Akshita Gulati, MFE 24, approaches her Master of Financial Engineering studies with the attitude, “If it’s not challenging, it’s not rewarding.” Just two months into her program, she has found plenty of both challenges and rewards.
“This program is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. If you are willing to rise to the challenge, it is incredibly rewarding,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy my coursework, the material is engrossing to say the least. There are always surprising insights and approaches, from both the professors and my classmates.”
Akshita applied for the MFE program while working as a software engineer for UBS in Mumbai, India. She recalled being “very particular about my application. I dedicated a lot of time to getting it just right,” an approach she recommends to every applicant. She also noted the Admissions Committee’s “excellent guidance” through the process, and the “clear, concise, expeditious support from the Program Office.”
One of the nation’s first MFE programs, Berkeley Haas has a long track record, high ratings, and a strong placement history. Equally important to Akshita is knowing that “the program continues to innovate while maintaining consistent success. The quality of the graduates is high, and they are doing great work.”
She also appreciates the academic calendar, in which classes begin in the spring. Three pre-program classes—Mathematics, Statistics, and Python—are available in the months before orientation.
“I really liked the way Empirical Methods, or 230E as we call it, built on the pre-program Statistics class. Much of 230E is about mathematics and probabilities, the technical details. But the professor made sure to share market insights behind the equations. Learning the ‘why’ is what makes the class so valuable,” she said.
Akshita is exploring options for her fall internship and is reassured to see two or three roles every week that she could pursue. She already has her industry project behind her. Akshita and her partner, a data scientist, worked with Pilotbird, a start-up in the Insurtech sector. They had weekly deliverables and met regularly with the CEO. Access to entrepreneurs is one advantage of an MFE program housed in a business school, according to Akshita. “It is the best of both worlds. We MFEs have the technical skills to help founders achieve their vision and we can run into them any day in the courtyard or the hallway.”
Even though graduate students are in highly competitive environments and are driven to perform, the collaborative culture at Berkeley Haas reassures Akshita. This is exemplified by the focus on group work. “We do a lot of our work in groups and project teams—just as you would as an employee. My study group includes people from Belgium and China. We've worked together quite successfully,” she said.
The Defining Leadership Principles play a role, too. “I see Student Always and Questioning the Status Quo every day among my classmates and professors. Our brains all function differently and we bring different experiences to our work. It is fun to see people arrive at the same solution by different paths.”
Akshita enjoys the diversity her classmates display outside the classroom, from their varied cultures to their hobbies. “One classmate speaks six languages,” she said, “another is a weightlifting champion."
For her part, Akshita tries to find time to indulge her love of hiking and badminton. And in the spirit of Beyond Yourself, Akshita wants to make sure everyone has access to services that support mental wellbeing. “I hope to establish a peer support volunteer network within the Berkeley Haas community, as a way for students to reach out to someone they can relate with,“ she said. “Community support helps too. Every program at Berkeley Haas has a tight-knit community. From the program administrators and faculty to cohort members, one can find a lot of assistance.”