career advice for an engineer

I know that there a lot of posts on career advice. Here is my one. I am 31 years old, married with 2 kids. Got PhD in Engineering and currently working as a R&D engineer at a Fortune500 medical device company for . At the same time I am in the second year of Part-time MBA at NYU Stern. I am interested in Finance/Banking after MBA and doing good in finance classes. I am thinking to take CFA Level I in 2008. However I don’t know if I am too old for Banking/Industry. I will be 33 when I finish my MBA. Another thing is that I am the single income of family and don’t want to take too much pay cut if I move to Banking/Finance. I should earn around $100k when I finish my MBA. Any advice? Thanks advance!

hi rtmchd, 31 too old?? course not. But you need to approach in different way than a 23 yo. (I’m 48 - run my own very small PE, VC, trading fund + charity foundation) you’ve got things that most applicants don’t have: 1. experience 2. in-depth knowledge of the workings of the industry 3. demostrated commitment to get your PhD. 4. people skills, communication, teamwork, leading staff, etc 5. R&D is project-based which is much better than regular calendar-based job approach - eg ideal for consulting, M&A, etc PhD, MBA, good at finance + half a dozen years of in -depth experience - you probably know more about your industry than almost all research analysts and consulting firms which claim to specialise in the sector. Most people I talk to in your situation have most of the pieces of the puzzle, but haven’t put the puzzle together yet. Eg. have you turned your mind to looking at the stocks in your sector? Which stocks are going to be winners, losers - and why. You probably have all the knowledge and skills, just haven’t had the time to spend on it. One plan might be to spend the next 6 months (while you finish the MBA) doing a review of the sector and picking stocks - build a story on each one and rank them. Get hold of all the research reports from the brokers (somebody’s got to read them after all, nobody else does!). Get hold of info on the funds which specialize in the sector. what are they buying, why, what are they avoiding, what is their outlook , etc If you don’t have the capital to trade that’s a good thing at this stage. Don’t invest, just build a plan. Then when you have a plan for the sector, take it to the boutique funds, or major fund mangers and take them through it. It’s not a resume, it’s a business plan. (I can’t remember ever doing a resume, apart from first job out of college - do a business plan instead and they’ll treat it like a business investment) You’ve got plenty of options… 1) If you are conservative and want a regular salary, dress it up as a new department you will set up for them. Or if they already have a department covering the sector, go in as a research manager or senior. 2) If you are more aggressive, dress it up as a joint venture - retainer for you + share of profits on the upside 3) If you really want to go all out, dress it up as an equity investment - they put in the cash (firm money or client money or both) and you get free equity for running it + share the upside. Personally I would ask you to borrow and chip in for some of the equity - maybe 5% or 10% but that’s just me! You probably could only do this option if you have some general mangement experience (maybe after your MBA at your firm) I’ve done the latter 2 structures in various situations and it can work great. I’m in Australia, but I would back the right person with the right background and the right plan. Anyway, that’s just a thought-starter. cheers…

Wow, I am speechless now. I am going to check out all your posts now, null&nuller!

Null & nuller: Thanks a lot! I bookmarked this Post and will use it as a motivation everyday. You pointed out a very good point. I do have a much deeper knowledge about Medical Device industry because of my experience and interest, hoewever I have’t put them together. Thanks again. This is my first post in this forum and I am surprised for the support.

rtmchd: I am glad that you made this post. I too am in your similar situation. I’m 33 and I am in the process of transitioning to the finance industry. even though I have a BSEE and am a licensed PE I also have a PhD in mathematics I’ve been working in the engineering/physical sciences community for about 6 years now. I didn’t do the MBA but enrolled in the CFA program plus learning some of the financial mathematics on my own. I am a bit leary too because I am wondering how my experience will even translate to the finance industry and I am (like you) thinking about the age for me to transition into a new field. I do have a question, what prompted you to get the MBA after the PhD? I mulled over this option but was hesitant since the fact that I already spent a good portion in graduate school already… yet I still would like to hear your perspective. Null & Nuller and rtmchd: If I can have your contact information so that I can ask more specific questions that would be great.

"doing a review of the sector and picking stocks - build a story on each one and rank them. Get hold of all the research reports from the brokers (somebody’s got to read them after all, nobody else does!). Get hold of info on the funds which specialize in the sector. what are they buying, why, what are they avoiding, what is their outlook , etc " Question for Null&nuller: 1. How do I "get hold of " the research reports from the brokers? Where can I find the reports? 2. How do I get the info on the funds which specialize in the sector? Where can I find it? 3. How do I make the plan look professional? Thanks in advance!

Donski: I am doing a Part-time MBA. Initially I want to transfer to Business Development inside of the company (even now it’s still a big possible to me). When I started my MBA, I found that Finance is more interested to me. And I found there are people in the current MBA program succeedly switch from R&D to Investing Bank. send a Email to if you want to contact with me.

re research: I would imagine most discount brokers would have research reports online. Reports are always of variable quality - usually good for background info. Plus most listed stocks have websites with investor info, reports, research, announcements, etc. Plus you probably have a few friends in brokers, IB, funds, etc, who can give you reports (not material non-public of course!) I know nothing about US medical devices stocks, but a couple of minutes on google turned up a few interesting places to start: - Biotech stock research - - MIT tech review - - Biospace investor - - Centient Biotech Investor - - Biohealth investor - Also found about 70 specialist health/medical funds + the medical devices index funds (eg ishares Obviously you need to drill down to your area of expertise - and spend more than a few minutes! For q3 - you will see what’s required from reading lots of reports. over to you… cheers

rtmchd–no reason to fret. I also switched from an engineering background to finance, and I was only a couple months shy of 33 when I finished my MBA. 33 is not too old, and with your background and aspirations, you’re a very desirable candidate for equity research, if that’s an avenue you’re interested in. Leverage the connections through Stern’s alumni network to get your resume on the right people’s desks, and you’ll be fine. Null&nuller is right that you should be prepared to discuss how your knowledge of the industry can be applied to projecting which companies’ stocks will appreciate. Regarding taking Level I, my suggestion is to get started yesterday. It’s going to be a bear with everything else you’ve got going on–especially coming from a non-finance background–but the worst thing that happens is you fail. In the meantime, you’ll learn twice as much as the MBA classes will teach you, and improve your ability to comfortably interview with financial firms. You’ll also demonstrate to employers that you’re just as committed to this new career as you were to your old one. Best of luck

Someone told me that MBA is a mile wide and an inch deep, while CFA is an inch wide and a mile deep. But remember that MBA will make you attractive to a number of different roles, whereas CFA is more for analysts and portfolio managers. Having both will be good.

To echo TkPk_CFA you’re not out of luck or time at all. For me married, engineering degree, P.Eng., one kid, part-time MBA finished at 34, 12 years industry experience - you see the trend. Started in ER 6 months after finishing the MBA and absolutely love it. The fact that you were intellectually curious enough to go back to school, learnt some new tricks and now want to try something new is a good thing. BTW, a PhD in medical devices will certainly help if you want to work that sector. If you’re looking to move to finance and do the career switch, the one thing I can’t emphasize enough is start networking. Good jobs in finance are not impossible to find, but a lot easier if people will tell you where they are. They other thing it does is gives you talking points when you get to the interview stage about a) how committed you are b) do you know what you’re talking about / getting into. Assume that you’re going to have to answer more than a few questions about why you want this. You won’t fit the “typical” profile but as a number of people have pointed out you certainly bring other skills to the table. The major concern is going to be “is a senior guy willing to put up with the monotony / dumb stuff that this job entails”. Keying spreadsheets or dealing with research editors at 11:00 pm some random Wednesday night is not always the most interesting job but firms don’t want to waste the slot on someone who can bail after 6 months because they have other options. As to money, you should be ok as long as you can manage on the $100K you’re talking about now. If you can keep your current job until you switch that’s great. As to the CFA start thinking about getting Level 1 written and passed. It helps show a level of commitment and makes your resume consistent with your stated goals. Good luck with it