Daniela Cardona ’17 Charts Path to Success
Daniela Cardona ’17, global investment banking vice president (media) at RBC Capital Markets, chose Stevens to chart her path from first-generation college student to career success in a field that she loves.
Daniela Cardona ’17 believes in the power of big dreams, as long as they are backed by determination and hard work. As a first-generation college student, Cardona envisioned a bright future, but was unsure of the path that would lead her to career success.
“I worked two and three jobs at a time during high school to support myself,” Cardona explains. “I really did not have exposure to higher education, nor did I understand the process, but I had incredible teachers and mentors who saw a lot of potential in me. I’ll never forget the time when I was teaching swimming lessons, and a family came to a lesson and gave me a scholarship book for permanent residents. That was the moment I understood that everything I wanted in life, I could find a way to achieve.”
It was her calculus teacher who recommended Stevens. “I remember driving to Hoboken for a tour, and I fell in love with the school,” she recalls. “I loved the small campus and easy access to New York City. I went on four different tours just to keep seeing the view.”
After a conversation with Michelle Crilly, assistant dean of student success, about the business program, Cardona knew Stevens would be the right choice for launching her career ambitions.
“I remember thinking how great it would be to study in the quantitative finance program, and that’s exactly what I did,” she says. “I wanted a finance degree, but I also wanted to learn quantitative skills from an engineering school. The program at Stevens checked those boxes.”
Cardona started her Stevens journey with the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program (STEP) immersion classes during the summer before her first year. “For six weeks, I resided with other students and acclimated to my new life,” she says. “STEP gave me a home away from home and a solid foundation.”
“There were moments when I struggled to figure out how I was going to pay for a textbook even though I was working on campus and had outside jobs,” she continues. “STEP provided financial and emotional support for me when I needed it most.”
During her years at Stevens, Cardona was active in the Latin American Association, the Society of Hispanic Engineers, the Gear and Triangle Honor Society, Alpha Phi Omega and the Investment Club. She further developed her leadership abilities by serving as an ambassador for the School of Business and as an orientation leader, emerging leader and peer mentor for the university. She contributed to the community by volunteering as a math tutor for students at the Hoboken Charter School. Studying abroad at the Amsterdam School of Business expanded Cardona’s horizons globally.
While Cardona embarked on an investment banking career just across the river from Stevens, she attributes her success to her grit, perspective and good heart. Cardona quickly learned the ropes at RBC Capital Markets, receiving an early promotion, becoming group staffer and supporting recruiting initiatives. As the only Latina, she used this as a motivation to pave the way for other women to come after her.
“The quantitative finance program was rigorous, but it taught me how to think,” Cardona says about how her Stevens education contributed to her career trajectory. “It provided me with a solid foundation for my career, allowing me to pay off my student debt within two years and begin investing in real estate.”
Cardona is eager to help the next generation of business-minded students find their way to success. “I’m looking forward to becoming more involved,” she says. “I am the product of many people hearing my story and providing me with opportunities to excel. To me, it’s important that I do the same as I continue to move up in my career. I would love to be a resource for students interested in investment banking and real estate investing. Recently, I connected with the South Florida alumni chapter and aim to bring together more people in this area.”
“If your goals don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,” Cardona adds. “During the first few years out of Stevens, I focused entirely on working and making a name for myself. I had to give up a lot of time, it was hard and not everyone understood, but I would do it all over again. And I will never forget the people who helped me along the way. I am so thankful!”