Carnegie Mellon University

Michelle Chen, MSCF '11

What triggered your interest in quantitative finance?

I’ve always enjoyed math and liked the quantitative field. One of the biggest benefits of working on Wall Street is the ability to meet other smart, driven individuals who you can learn from that will become the backbone of your professional network for the rest of your career. 

How did you land at Goldman Sachs?

About six months after graduating from the MSCF program, I started working at Goldman Sachs. I came in as an analyst and am currently working as an associate. The promotion process in banking, especially in private equity, is slower than in sales and trading, but it is worth the wait.

What are some of your daily responsibilities?

I primarily focus on quantitative research and analysis for long-term principal investing across private equity, private credit, real estate and infrastructure. In this role, I look into potential deals’ profitability and the efficiency with which the firm’s regulatory capital is employed. I conduct significant amounts of analyses to help raise funds and answer questions on various scenarios for prospective and current investors. I also produce portfolio trackers for investors to monitor their portfolio and manage risk.

What do you enjoy about your career?

If I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room. Goldman Sachs has been a great place, allowing me to work with top performers – top people from top schools – who are incredibly hardworking. I am constantly learning from my peers, my juniors and the senior leadership. I really enjoy the people I work with – that has to be the most rewarding part. 

What do you find is most rewarding?

Another aspect that is really rewarding is the business itself – in some business, you don’t really get to ‘do good’, but in private equity, you have the opportunity to actually help businesses that need access to funds either to fuel growth or to recover from financial difficulties. It truly is a value added in society, to help those businesses get back on track and grow into something substantial.  

What are the top skills that are required to be successful in this field?

You need a balance of technical and personal skills. For the technical component, you should be strong in math and programming. The non-technical skillset becomes increasingly important as you advance up the ladder. You need to have great communication skills, be able to manage expectations and communicate with the right people. You have to be a team player to achieve the overall goal for the firm.

How has the MSCF program helped you in your career?

The MSCF program helped me get my foot in the door. Had I not gone to MSCF, Goldman Sachs would not have been easily accessible. I learned all my financial knowledge from MSCF – especially since my undergraduate degree was not in this field. The probability, fixed income and options courses were helpful for the interview process, and once I got my job, the foundation from the programming and mathematical finance classes were useful.

What is your advice to MFE graduates considering this field?

Attend conferences and events to speak with as many people as possible to see where your personality and skillsets fit best. If you don’t have previous work experience, that’s okay, just keep an open mind. After a year or two in your initial job, you can jump somewhere else within the field or move to a different company. Don’t limit yourself because you think you need to follow a certain career path.