This year we put out a call to our students to connect with our recent alumni to answer the question we get the most: what are M&T grads doing now? Below is M&T Raja Atluri (‘18)’s interview with Mike Sha (‘14) to answer this much-asked question.
Raja: Where and in what field do your work?
Mike: I’m a Private Equity Associate at TPG Global, a private equity and venture capital firm based in San Francisco, CA. I live out here in the Bay Area and work in analytical modeling, tracking, and reviewing our portfolio investments.
Raja: How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
Mike: At Penn, I majored in Systems Engineering and concentrated in Finance. Other than the quantitative aspects of finance, accounting, and math, the most helpful part was learning to work in groups and communicate with people from different backgrounds. I regularly have to “code switch”, using engineer-speak to with C-level technical executives and then talking about internal rate of return with more financial types. Being exposed to both business and engineering minded people at Penn helped me to do this well.
Raja: What’s a typical workday look like for you?
Mike: I have a fairly predictable schedule. I wake up around 7:00 am, check emails, get breakfast at the office, and catch up on news from the morning. From about 8 to 10 am, I work through my inbox, replying to requests from senior employees sent overnight. Next, I make calls to customers, other CEOs and CTOs to ask about a specific company and its technical facets. It’s a data gathering time to help me prepare for the dig in I’ll work on later in the day.
We often get a catered lunch, and then I work into active due diligence. I dig into a company’s data room, where the entire corpus of company documents are stored (i.e. financial statements, invoices, contracts, etc.). I analyze my findings and compile thoughtful commentary on the investment to share with the team.
From there, I’ll usually get some dinner and then head back to the office to take advantage of our gym before heading home for the night.
Raja: How did you end up in your current position?
Mike: I came to TPG through building relationships. Whether in the academic, social, or professional sphere, I was sure to create and maintain connections while at Penn. At recruiting events, I network a lot with professionals. Not only did I collect their business cards, I email and provided them with some sort of value afterward. That could be offering my thoughts on a problem we discussed or just sending an interesting article that’s relevant and timely. That connection is the key to developing relationships.
Penn has a great recruiting system and the connections through M&T alumni are phenomenal. Make use of those resources!
Raja: What advice do you have for those who are interested in pursuing a career in finance?
Mike: My best advice for any career path is to think about what you want to do and ignore what everyone else is doing. Think about what you’re interested in before you decide what to pursue. Moving around from company to company and industry to industry can be good to see a bunch of different scenarios and perspectives.
For those specifically interested in finance, get the fundamentals down – FNCE100 and ACCT101 to start. You should be at a point where you could get an A on a FNCE100 exam given to you at any time.
There is a lot of variety in finance, too. At places like Morgan Stanley, you see the sell-side of transactions (M&A, IPO). At TPG, the focus is on buy-side diligence. The idea is to provide a sufficient rate of return to investors through wise investments.
Raja: Anything else you’d like to add?
Mike: Anyone in M&T is lucky to be there. It’s a cohort of people with a similar purpose and drive – yet all come from such different backgrounds. It’s energizing to work with a group of people like that.
And it doesn’t stop when you graduate. As an alumnus, I’ve continued to connect with alumni in my year and beyond.
Mike Sha is a 2014 graduate of M&T, holding a BSE in System Engineering and a BA in Economics with a finance concentration. He now works full time at TPG Capital as a Private Equity Associate.
The interviewer, Raja Atluri, is a member of the Class of 2018 studying computer science and concentrating in finance and statistics. After graduation, he will be working at Morgan Stanley in Menlo Park, CA. His favorite thing about the M&T Program is the 200+ person community of similarly interested and very highly accomplished peers.