Rena Chen came to the MFE Program in March of 2020 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo. After her undergraduate studies, Rena worked as a consultant at Oliver Wyman. We sat down with Rena to get her thoughts after completing her MFE at Berkeley last month.
What advice would you give prospective applicants or students in the program? For prospective applicants and students in the program, I would say that it is incredibly important to explore a wide range of topics, courses, and industry projects that the program offers as it sets you up quite well for future career opportunities. I also keep the following phrase in my mind, “Anything worth doing is never easy.” The Berkeley MFE is by no means an easy path, but if you are willing to put in the work even if you did not have much experience coming into the program, I believe that these experiences and abilities can be learned throughout your year here. Future students will have a much more rewarding experience if they take advantage of these opportunities.
Why did you decide to join Berkeley’s MFE program? I joined Berkeley’s MFE program after having spent more than two years in management consulting. I have always had an appreciation and passion for quantitative finance and the markets through both my undergraduate internship experiences as well as previous client work in financial services. Upon joining the Berkeley MFE, my goal was to further develop my technical toolkit and learn more about investing, portfolio management, and data science from the MFE’s wide-range of electives and focus on FinTech more so than anywhere else.
Where are you headed now that you've graduated? I will be joining Fidelity Investments in its asset management division as a Quantitative Research Analyst.
Where did you intern? Share a little about the experience. I interned at a major pension fund in Toronto, Canada as part of its Infrastructure & Natural Resources group, where my role was a mix between private equity and data science. During my time there, I had the opportunity to participate in a fund-wide hackathon competition where we analyzed corporate cultural dynamics using 10-K text data for one of the public equity portfolios at the fund. Our goal was to use the analysis to develop a culture dashboard in order to inform portfolio managers that recent cultural changes at any of these portfolio companies are still reflective of the fund's overall investment strategy. My team eventually won the competition after having presented to a panel of judges from various departments at the fund.
What was your favorite class? Why? My favorite class was MFE230E – Empirical Methods in Finance. As this is one of the first and most important courses that students in the program take, I think it sets a good foundation for all future courses in the program. The course professor, Prof. Martin Lettau, teaches not only econometrics from a theoretical perspective, but provides students with relevant lab and course assignments that can be compiled into a toolbox of practical code to be used in future courses and on the job. (For instance, since the course ended in the first term, I had used Prof. Martin Lettau’s code from these sessions on numerous occasions in my other courses, the AFP, and during my internship).
What is something you recommend new students do in their first few months? It is important for new students to make friends and meet their professors/GSIs in their first few months in the program. I think that learning from others is the fastest and most effective way to succeed and these networks will last beyond the students’ time here at Berkeley.