There’s not much like that Bay Area vibe.
You’re a financial analyst and your morning routine consists of pulling on a simple pair of dark-washed Levis, running a brush through your hair a couple of times, and grabbing a pour-over coffee on your way to the office. Can you believe it? None of those restricting suits or silent elevator rides for you. People actually want to work with each other here.
Sounds pretty awesome, huh?
So, what can YOU do to get a job in finance at a tech company?
We had the chance to speak with Ariana Quinones, a recent graduate working as a financial analyst at a tech company in Silicon Valley, about how she got her start, what it’s like doing a financial rotational program, and what students need to know about working in finance and tech.
How did Ariana approach her job search?
Even if you have a general understanding of what interests you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what you want to do as far as your career is concerned. Much like when she was applying for colleges, Ariana wasn’t sure what she was looking for when it came to finding a job.
Sure, she knew that finance was her strong suit, but where in that industry did she fit best? The only real criterion she had for her job search was to try something other than financial advising. As a student, she had interned as a financial advisor and found that it wasn’t the place she wanted to be.
So, she searched the broadest term in the industry (and one that was sure to show results for entry-level positions) “Financial Analyst.”
Lucky for her, that search ended up leading her to a financial planning rotational program in the tech industry which happened to suit her really well.
What is a financial analyst rotational program like?
The rotational program takes recent graduates and introduces them into two different departments of the company, one department per year. At the end of those two years, the recent graduate will decide which department they want to work in.
Ariana’s first year working with the company was spent in pricing and licensing, which sounds pretty finance-related, but actually had a lot more to do with the customer service side of things.
She spent most of her time doing analytics for the customer care team and seeing what products were upgrading and what products customers were buying. It had a lot to do with data analytics and not so much with managing a budget or forecasting sales/revenue.
Though this is not what she had expected or even hoped to be doing her first year out of college, being in this department definitely gave her an appreciation for the position she moved into the next year, which had more to do with finances. This first year in the pricing and licensing department also helped her to get acclimated to work life. It wasn’t too difficult and the training was good so she was able to transition from student to employee without many bumps along the way.
Now, she’s working in a part of the company that is more directly related to her studies and what she wanted to do. She manages three different engineering teams’ budgets and does the forecast for these budgets. Meeting regularly with VPs, she makes sure that they’re meeting their financial goals and that the departments are not overspending.
“So, for example, say the engineering teams can buy, like, a million dollars’ worth of equipment this quarter. I’m making sure they know how much they can spend and how much they need to save,” she explains.
What is the training like in this program?
The program is pretty unique in that you get assigned a mentor. Ariana’s mentor is the VP of investor relations.
“She’s been instrumental in my learning and knowing how to excel in my career here.”
In terms of day-to-day training, there is another analyst who is on the same team and does the same sort of work. This analyst has helped to train Ariana in her daily duties. She also has a manager who she meets with weekly. During those meetings they go over any issues, concerns, or problems that Ariana might be having.
What are the best parts about this job?
Ariana’s favorite part about her job is being able to solve any financial mysteries that come up. It’s incredibly rewarding to notice when there’s a major issue in the numbers and/or when the forecast isn’t matching up and then to do some research to figure out where that issue is coming from.
It can be extremely stressful and difficult because there are a ton of different reports that have information about where the spending for that department is coming from. You have to really get in there and investigate, but when you find where that glitch in the report is, there’s no better feeling.
“I’m basically a detective! My job is to be a detective and to figure out where that money came from. Who was spending that amount? There are so many places you can look to see where an expense is coming from. That can make it really difficult but when you find where it’s coming from, you feel amazing.”
What should college students know about getting hired in this industry?
The first thing that Ariana mentions is how important it is to be a cultural fit with the company. [Editor's note: Keep in mind that Ariana works at a tech company in Silicon Valley (one that doesn't mind if you come in your comfiest jeans rather than a tailored suit) so this may not be the case within the finance industry as a whole]
She recommends practicing your interviewing skills. Remember, half the battle is showing the interviewer that they will want to work with you. In order to do that, you have to go into an interview comfortably and confidently. Being yourself may seem like silly advice, but when you’re nervous, it’s easy to act unnatural and stiff. If a company like Ariana’s is looking for a fun and easy fit, this could nix you from their short list.
“Honestly, you really need to be a likeable person. My company bases a lot on personality and seeing if you can handle stressful situations. I hated going into those interviews where they give you like a 30-minute test about your finance skills. We don’t do that at my company. There’s just a type of person we hire here who is, more than anything, nice and easy to work with.”
BUT that does not mean that her company doesn’t care about your hard skills. She very strongly suggests (in fact, she nearly demands) that you get some “professional” experience under your belt before you graduate.
“It’s such an annoying thing but getting experience in before you apply is huge. It sucks because this is a dilemma that people deal with—people won’t give you a chance if you don’t have experience, but how are you supposed to get experience if people won’t give you a chance? So get an internship. Or if you can’t get an internship, volunteer somewhere. Do anything related to finance. A lot of people are eliminated automatically if they don’t have any experience.”
Her last piece of advice?
“Do the best you can no matter what you’re doing so that when people look at your résumé [or hear about you from references] your work reflects the best of you. Even if your résumé doesn’t have the most work, if it’s the best, it will show.”
Homework time! Make sure you’re getting experience before you graduate. Do an internship or volunteer for any financial area you can. Make sure your financial résumé reflects your best work.
Then, work on your interviewing skills. Practice with your friends and family or with your career service center. Challenge yourself to talk with strangers. Get as comfortable as possible in an interview setting so that when it’s time for your real job interview, you can show who you are and come across as comfortable and natural.
Not interested in the finance industry, but like the idea of a job that has a rotational training aspect to it? Check out this post about a career development program.