Explain your career path
I started my career as an Investment Analyst for an Investment Advisory firm shortly after graduating in 2010 with my MBA from Southeast, it was an entry level position that really taught me the nuts and bolts of the wealth advisory industry and allowed me to network and learn more about how to move up in the industry. After a few years there, I was able to move to a Trust company as a portfolio manager and equity analyst, doing investment research on select companies and managing client portfolios. In this role I was able to take a different approach from my previous employer, as I was in charge of making investment decisions for clients. In the meantime I completed the CFA program and became a Chartered Financial Analyst, a designation that is the standard of excellence in the wealth management industry. Building on my experience and the fact that i had just received my charter, in 2014, I made the jump to International Wealth Management where I currently act as a Sr Portfolio Manager, providing services to private clients in Latin America and the Caribbean.
I have been able to progress in my career, although it hasn't been without hard work and dedication as the wealth management industry is very competitive. From starting out as an analyst and taking a broader approach to managing assets, to taking a more focused approach being an equity analyst by analyzing companies, to becoming a client facing portfolio manager for international clients. Earning the CFA designation along the way really helped me progress rather quickly in my field.
What was your major at Southeast and what led you to that?
My major at SEMO for my Bachelors was International Business Management. Growing up I always thought I would end up studying something in the field of medicine, however during my freshman year at SEMO after taking a few of the courses, I realized that it was not for me and the anxiety of not knowing what to study really kicked in. I then began researching for an alternative, I knew that I wanted to use my Spanish (which is my first language) and wanted a career that would allow me to work with many people from many different backgrounds. I talked to my adviser, some professors and even some students in the school of business, and what I found out was that SEMO had a fairly robust international business program with great study abroad offerings and a very interesting curriculum. I found out that SEMO partnered with many universities worldwide and that they offered programs during Fall, Spring and even summer. I declared my major as a Sophomore and ended up graduating in the Fall of 2008 after taking advantage of the study abroad program during the previous summer in which I completed a study abroad program in Germany for 6 weeks. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my academic tenure as an undergrad at SEMO.
Shortly after that I enrolled in the MBA program at Southeast, which I was told was one of the best in the country when it came to bang for your buck. The final years of my bachelors I took a few courses on investments and capital markets and I found that it was something that interested me quite a bit. I was able to graduate with an MBA from Southeast with a concentration in Finance in the Spring of 2010.
All my life I thought I would en up in medicine, however SEMO helped me realize that my true conviction lied in International Business and I thoroughly enjoyed my years in Cape Girardeau.
Why did you choose to attend Southeast?
I actually chose to go to SEMO because I received a football scholarship. My background is a bit different than your regular student, I was born in Venezuela and moved to Miami, FL during my teenage years. Coming from such a background, it was hard to imagine that I would ever en up playing football at a university in Cape Girardeau, MO.
I took a tour of the university in the fall of 2003, met with an academic advisor and toured the university. What i liked the most about my visit was learning about the growth plans that were forthcoming for the university. Back then, there were plans to build new dorms, update the athletic facilities and even build a River Campus, all which came to fruition in the coming years. I had also never seen snow and it came down quite a bit during my first night in Cape Girardeau so I thought it was very neat. I think that attending SEMO was one of the best decisions of my life, I met some lifelong friends, explored the Midwest, travelled abroad and also met my future wife Erika Upchurch class of 2007.
Who influenced you most during your time at Southeast?
It is truly hard to select just one person as many people come to mind right away, from professors to advisers to students to teammates and coaches. If I had to narrow it down I would select 3 people:
Sharon Burgard, who was the athletics department academic adviser had a huge impact in my tenure at Southeast, her willingness to help student athletes was apparent right away, she helped me navigate and plan out my career path and helped throughout my tenure there. She would always be available, and would offer a helping hand with any issue we may have had. She genuinely cared for her students and always had their best interest at heart.
On the academic side I would mention Dr William Weber, an economics professor in the college of business. Dr Weber's classes were very spirited and his methods of teaching always made me think analytically which is something Im required to do every day in my line of work. I believe that I enjoyed his classes the most during my tenure at SEMO but we also developed a friendship outside the classroom as he was a big football fan. During my MBA program, I worked closely with Dr Weber to complete my thesis. This was thoroughly enjoyable and I believed we were both vested in the project, his willingness to help me and walk me throughout the research portion of the project was instrumental on its success.
Lastly, I would mention Mrs Joyce Hunter from Career Linkages. I came to see Mrs Hunter because one of my colleagues had mentioned that I should put together a resume since I was going to graduate fairly soon. I remember coming to her worried about the fact that I had nothing to put on my resume and really stressed out about finding a job after graduation, the timing wasn't that great as it was the Fall of 2008. She worked with me for a few weeks and made me realize the worth of some of the things that I had done in my past and how those translated into the real business world. We were able to create a resume that exceeded all of my expectations. Mrs Hunter was instrumental in helping me land an internship my senior year and ultimately helped me land a job a few months before I graduated with my MBA. She helped me become one of the few that had a full time job lined up before graduation and Im very grateful for that.
Share your best college memory.
I think my best college memory was a moment during graduation in the fall of 2008. My entire family was in the stands, my grandparents had flown in from Venezuela to watch me graduate and I thought that was a very big deal. I wrote to Dr Ken Dobbins (Southeast's president at the time), whom i knew of from my football playing days and told him that i was very excited that they were coming. During the opening remarks and to my surprise, Dr Dobbins singled me out and asked me to stand up. He then gave a quick blurb about who I was and where I came from and spoke a bit about my athletic and academic career at SEMO. He then asked my entire family to stand up (we had a delegation of about 20 including immediate family, aunts, uncles, cousins and my wife's family) and told the congregation that my grandparents had flown all the way from Venezuela to watch their grandson graduate and asked the congregation to thank them. A moment that I will never forget and surely neither will they.
What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Southeast?
Like many students, I was living on my own for the very first time at SEMO, thousands of miles away from my family and in a different country from most of my non-immediate family. I was trying to keep up with a very demanding football schedule while getting good grades and trying to maintain a social life. All of this being a Venezuelan football player that had never lived in a small city and had never been so far from my family. I was an atypical college student to say the least, however, I was lucky enough to be able to surround myself with great people, a great circle of friends and mentors and even meet my wife! all making me embrace the whole experience. I learned that even though you may be faced with a tough situation, focusing and embracing the positives will completely shape the outcome, something that I carry with me daily.
Describe Southeast in three words.
Supporting, Diverse, Complete
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment so far has been completing the CFA Charterholder program in 3 years. It is a designation that is the Standard for the wealth management industry, it requires taking 3 rigorous 6 hour tests 3 years in a row with each requiring about 300 hours of study time. It was a major time commitment and my wife and I definitely sacrificed many weekends but in the end it was a sacrifice that was well worth it as it has really helped me move up quickly in the industry.
How did your education at Southeast prepare you for what you are doing today?
I would say that SEMO prepared me well for my current role, I am doing International Business (my Bachelors) with a focus on investments and capital markets (My MBA focus) Even though no university can ever fully prepare you for what exactly you will do every day in the real world, SEMO provided a great foundation. For example, I remember taking a business IT class in which I became a better than average user of Excel programming, a program that I use on a daily basis and has saved me a tremendous amount of time allowing me to work more efficiently today. It also helped me as I studied for the CFA designation as many of the topics mentioned in the curriculum became familiar as i had explored them at SEMO in my economics, finance and accounting classes.
What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?
The wealth advisory industry, like many others is one where you have to "pay your dues" Very seldom do recent grads get hired to senior roles so focus on investment analyst roles at a bank or and investment advisory firm. Also, if you are willing to move it will open up your prospects quite a bit, as obvious as it sounds it is important to keep that in mind. For current students, I would recommend getting involved with extracurricular activities that are tied to the industry. For example i was the Treasurer of the MBA Association and was involved with the Investment Club, something i was able to put on my resume with direct correlation to the industry. Lastly, and I cant stress this enough, is use the resources that the university has available for you. Career linkages can be a great tool for upcoming graduates and as Ive mentioned, the people that work there are stellar at what they do.
What do you wish you had known before graduating and entering the "real world"?
As I was graduating in 2010, I had an idea in my head of how my career would develop all the way to retirement. I quickly found out that you have to be a lot more adaptable and willing to navigate the ups and downs, very seldom do we see careers turn out the way we thought about them as we graduated. From getting married, to having kids, to moving to different cities, there are many variables that will be thrown at you and it is your job to navigate through them without letting them overwhelm you. Point is that you have to adapt to change, one colleague once told me "if you dont like something, dont worry it will change. If you really like something, enjoy it because it will change too" and I think this applies to the real world in more ways than I knew back then.