Nick Babikian earned his MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. He explains how he used his MBA to transition from Engineering to Investment Banking and provides advice for future students on utilizing a school's career resources.
Name: Nick Babikian
School: MBA, Anderson School of Management, University of California Los Angeles
Profession: Investment Banking Associate (Natural Resources – Energy vertical), Goldman Sachs & Co., Houston Texas.
What do you think is UCLA’s greatest asset?
Coming into UCLA, I wanted a job at a bulge bracket investment bank - something that I assumed would be a stretch for someone who had never taken an accounting or finance course prior to business school. Upon meeting my investment banking recruiting class, however, I realized that I wasn’t alone; almost no one had intense accounting and finance experience and only a couple of people studied business in undergrad. By the start of the second quarter, through a non-stop regimen of Anderson Career Teams (ACT), core accounting and finance classes, recruiting presentations and mock interviews, we were finely tuned investment banking, interviewing machines. I’m not sure if I could have gotten the same preparation at another business school, and as a result of the structure of the recruiting process, over 97% of us had secured investment banking internships by the end of the second quarter. Parker Career Management Center, and the investment banking preparation pipeline was, for me, Anderson’s greatest asset.
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? Do you have advice for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
I was completely on the fence about going to business school when I first got accepted to UCLA Anderson. Things were going well at work; I had recently transferred locations, and I was reluctant to leave my company and new position. But I could not see myself in my career field long-term and knew I eventually wanted to make a transition. It wasn’t until I spoke with one of my friends that was enrolled in an MBA program, however, that I saw what an awesome experience business school was. He opened my eyes to the way my career trajectory would be permanently enhanced, and how much fun I’d have meeting like-minded people in the process. So my advice to anyone considering an MBA would be to talk to your friends and current students in business school. Gain as much insight as you can on life as an MBA, the programs and services available, as well as the recruiting process for the field you’re looking to pursue.
Advice for Future Applicants
What are some dos and don’ts in the MBA preparation process?
It is important to identify what you want to recruit for and figure out what employers look for in applicants. Coming from an engineering background, I obtained an investment banking internship with a boutique bank to gain necessary skills that would make me a strong candidate for full-time recruitment. For consulting, take advantage of Parker Career Management Center and work with your classmates to case prep. This will be critical when recruiting for the management consulting firms. Lastly, given the adjustment to MBA life, the academic rigor and fall recruiting, make sure to take some time off between leaving your company and starting your MBA program.
What is it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
It’s a weird transition. The two things that took the most adjustment were learning that deliverables didn’t need to be completed as perfectly as they do in the workplace, and that almost everything you do at Anderson is designed to make you a better person. It was hard at first to turn in assignments that were less than 100% correct, because in the real world – engineering in my case – errors and omissions had serious implications (like putting people in harm’s way or losing my company money). At Anderson, you’ll be exposed to some challenging concepts. Worry less about being perfect, especially with assignments in classes that are new to you, and focus on learning for you.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you?
My inspiration to pursue an MBA came from my friends in a different career field. I was working in Saudi Arabia at the time, making a decent living. However, I saw that my friends in the finance field were enjoying their jobs while developing skillsets with which they could make tangible career progression. So I tried to make a shift into investment banking from construction, but was unsuccessful due to my lack of experience and knowledge of the field. After a couple of failures, I spoke with those same finance friends, and they all encouraged me to purse an MBA to gain the fundamental skills to successfully transition into investment banking.
Did you do an internship during your MBA? How did that experience influence your education and career?
For aspiring investment bankers, landing an internship is the name of the game. Everything your IB recruiting class will do in the first quarter is aimed at getting banks to extend you internship offers. You will do supplemental interview prep which will strangely bolster your accounting and finance skillsets and make those classes much easier for you. And when you get internship offers, you should opt into accounting and finance electives that will make you more attractive as a full-time candidate. Then you’ll head off to your summer internship to work hard and learn as much as possible, and, assuming you earn full-time offers, come back with signing bonus that will make year 2 at Anderson more relaxed and fun. I went through this process, and I had a full-time offer in hand at the start of my second year. I had a chance to not worry about recruiting or job placement and focus on continuing to study the things I found interesting. It was by far the best year of my life.
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