At the Head of the Class or in Front of It, Financial Engineer Is Poised for Success
Standout Student and Teaching Assistant Prepared to Create Impact at Scotiabank
As she prepares to graduate from Stevens Institute of Technology, Aayushi Gandhi expects to enjoy a traditional career in finance. But her experiences in the School of Business have left her with another, unexpected passion — teaching.
“At Stevens, I’ve had professors who share their knowledge and help me find opportunities,” said Gandhi, who will complete her master’s in Financial Engineering in December 2020. “I hope that many years down the road, I can give back by sharing my own knowledge with future generations of students.”
Gandhi, a CFA Level III candidate, was accepted to the master’s program in Finance to build on her education and work experience. But she attended an admissions event in India where she met Prof. Michael zur Muehlen, who steered her into the Financial Engineering program, instead. That helped her complement her finance knowledge with some of the technical skills that are increasingly required in the industry.
'Programming is a value add'
“As Professor zur Muehlen told me in the very beginning, programing is a value add for me,” she said. “In my work, I’m not going to be expected to write code all day, but knowing enough to be able to extract, clean and analyze data will help me do my job that much better. Stevens introduced me to the technical side of finance, which has opened a lot of doors for me.”
Dr. zur Muehlen also helped Gandhi get a position as a teaching assistant at the school — which, alongside the scholarship she earned and her work as a graduate assistant, easily made Stevens her top choice. But in her last year at Stevens, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated not only her student life — especially her involvement in the Indian Graduate Student Association and the Stevens Graduate Women in Business group — but also her work teaching both undergraduate and graduate business classes, all of which moved online.
“My lectures have been extremely interactive — it’s difficult to lose interest when there’s a lot of talking involved, and my professors have been working hard to keep students engaged,” she said. “And having the lectures recorded is useful if you have to miss a class, or want to review the material later.”
That’s given her some guidance in how she approaches the courses she teaches, including lab sessions in Excel and Tableau. As someone with a traditional finance background, she found the technology intimidating at first. Stevens, she said, did a good job putting her at ease.
“You aren’t expected to come in and be an expert,” Gandhi said. “You take boot camps and learn the programming at a very structured pace. I wouldn’t call myself an expert now, but I know enough to get my projects done and hopefully create value at work.”
Teaching those subjects has also made her a more confident technologist, but has also rounded out her interpersonal skills, as she searches for ways to create interesting classes for her students. She has a lot of autonomy in the design and format of her classes, so she’s incorporated things like breakout rooms, where she encourages students to collaborate in small groups while getting to know each other better. It’s a trick she picked up from her own professors, like Dr. Manos Hatzakis.
Personalized career advice, support
“As a first-year international student, I didn’t know if I could ask for career advice from a professor, but Professor Hatzakis tells you to make an appointment to see him, has you bring your résumé, helps you improve it and connects you to the career resources in the university,” she said. “And he gives very interactive lectures — he teaches about current affairs, past crises and his own work in industry.”
Dr. Hatzakis joined Stevens in 2019 following a long career in leadership in the financial services industry, and he said Gandhi’s technical, industry and leadership ability will help to make her a star at work.
“Whenever Aayushi contributes in class, it has weight — she understands what we’re talking about and she puts her own spin on it,” Prof. Hatzakis said. “The finance industry has a lot of people in it who are very good at one thing. People like Aayushi, who do so many different things well, are the ones you need leading an organization. If I see a résumé like hers, as a hiring manager, that’s someone who I would want to interview.”
Gandhi has enjoyed her turn in front of the class, but she’s now eagerly awaiting a return to Scotiabank. She completed an internship at the financial services company in the summer, working with the capital markets team, and impressed her managers enough that they extended her an offer despite the economic uncertainty ushered in by the pandemic.
Her specific role was in internal audit, which she enjoyed “because I’m very interested in the business aspect, in understanding different kinds of businesses and helping to make them better.”
“I’m looking forward to exploring different facets of finance and finding out what interests me the most,” she said. “I got excited about things like derivatives and hedge funds while studying for the CFA, but that was more theoretical. Scotiabank has given me lots of opportunities to explore finance and figure out where I’d like to focus for the long term.”
And, in the long term, she’s hoping to return to the head of the class.
“If I ever get the opportunity, I’d like to teach a class like Professor Hatzakis,” Gandhi said. “Teaching doesn’t come easy to everyone, but he does it so well, and his experiences add so much value to your education. I hope to do the same for other students one day.”