MSF alum Saswati Sen on pivoting to a new field and finding the right fit

Saswati Sen professional headshot

Saswati Sen works in a career she did not even know existed until a few years ago. Equity Methods posted for the role of Valuation Associate on Handshake, and it looked like a “challenging, interesting, and extremely technical finance topic,” says Sen.

“I did not feel confident that I could get this job,” she added. “What we do here is not taught in school because it is very niche. I did not have an extensive academic background in this.” Sen described entering her Master of Science in Finance (MSF) only knowing about three or four different career paths in the field. She is not alone — there are myriad career options that didn’t exist ten years ago. 

Each year, business graduates are looking for the perfect job to put their degrees — and skills — to good use. But it can be all too easy for a job-seeker to disregard a great opportunity just because the role or industry is unfamiliar to them. As Sen demonstrates, getting that job is all about a combination of focus, passion and hard work, and it does not stop with the job offer.

Growing as a finance professional

Sen loves numbers; she earned both her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and MBA in her home country of India. Her work in car manufacturing involved volume planning and sales forecasting. While she enjoyed working on supply chains, Sen had always collaborated with finance professionals and found their jobs fascinating.

After six years in manufacturing, she uprooted her life to move with her husband to the United States for his job. They lived in Colorado for one year before moving to Portland. Sen had been studying hard for the GMAT and decided that her ease with numbers and interest in finance meant that the Master of Science in Finance would be a good fit. The program lasts only one year, and Sen made the most of it. 

Sen took her assignments very seriously, contributed as much as she could to group projects and made close friends within her cohort. One of her favorite activities was taking part in case competitions, which she credits with “increasing my confidence, shaping my personality, and making me interview-ready.” After Sen completed her Capstone in business valuation, she thought she might pursue that as a career. She had never heard of equity compensation valuation, Equity Methods’ area of specialization, but was intrigued by the job posting. It named core traits that sparked her interest, like technical financial problem solving.

She describes the application process as “intense.” “It’s not like a normal job application,” she explains. “They have a different kind of application form, not with standard questions but open-ended ones.” She also had to read a highly technical paper on a topic that was completely new to her. “I was not confident but worked very hard to prepare for the second round,” she says. Sen approached every accounting professor in The School of Business to discuss the topic and extract new insights, and she reread the paper countless times.

Working at Equity Methods

After all her hard work, Sen was elated to learn that she got the job. She moved to Scottsdale, Arizona — her third move in three years. Her title was Valuation Associate, which included various tasks with the Valuation and HR Advisory group. Her primary responsibilities were to build valuation models for various equity compensation instruments and assure that reports were perfect, complete and finished in a timely manner. As she grew in the role and got promoted to Consultant, her responsibilities diversified: She started to recruit employees, conduct interviews, train new associates, and write professional articles and papers while leading core valuation projects. She also works on client communication, management and strategy. She describes it as a “very diverse range of tasks,” adding, “You get exposure to many different things.”

Sen loves her employer. She has worked in other environments where she was not allowed as much self-direction and was limited to narrow responsibilities. At Equity Methods, she is proud of the high-impact projects given to new employees. The learning curve is extremely steep. In her first year, Sen read academic papers about domain knowledge, absorbed new frameworks around valuation, learned how complex models work and even mastered Equity Methods’ own programming language. 

She gets to work with a group of similarly energetic, focused colleagues from all over the world and from all regions of the United States. “Lateral hires are rare; we are a ‘promote from within culture,’” Sen says. The company typically hires talented graduates and helps them develop for promotions and professional growth.

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