classical gymnasium where the emphasis was on humanistic subjects and my interests lay in an unusual combination of philosophy, logic, and mathematics. At the urging of my physics professor (thanks professor!), I ended up at FER and although it was quite a challenge to grasp new concepts after all those Latin and Greek lessons, FER was actually a great choice. At the end of the day, perhaps programming is a kind of philosophy? 🙂
What did your professional career path look like?
While I was writing my graduation thesis, I worked at Ericsson Nikola Tesla, where I got a full-time job after graduation. Working at ETK was a great experience, an interesting job close to my field of study and a great team. I was also able to participate in a project in Sweden for a year, which was a really special experience. I wasn’t actively looking for new opportunities, but every now and then I’d reply to recruiters and agree to an interview. I still think that occasional interviews are a good way to test your skills and get out of your comfort zone. Anyway, one of the interviews ended with a job offer I was very interested in, and I ended up at the Morgan Stanley office in Budapest. I was attracted by the interest in global markets and finance, but also by the good reputation of the company. After a year in Budapest, I moved to London, where I still live and work.
I wouldn’t say my career path was classic and straightforward – I often took sudden turns and caused astonishment among colleagues and family, but it always made sense for me to say “yes” when I was offered something new. I often had to learn a new programming language in a completely new industry or adapt to a new culture, but that was fine with me. “You can always go back if you don’t like it” would probably be something of a mantra for me.
What’s your typical working day like?
My typical workday starts at 9 a.m. in the office in London’s Canary Wharf with a large cup of black coffee and an ambitious to-do list. Crossing tasks off the list gives me weird pleasure! After that, I usually have a few meetings with my colleagues where we use the time to coordinate, discuss problems and challenges, share tasks, etc. The rest of the day depends mainly on the markets and needs – some days I’m programming technical assignments, sometimes I’m analysing the real estate market in Europe for transactional requirements, while on other days I’m working with the IT department on automating a specific process. My current role is an interesting mix of everything to do with data, numerical analysis, and automating loan analysis and issuance. Since I work in a global team and a large part of my team is based in New York, I’m often on the afternoon calls where we discuss the global strategy of our projects and possible collaborations between the teams.
What are some of the challenges you face in the workplace?
Ah, all kinds… From new programming languages (sometimes invented by the banks themselves) to new financial products. I guess one of my constant challenges is to find and maintain a good balance between high quality and attention to detail – which I naturally strive for – and the time constraints and pressures exerted by the market itself. Market-related activities are very dynamic and demands change quickly, so it’s important to accept that and balance it with your own need for perfectionism.
Thinking back to your experiences at FER, what prepared you the most for your career?
Many things, but if I had to pick one, it would be the high standards and expectations demanded by FER as an institution. During my studies, I always felt that a lot was expected of me and my colleagues. Personally, it took me some time to appreciate the meritocratic system at FER and to develop my personal discipline, but I believe that this very skill has helped me in my career because companies like mine value it very much.
What is the most useful thing you’ve learned during your career?
When you study at a technical faculty such as FER, you’re surrounded by natural scientists and the natural sciences are generally favoured, while all humanities courses are “oh, that thing we have to do because of the ECTS credits”. I’d say that in my career I’ve learned to appreciate “both sides of the coin” – yes, you definitely have to have the analytical, technical side, but in order to get ahead you have to know how and when to step away from the details and dedicate yourself to building teams, motivate your colleagues and subordinates, and communicate with different groups. This is exactly why people skills and emotional intelligence are so important.
What advice would you give to students who are looking for a job?
Be and stay informed – the world is changing fast, and industries we didn’t know existed yesterday now dominate our lives. It’s important to stay curious and learn about new professions, industries, and skills. In this globalised world we live in, access to information is truly endless. Finally, I’d like to add that, if you’re interested in banks and positions like mine, feel free to contact me on my LinkedIn profile.