Carnegie Mellon University

Skander Soltani's Best Adventures

What is your adventure?

For Skander Soltani the best adventure is jumping on his motorcycle and heading south without a specific plan.   

Skander has lived many adventures since graduating from MSCF in 2019 after which he took a position at Charles Schwab in San Francisco.  When he moved west, he made sure to take his motorcycle with him.

“The first chance I had,” Skander said, “I took off for the Baja Peninsula. I road my small bike, the Yamaha 600, the one I had during my school days at Baruch in New York. I stayed for ten days in the Baja after a 13-hour trip from San Francisco to Tijuana.  I met the nicest people along the way as I explored their country and their customs.”

Skander received the usual warnings about Mexico, “Watch out for the drug dealers,” but he only encountered some great people.

“My bike broke down several times on that trip,” Skander said, smiling, “and strangers helped me every time.”

After returning to work as a Quant Researcher, Skander took the first opportunity to get back on the road, this time with a trip to the Mojave Desert.

“I spent a week in the desert,” Skander said, “but my trip was cut short when I dumped the bike in a washout.  I hurt my ankle and had to return home.

Skander’s philosophy of life is “This big adventure.”  His path has proven just that.  Born in Uzbekistan, he moved to Algeria at a young age and then to Russia. From there Skander took an opportunity to work in Australia.  After a few years of running a restaurant in the Down Under, he went back to Russia and from there came to the USA after a brief stop in Tunisia.

Skander had no real plans for most of his travels.  “In Russia we have a saying,” Skander said. “’We make plans and God laughs.’  When I travel I typically make no plans.”

On the other hand, when Skander works, as he does now remotely, he pays close attention to detail and necessary planning.” 

“I’ve been working on some big projects,” he said.  “Right now I’m working with a team looking for patterns of how people invest. I’m usually collaborating with many people, and I learned at MSCF how important teamwork is.”

At his first opportunity after the Mojave trip, Skander went back on the road, this time to Northern California for ten days.

“I traveled to Mt. Shasta and the Murdoc Region. It was very remote. I saw very few people. But I saw the nature, and the nature was beautiful.  When I looked at those magnificent mountains in my travels, I was reminded of how small we are in this universe.” 

For a guy who is noted for his friendly and joyous approach to things and for being gregarious, Skander takes most of these trips solo.

“It’s very hard to find a riding partner,” he said. “I ride alone but I never feel alone. I meet other people occasionally and then I go back to my tent and relax with a good glass of wine.”

Skander is planning his next trip to the Baja in the coming weeks.

“I took a week off for the ride,” he said, “but then I plan to work from there.  I talked it over with my boss and he gave me permission.  I will work from La Paz or Santa Rosalia, or maybe Mulege. We’ll see.  I’ll stay in an Airbnb and use my free time to get to know the people.  The Baja is just incredible.”

Skander does not worry about being a foreigner in these lands. 

“I keep a low profile and mind my own business.  A person can get in trouble anywhere if they’re not careful,” Skander said. 

Skander did have a moment of fright, but it happened in California. He dumped his big bike, the BMW 1200cc.

“I was going through a serpentine with gravel and the bike gave way,” he said.  “I didn’t have a cell connection but people stopped and helped me. They called an ambulance and I ended up with broken ribs.”

Skander is clearly a free spirit, but he attributes much of his success at Schwab to discipline, the discipline of the MSCF program.

“The multi-disciplinary approach, the rigor, these prepared me for the ambiguity I have found in finance,” Skander said. “I learned the right attitude.  I can now dig into a project because I know I have the skills to get me started in a difficult assignment.  I also learned teamwork and collaboration at MSCF.  The first thing I tell students new to MSCF is, ‘Learn how to work in teams.  And, ask for help when you need it.’  Not everyone knows everything, but taken together, the MSCF students can solve any problem.  I can go on and on about the value I received from MSCF. It gave me the confidence to move forward.”

Skander has recently changed roles at Schwab; he is now a data scientist.  But, his attitude toward life hasn’t changed one bit. Skander is a free spirit and intends to be one for a long time.