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Master’s In Finance: Ana-Maria Simionescu, Imperial College

Student Name: Ana-Maria Simionescu

Graduate Business School: Imperial College Business School

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: An Investment Analyst who is a driven woman with ambitious goals and thrives on challenges.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Bristol, Economics.

Current Employer and Job Title: Investment Analyst, Willis Towers Watson.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  As I am fairly new to the working world, I believe my biggest accomplishment so far would be the Imperial Business Scholarship that I was offered prior to joining the MSc Finance program. This was particularly important to me as when I came to UK to start my BSc I had a three-year plan with the end goal of securing a place on Imperial’s MSc Finance. Being offered the scholarship was the cherry on top – I felt extremely proud that my hard work pushed me beyond my original goal. 

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: I consider my biggest achievement as a graduate student to be the fact that I became an expert at time management.  I am proud that I managed to secure a distinction while being involved in several extra-curricular activities at the Business School and securing a job offer. During the year, I undertook several positions in student-led groups such as the Student Staff Committee, the Environmental Committee, the Finance Club, the Imperial Consulting Club and volunteered in activities run by the Business School and also my previous university. 

Fitting in study time and job applications was a bit complicated at first, however, I managed to rearrange my schedule in a way that best suited me and remained focused. I am particularly proud of thoroughly developing this skill set as time management is extremely useful for any type of career and at any seniority level. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? When researching different MSc programmes, Imperial’s MSc Finance programme stood out to me because of the applied, quantitative structure of the programme. This was particularly important to me as I wanted to pursue a program which gave me exposure to how valuations, returns modelling, and deal negotiations were carried out in real life rather than in theory. It was truly an amazing experience to be taught by industry practitioners who not only gave meaningful insights on the dos and don’ts of certain industries, but also instructed us how things are done in real life. For example, in my Advanced Company Valuation elective, we used an Investment Banking model to determine the share price of AstraZeneca – a question of great interest in the current climate.  Knowing that employers would value technical skills and deep industry knowledge further reinforced my decision of choosing Imperial. 

What led you to choose a Master’s in Finance over an MBA? I chose to pursue a Master’s in Finance as I didn’t have enough career experience to be a viable MBA candidate, but still wanted to pursue a specialized degree which would set me apart in the job market. The MSc was a great alternative for me as it equipped me with deep financial knowledge, helped me further develop soft skills, and secure the job I wanted.  

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? My favourite course was Derivatives taught by Dr Harjoat Bhamra. I really enjoyed the technical nature of the course and it really gave me a strong foundation for understanding stochastic calculus modelling. It is not the easiest topic, hence having prior experience really made a difference. This was particularly helpful as I hit the ground running in my job when I was asked to help with returns modelling for one of our clients. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? I think Imperial helped me in two ways. Firstly, given the applied nature of the program, I was comfortable with technical interview questions, which helped me be more confident and perform better. At assessment centres, I could feel that compared to people who weren’t enrolled in a specialized Master’s program, I had greater technical knowledge. 

Secondly, the Careers service helped me a lot in securing my current job. As I interned with the company within another line of business before, the Career Consultant really helped me find the best way to voice my preference of working in another area. Booking a mock one-to-one interview prior to my real one helped me refine my answers and get rid of some nerves. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? The best part of my cohort is the fact that people come from all over the world and also have very different professional backgrounds. Everyone is extremely easy to talk to and you truly learn a lot from them. This kind of diversity really enhanced my experience at Imperial College Business School as I got really valuable insights of different career paths and what to expect when interviewing in certain industries. When I started the Master’s program, I wasn’t 100% sure on what career path I wanted to take, hence all the conversations I had with my classmates helped me get more clarity on what I wanted to do. 

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? My favourite faculty member was Professor Ramana Nanda. Prior to taking his Entrepreneurial Finance course I didn’t know much about the Venture Capital industry, however due to the applied nature of the course, numerous case studies and his tips and tricks of how to deal with investors, I can say I definitely have a better grip of the industry. He taught us everything from how to value startup businesses, the impact of different types of financing for business owners, how to deal with unfavourable term sheet conditions, and we even had a mock negotiation. The module felt like a real life “Dragon’s Den.”

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Make sure you really show your passion for finance and particularly what industry you find most interesting. I think it is important to show how your interest in the topic impacted different areas of your development, such as reading a book, taking on a course, or being involved in an internship. Also, don’t forget to showcase your personality a little bit – it is important to demonstrate you are a well-rounded person. 

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? My best memory of my Master’s program was in relation to my Academic Leader role. Together with other Student-Staff Committee Leaders we managed to improve feedback levels to a 15-year high. This was amazing as we didn’t only enhance the student experience for my own cohort, but also for future generations. However, the best part was that raising the feedback levels gave us a big boost in our social budget, which allowed the Social Leader to throw a Christmas party. It was great for us all to relax after an intense term.