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MSF creates path for student with no finance experience

Drew Kesselmark
Private Equity Analyst, Brown Brothers Harriman Capital Partners

Vanderbilt MS Finance 2022

Like many undergraduates, Drew Kesselmark was unsure about what career path she wanted to pursue. It was that uncertainty, in fact, that led her to finance. As she explains, “Finance is such a broad field that you can really find your niche within it. Whether it's investment banking, private equity, venture capital, private wealth management, real estate, finance, the list goes on and on.” After talking with the career management team at Owen, and with fellow Vanderbilt undergrads who had gone through the MSF program, she decided to apply.

Once classes started, any concerns Drew had about her lack of a background in finance quickly dissipated. “With the way the curriculum works, they get you up to speed very quickly,” she says. “At the beginning you will take classes like financial economics, corporate valuation and accounting that will put you on a great base level to extend into electives. Whatever you want, there’s a class for it.”

She was especially pleased to find classes that focused on data analysis and corporate strategies in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) –“a main highlight of this program for me,” Drew says. “I am particularly interested in ESG and impact investing. We heard from so many incredible guest speakers who are working on those issues within their respective companies that I can learn how others are attacking those issues that we have.”

Another highlight, as she discovered, was the opportunity to work in teams. “That’s how you’re going to work in the real world, so it’s great practice,” says Drew. “It also gets you really close to your classmates, and you can learn so much from them.”

The environment —“I have never been in such a male-dominated space before” –presented its own challenges. “But that’s the reality of the finance and private equity world I’m entering. I think it's important for women to know that there are so many opportunities available in the finance industry. I’ve developed skills that help me deal with situations arising from implicit biases.”

For Drew, the most exciting result of the program was landing a full-time job in a field where, just one year earlier, she had no training or experience. At Owen, she says, “I learned so much that allowed me to hit the ground running in private equity without holding an investment banking position prior to this role.”

Fun Fact: Growing up in New York, Drew was a “pre-professional” dancer focused mainly on contemporary dance but also trained in ballet and jazz.

I think it's important for women to know that there are so many opportunities available in the finance industry.