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From consulting to Big Data. How to find your calling in Finance


From consulting to Big Data. How to find your calling in Finance

Changing your usual field of activity, challenging yourself is not an easy task. Once at a crossroads, a person freezes in confusion. But often someone's inspiring stories help you find yourself. Such as the characters of our article. Zhamila entered the Master's program at the age of 23, being the mother of a three-month-old child. And Pavel changed two areas at once: a former financial consultant became a Big Data analyst

Zhamila Zhakup, 25 years old, graduate of the Master of Science in Finance (MSF) Program of Graduate School of Business at Nazarbayev University, graduate of 2019

Maternity leave is the time for personal advancement 
I graduated from Nazarbayev University in 2016, majoring in Economics. In my fourth year, I got an offer from McKinsey and spent two years there, then took leave after childbirth. During my work, I had projects in different industries, but I understood that it's necessary to choose one thing, because knowing a little of everything is not my way. So, I realized that I was very interested in corporate finance and financial model development and decided to enroll in a Master's program.

I learned that the first cohort of MSF program is graduating from Nazarbayev University School of Business. There were a lot of students studied with me at the undergraduate program. I was pleased to hear that they were all happy with the program. They talked about the course, the high level of professors, and the fact that this program is practical and applicable in life.

In the seventh month of pregnancy, I passed GMAT, and passed the competitive selection. I started studying when my daughter was three months old. But I was not the only mother, my classmate had a 9-month-old child. And on the MBA Program, there was even a married couple, their child was 3-4 months old. However, all successfully coped.

Master's with my daughter 
The Master's program gave me serious knowledge, which I was looking for. I thought that there would be favors, because I had a small child (laughs). But it was very difficult. On days when I spent more than six hours a day studying, my husband and mother would walk in the yard with my daughter, and I would see her on break. So she received a master's degree with me! I wouldn't be surprised if she becomes a financier in the future.

In parallel with the program, I took the test for the Chartered Financial Analyst Level 1 certificate (one of the most prestigious international certificates for financial analysts – ed.) CFA is a pure theory, and at MSF we did a lot of coding in different languages – Python, SAS, SQL. It was wonderful that it was our cohort that the School administration thought about going into the digital direction.

We had two residencies: one at the National Bank in Almaty, the second at Cass Business School in London. When we were at the National Bank, we were taught by Azat Uskenbayev, who now heads the BOP Department. We just finished a course in macroeconomics, where we studied the balance of payments, and he showed us what it is, using real cases. These were very impressive lectures.

Career at AIX 
There are not many places for financiers in Kazakhstan where there are really interesting projects. I wanted to dive into the world of finance, and learn how securities are structured. Therefore, I applied to Astana International Exchange and joined them in February this year. AIX's mission is to develop active capital in Kazakhstan. As part of this mission, the Exchange has many socially oriented projects aimed at developing financial literacy in the country, increasing the number of retail investors and issuers.

My most interesting project on the exchange is the launch of Tabys mobile app for retail investments. Given the current situation, it is important to save for the future and in the long term have a more significant return on savings, compared to a bank deposit.

Pavel Kosmynin, 28 years old, MSF graduate of 2018 

"Finance as a classical science is fading" 
Before my Master's, I studied undergraduate at Nazarbayev University, majoring in economics with a mathematical bias. During my studies, I was interested in case championships - solutions to business problems. That's what got me into consulting.

After graduation, I worked for more than two years in the Consulting Department of PWC in Kazakhstan. The specifics of a consultant’s work are a broad understanding of subject areas, working with specialized experts, the ability to identify a business problem and solve it with the knowledge of experts. And I wanted to specialize in something specific and decided that financial technology is the most suitable field for me, and a logical continuation of my specialty in economics-mathematics. Besides, I needed to improve my hard skills – mathematical, analytical and programming skills.

When you say that you have completed a master's degree in finance, many people think about accounting. But I liked MSF program most of all because it's about computing as a science, and making decisions based on data. This is about working with large amounts of information, quantitative finance. Training is as close to the real world as possible – specific cases, communication with top companies, professors - experts in their field. I also strengthened my foundation for working with statistical programming languages.

Before the program, I was thinking about a career in traditional finance, and after, I realized that I wanted to step in fintech. I see that finance as a classical science is slowly fading, and technology is increasingly penetrating into all areas. So there was a double shift – I changed my industry and work profile to a technological environment. 

The present and future plans

The Master's taught me to be more ambitious, and developed the ability to effectively conduct a business conversation with partners. For example, teams often have a business analyst who translates business tasks to developers in their language and vice versa. We do not have such a specialist, we communicate with the customer ourselves and translate the task into code.

Now I have been working at BI Innovations as the Data Science team leader for almost two years. The main task of our division is to create breakthrough projects for the company based on Big Data. One of the major ones is an Automatic Smart Pricing System that regulates product prices in accordance with market realities. 
Now we have gone further, we analyze data on cost, we make forecasts of needs for purchases using machine learning algorithms. The main task of Big Data is to extract valuable insights from the data. The second task is forecasting. For example, we can plan in advance how much material we need in order to implement projects, using advanced mathematical algorithms.

Life changes very quickly. In the next five years, I see myself where I am now – in Big Data analytics. And in the future, I do not rule out shifting to management. Perhaps I would like to work for an advanced company abroad for a year or two to gain expertise and best practices. But there are no plans to move for a long time. I believe in our bright future! 

Original article here