Resilience, Virtual Interviews, and the Finance Industry with Jennifer Voldins
In my latest interview, I was delighted to speak with Jennifer Voldins, the Brandeis International Business School MSF Career Coach. With a strong finance background and years of experience at renowned institutions like the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Jennifer has invaluable insights to share. In our conversation, we discussed her thoughts on successful finance careers and her expert advice for navigating the competitive landscape of the industry. We also talked about her instrumental role in introducing the Big Interview platform to the business school and concluded with a glimpse into her favorite small talk topics.
What drew you to a career in Finance in the first place?
As a Finance and French double major in college, I always knew I wanted to do something internationally related to business or international relations. I got an internship in Paris with Bristol Myers, where I analyzed the company’s drug sales to Africa and became fascinated by the process of analyzing demand, supply, and macroeconomic factors.
After college, I landed a job at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and was assigned to the gold vault where I learned about international monetary policy. From there, I moved to the Foreign Exchange trading desk and was surrounded by brilliant people from the Fed, working closely with central banks around the world. The exposure was tremendous – I was exposed to global financial markets and the inner workings of the world’s central banks. It was an incredible experience and one that I will always remember.
I’ve heard that you were influential in adding Big Interview to the CSE Resource Library. Why is Big Interview your go-to CSE Resource? Why is interview practice so important?
The finance industry is very competitive, and the interview process is rigorous. There is a lot of competition for top roles. Since the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, things have gotten even more competitive, and many companies have started relying on computers and AI to filter job candidates. One platform that has emerged in the past decade is called HireVue, and it uses AI to conduct interviews. I was really concerned about how tough the interview process has become, as I felt that it would be a disadvantage for many of our students. I learned about the “Big Interview” platform at a conference for career coaches. Then, I did some research and found out that it’s a comprehensive online platform that offers a wide range of resources for interview preparation, including practice questions, video tutorials, and feedback on interview responses.
I realized that using Big Interview could be a game changer for our students who are preparing for interviews in the Finance industry, where the competition is tough and the screening process can be challenging with AI-driven platforms like HireVue. It can help our students practice and refine their interview skills in a realistic and supportive environment.
Based on your experience, what is your biggest piece of advice for students to be successful in the corporate world? What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a career in Finance, but may not have a traditional background in the field?
As someone who has worked in finance, I believe it’s an incredible industry with diverse opportunities beyond Investment Banking or being a Research Analyst. Success in Finance requires hard work, resilience, and developing both technical and soft skills, such as communication and networking. It’s important to take classes seriously, build a well-rounded profile, and be prepared to explain and communicate your ideas effectively. Companies value individuals who are skilled in both hard and soft skills and can represent the company well.
How can students make the most of their time in the business school to prepare for a successful career in finance?
Make sure you attend CSE events as much as you possibly can, because it will help. As a coach, I have seen firsthand that students who come in and say, “I have never done this before. Help me out. I want to get involved”, tend to do well because they commit to career planning early, which is essential. Even attending events you may not be particularly interested in can be beneficial, as you might discover new areas of interest. Putting yourself out there will help you become a more well-rounded person.
Why do you think it is especially important for students interested in Finance to be constantly discussing trends and topics on a regular basis?
Staying informed about global events is crucial. The industry is fluid and constantly impacted by external factors such as political events, policy changes, and market fluctuations. Being knowledgeable about what’s happening in the world is vital for your job, as it helps in crafting investment and risk management strategies and in client interactions. Stay updated with news, read publications like The Wall Street Journal, and keep yourself informed to stay ahead in the dynamic field of Finance.
What’s your favorite small talk topic? Basically, if a student wanted to initiate a really fun conversation with you, what should they talk about?
I’ve found that the weather is always a great icebreaker. It’s a universal topic that everyone can relate to, and it’s a safe and easy way to start a conversation. Whether it’s raining, sunny, or snowing, talking about the weather can be a lighthearted way to break the ice and set a positive tone for the conversation. Additionally, I love learning about my students and their backgrounds. Hearing about their experiences, interests, and perspectives is always fascinating to me, and it helps me connect with them on a personal level. So, discussing their home country, culture, or hobbies can also be a fun and engaging topic for small talk.