Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Ms. Dual Degree

Woman Drinking Coffee

Ms. Equity Derivatives


  • 710 GMAT (Q48/V38)
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Top 20 liberal arts college in the Northeast (think Colgate, Hamilton)
  • Work experience includes three years as a senior equity derivatives specialist at Bloomberg LP in New York and six months at Goldman Sachs after a prior summer internship (left due to team relocation to Utah), plus one year working at a law firm on the Lehman bankruptcy case (due to lack of jobs in finance at the time, graduated in the midst of the financial crisis)
  • Extracurricular involvement as a long-time volunteer at the Legal Aid Society, assisting under-privileged immigrants with housing matters, and an active member of my school’s alumni network
  • Short-term goal: To join the equity derivatives research team at a large bank (Goldman, Citi..etc.)
  • Long-term goal: To serve as the chief strategist heading up the equity derivatives research desk at a large bank or same function at buy-side, with focus on the Chinese equity derivatives market (which is just starting to develop now)
  • Trilingual, have lived in over five countries growing up, went to high school in France and then came to the U.S. for college; first person in family to attend college
  • 26-year-old Asian female (non-U.S. citizen from China)

Odds at Schools:

Columbia: 35%
Yale: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Those are the right target schools, along with Berkeley, Tuck, NYU, Duke, Darden, UCLA and Ross.

Your GMAT is real solid. Your GPA is a bit low-ish. Your work experience (once one winks at you starting out in the tough times of the recession) is OK, although it is something of an open question exactly how B-schools will weigh your current job.

Will they see it as a quant/research position in the exciting and esoteric field of derivatives, or will they question how someone like you, who is smart enough but no quant, actually has the job and what does it entail?

Interestingly, there is an advert on the Bloomberg job board which describes what an “Equity Derivatives Market Specialist” does, and what the qualifications are:

Equity Derivatives Market Specialist

The Role:

We have an exciting opportunity for an experienced and talented Equity Derivative professional to join our expanding team of market specialists in New York. The role will have a specific focus on equity derivatives.

Responsibilities will include:

-Protecting the existing terminal base by influencing customer usage patterns, increasing product adoption, and helping the sales-force to generate and close new sales opportunities.

-Building and maintaining key relationships with decision-makers and senior financial professionals.

-Shaping future product development by providing business managers with actionable feedback on the latest trends, regulations and market practices.

-Marketing the product by speaking at external events and industry conferences; organizing and delivering seminars, webinars and audio-visual presentations; writing content for Bloomberg on-line and printed publications.

-Furthering the knowledge of our sales-force by designing and delivering customized training.

-Formulating responses to queries from prospects, customers, salespeople and our Help Desk.


-Demonstrable expertise and success in the financial industry, with a broad and detailed theoretical knowledge and practical experience in equity derivatives.

-Thorough knowledge and experience of the BLOOMBERG PROFESSIONAL® service, and familiarity with other relevant market information platforms.

-An extensive network of deep client relationships, and ties to applicable professional organizations, societies and associations.

-Exemplary communication and customer service skills, with the ability to initiate, develop and maintain relationships with senior market professionals.

-Outstanding presentational skills, with the power to command and hold the attention of both small groups and large audiences.

-Excellent negotiating and inter-personal skills, with the capacity to influence decisions and deliver results in a timely manner.

-Strong written skills.

-Strong organizational skills, with the ability to successfully prioritize multiple tasks.

I think I get it, you are supposed to support the sale of Bloomberg terminals and allied products. That sounds like honest work to me, but B-schools may see it as mostly a sales role, or sales support role (I got a feeling the peeps at Bloomberg who make the big bucks are salespersons) rather than something close to an  IB analyst role.

I personally  think it is amazing you have been able to thrive in this environment, especially in light of your background, which I am maybe misreading given the very facts you present, viz.,  Chinese female, Top 20 U.S. liberal arts school, high school in France, first in family to go to college. Trilingual.  I am imagining, again possibly unfairly, that  person working in an environment  with a lot of guys who are, to put it precisely, sort of like Michael Bloomberg — but with several billion fewer dollars  in the bank  and lots more  rough edges all over.

It’s quite a picture, and let me say, loud and clear, I LIKE YOU.  And so will most business schools in the above list, to a point.

What you should do is capture the more analytical and team-focused parts of your job, to make it sound as close as possible to classic IB and not sales of Bloomie terminals, and try to expand what you list as goals.

Your current goals are: “Short-term: to join the Equity Derivatives research team at a large bank (Goldman, Citi, etc.)

My suggestion would be to identify those aspects of your job like analysis, company profiling, working in teams, quantification, and try to find a swath of things you could do with those skills in finance.  What that is, I don’t fully know,  but people in the business certainly do. Make it sound like classic investment banking and not derivatives focused.

Your equities derivatives mantra sounds too limited. Schools like to think they are developing you a bit and not just stamping your ticket. And as we have seen, you do not need an MBA per se, to be an “equities derivative researcher” and if you actually go to job boards, the position that is really in demand is for equity derivatives analysts, like this one:

“Quantitative Analyst – Associate – Equity and Credit Derivatives – Leading Financiacial Services Firm – Chicago: Top financial services firm is seeking aa junior quant to join the EQ/Credit team. . . . . planning on focusing their energies on cutting-edge margining models, thus need your quantitative, analytical, and technical skill sets to research and develop these models….”

Right, whatever that means. Of course, Sally and Joe Adcom Director won’t know what that means either, but in the back of their minds they may suspect you might do better getting a degree in finance rather than in management.

“Long-term goal: to serve as the Chief Strategist heading up the Equity Derivatives research desk at a large bank or same function at buy-side, with focus on the Chinese equity derivatives market (which is just starting to develop now).”

OK, that sounds super impressive but do people who have those jobs have MBAs or are they quants or finance types?

Hmmmm, I’m not fully sure but my advice is to expand your goals to make them more MBA-like and less quanty.

If someone out there is reading this and says, “Sorry Guru, you don’t know what you are talking about. She is Chinese and has an expertise in Chinese derivatives. Schools that are finance-centric like Columbia and NYU will see that and realize that although she will not learn anything useful with an MBA, she will get a job! And that is all they care about.” Well, please write in, you could be right, but it would help if you know of actual examples of “derivatives”-focused kids at those schools, who have twiddled their thumbs for two years taking your usual slacker MBA  courses like “Strategy” and “Disruption” and “Wha’z New on the Internet?”  and then got work at the derivatives desk at Goldman.

My guess is, au contra, the Goldman hires for their derivatives desk are not coming from MBA programs (with 48 GMAT Math scores, like our poster, which is deeply OK with me but not quant-like), but rather from Physics and Finance Ph.D programs, but I am always happy to learn.

Of course, I could be right about the lack of derivatove jobs for MBA’s and a doubter could still be right about my advice thinking that Joe and Jane Adcom will think you could get that job and thus admit you.

That certainly works for me. Joe and Jane Adcom could also think that you are an interesting young adult, with an unusual tri-lingual past, and some nice extras helping fellow immigrants, so  what the hey, worst case, you can always go back to Bloomberg, and that would be one less grad they need to place.

That could also lead to an admit. Especially at Yale or maybe at Columbia on a good day.

All that said, my advice might be to think about saying you want to be a consultant at MBB, you certainly seem the type and no one ever got dinged for saying that with a 710 GMAT. (Although those places prefer 720, for them, your 48Q is way enuf. )