Careers & Student Outcomes

Finding the Right Mix

Kinjal Shukla, a 2022 graduate of the financial engineering master’s program, has used her math and technical skills to shine as an index researcher and data engineer at VanEck.

For Kinjal Shukla, the investment she made in herself is now paying off for her clients.

After completing her studies at SVKM’s Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in India, she worked as an analyst for Barclays in Mumbai for nearly four years before being promoted to assistant vice president. Kinjal was looking for a new challenge and made the move to Hoboken to continue her education, earning her master’s degree in financial engineering in December 2022.

After finishing an internship as an index developer at VanEck, a global asset management company with $89.5 billion in assets under management at the end of 2023, she began work as an index researcher and data engineer after graduation.

“I was working in a risk and reporting environment, and I knew I had to expand my knowledge base to move into roles in portfolio management or asset management, so I decided to pursue my master’s,” she said. “Stevens had a perfect blend of application-based finance in computer technologies along with a strong foundation in mathematics, which are relevant to emerging portfolio management applications in the real world. I have been happy with that decision ever since.”

At VanEck, Kinjal and her team create indexes for asset managers who in turn use them for benchmarks, ETFs, mutual fund, or part of their portfolio management. This task requires a strong foundation in research and an understanding of how to best analyze and combine stocks into a portfolio.

“One important thing about creating a portfolio is the type of constraints or the filters that you use,” she explained. “I can call back to my portfolio management class at Stevens. It was so relevant and so up to date that I can still refer to the book when I’m working out how to optimize the weights in the portfolio.”

The Stevens financial engineering curriculum and Kinjal’s industry experience matched up from the beginning. Although she began the FE program without any coding experience, her exposure to Python in her courses allowed her to complete a complex project during her internship.

“One of my assignments I took on was to automate the rebalancing of a portfolio,” she said. “The first part was using mathematics to optimize the weights and the second part was automating it, which I was able to do in Python, a very relevant skill set in the fintech or financial management world. I had taken two or three credits worth of Python at Stevens, starting from the fundamentals and advancing to creating a full fintech-based application. Before that, I had almost zero knowledge of Python. That was a big win for me.”

The knowledge and skills that led to her hiring as a full-time team member have continued to make an impression. Kinjal has already been given the responsibility of traveling to Europe to meet with other research and sales teams and has also had the opportunity to interact with high-level asset managers.

“Our parent company is one of the ETF management teams based out of Frankfurt, Germany, so being part of the research team, I engage with my sales counterpart in Europe and the operations team because we have to create synergies in research development,” she said. “I'm also a data engineer, so I have to ensure that the data is in a holistic place that can be leveraged by both research and the sales teams. I visited Frankfurt last year and will probably be going back to Europe this year.”

“We do have occasional planning meetings in New York,” she continued. “Our top-level financial are based mostly out of New York or the U.S. It's a great experience to get to learn firsthand and kind of build a client base with them at such a young age. Kudos to the company for trusting someone with limited experience. They have been instrumental in helping me get early exposure, and that’s been great.”

No matter where in the world her business travels may take her, Kinjal has come to realize that she always has a home in Hoboken.

“It’s not only about those one-and-a-half or two years,” she said. “I still reach out to my professors. I remember reaching out to my calculus professor last month because I had a problem at work. He was just right there to help me out. That speaks a lot.”