Considering a Career in Business, Finance, or Consulting?

Careers in business and finance continue to be popular for Duke students. Recently, the Duke Career Center hosted an Exploring Careers in Business and Finance Panel discussion featuring Duke alumni who have experience in the field. Alum panelists shared insight on recruiting for and working in roles in corporate finance, restructuring, sales & trading, venture capital, corporate social responsibility, and even transitioning to an MBA program. 

Throughout the discussion, themes of acknowledging transferable skills, being curious in experiences, taking time to develop a sense of self-awareness emerged through the panelists’ responses. 

Alum Panelist Matt Levey (‘18) started the discussion by sharing his path from Duke as a BME/ECE double major through industry to his current role as an MBA student. “The undergraduate experience helped me grow a lot as a thinker. It helped me prepare to use data to solve business problems. I used those skills when I worked in New York in Commercial Banking. It has been fun to take what I’ve learned professionally and apply it to different contexts,” Levey shared.

When asked about the most intriguing or instrumental part of his career path, Gonzalo Pertile (MIDP‘17) at Madewell shared that he had always worked in the public sector. He had grown comfortable working with a specific client profile but he came to a point when it was time to transition to a new sector. After consultation with mentors and taking an inventory of his skills, he realized the pivot was inevitable. Pertile shared, “It’s important to recognize where you are, connect the dots, understand your strengths and take the risks.”

Noting a similar experience, Leighanne Oh (’15, MS’17) from Sofinnova shared a bit of a wisdom that she gained from a mentor which resonated with other panelists, “You only know what you know” referring to her early career thought that she would be in banking for life. However, after allowing herself to explore other options, she realized she could diversify her career experience. “If you don’t actively look, you are doing a disservice to yourself. If it was easy, everyone would do it”, Oh notes.

Reid Maxmin (’16, MMS’17) from Citi, in responding to a question about what impacted him most during his time at Duke responded, “Duke challenges you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Duke motivates you to be the best you can be. Everything I did at Duke, I had this “dare to be great” attitude. Something about Duke made me want to do things that were difficult and take on challenges I had previously backed away from. In doing so, Duke also taught me how to fail.”

When asked what makes a recent graduate successful as they enter their careers, Walker Jester (‘19) (formerly of Houlihan Lokey, now at SiteRx) shared that communication is key. “I knew what I didn’t know and I advocated for myself by asking questions. Communication was critical for me. Understand you are part of a team, no matter where you are,” Jester stated. 

As the panel session wrapped up, each panelist provided final words of wisdom or advice for students. Most of which encouraged students to be aware of the power of their connections. The Duke Alumni network is one that is powerful and strong which boasts of people in all industries worldwide. It was also noted not to minimize the networking capacity of friend relationships as well. Reflecting on a personal experience, Maxmin noted, “You never know what part of your network will be responsible for your biggest career change.” There was also one final admonishment to live in the moment while preparing for the future. Levey closed the comments reminding the students, “Your undergraduate experience is not a professional factory, have fun! Remember to enjoy the phase you’re in. College doesn’t come back.”

Following the panel, students were able to network virtually with Mitchell Grant (‘17) from Financo | Raymond James, Thomas Marshall, Jr. (‘18) from Pacific Western Bank, and Tess Snider from Northwestern Mutual.

By Stacia Solomon (she/her)
Stacia Solomon (she/her) Director, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture