Shaunak Majumder graduated from Jai Hind College, with a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Markets in 2018, after which he went on to attend a Masters in Management and MSc. in Corporate finance and banking, at EDHEC Business School, France (#10 in the world for ROI- QS 2020).
This article aims to explore Shaunak’s professional and personal journey as a student of Jai Hind College. The answers have been edited for the readers’ convenience.
Could you brief us about your Journey from high school to Jai Hind, and speak about your thoughts and perception as to how your career was going to chalk out,
It was kind of heart breaking when the third list of JHC BFM was published and my name was missing on it. Half-heartedly I started attending a different college. A few days later, on my birthday amongst all the birthday wishes and gifts, one call from an unknown number turned out to be the best gift of my life. It was a call from JHC offering me an admit in BFM. Thus, began the most transformative experience that I have undergone.
Being a bullied and under confident kid in school, first year at Jai Hind was hard to embrace. I was extremely resistant to change. So the initial months were all about not attending lectures, being perpetually blacklisted, Rushing home, being completely disinterested in extra-curricular activities, and not making friends due to an unnecessary superiority complex. Yasmin Ma’am surely was extremely troubled with me. Things began to change once I invested myself in extra curriculars, it truly transformed me.
I would say it’s a little over ambitious to have your entire career chalked out in college, that’s not how it works, you need to gain more experience and allow yourself time to grow in order to really learn what you want to do, so don’t feel overwhelmed if things are hazy right now.
Could you shed a little light on your extracurricular activities in college, and how they helped you grow?
Like I said, initially I was highly complacent, all of that changed when i took on the role of an HOD for Entourage. I spent a lot of time in college working and investing myself in extra curriculars, performing and participating in competitions at other festivals.
Helping students from BMM set up the Jai Hind Music Café was one of my highlights, all acted as amazing stimuli to help me identify my strengths and work on polishing and developing those skills. I met several like-minded people through these experiences and made lifelong friends!
I would feel more at home in college than at home because of the love and support I received from my friends and teachers(who are pretty great friends if you get to know them closely). At Jai Hind college you start as a regular student and leave as an opinionated, creative, and enterprising individual. The Jai Hind experience ensures holistic development which will always help you stand out in a crowd. I also enjoyed playing football throughout my college life.
It may sound extremely cliched, but the most important thing that I would tell the current students is that, it doesn’t matter whether you live in Ulhasnagar or Navi Mumbai or Virar, coming to college and spending time with your friends and teachers is definitely worth it. At Jai Hind, as a student you learn both in and out of the classroom, so, I would urge students to be as active as possible with everything happening in college. Quite a lot of your development will happen outside the classroom through peer to peer learning.
You picked France as the country for grad school, which is an interesting choice, many students don’t see the destination as a choice for business education, what are the unique aspects about the place that differentiate it from other destinations abroad?
I think many students fail to think about certain factors while they are applying to universities abroad. They just tend to follow the crowd and apply to so called conventional destinations. The goal in life can’t be getting into a certain university. University will only last 2-3 years. Students need to think about where they would like to work and which country do they feel the most drawn to while applying. They need to think about where they would like to live in the long run. This is one of the most important factors. You should apply to a university abroad if you want to work and live in another country. Once you have decided which country you want to live in, chalk out the best options and work your way down from there.
In my case, I was always fascinated with France and its rich history and culture. I wanted to live and work in France, hence, I decided to pursue my education there. Few more factors played a role, such as, the stay back visa that France was offering was high, the best schools for MiM are in France, and the cost of education is cheaper in Europe ensuring higher ROI.
My experience at the university has been a lot of fun. You rarely see so many like minded, talented people coming together to study what they love. I learnt something from every student that I met. It was a melting pot of cultures. I remember, every weekend, 100-200 students would gather at the beach with loads of drinks and guitars, and spend time with each other having enriching & productive conversations till the moon sets. You truly become a global citizen after such experiences. On the academic front as well, my knowledge about the finance industry widened exponentially, and the courses ensured I could practically apply my knowledge, improving my employability. When I finally started my internship year, I realized that there was no steep, on the job learning curve.
Sixty per cent of students in my university were international students, making it extremely easy to fit in, but the french students tend to not mix up so much. There is definitely a language barrier with the french students. If you speak fluent french as well, it would be easier to meet more people. There are 20-30 Indian students in the school every year and some of them tend to form a group and isolate themselves. It is always advisable to get out of your comfort zone and interact with the international students.
Could you please take us through your professional journey? Vis a vis internships
I have interned in about 4 companies and 4 different fields. 3 of these internships., I have done in India and I am currently interning in Monaco. During my bachelors I interned with Siemens in their corporate finance division and then with Inditrade capital in their commodities trading department. Since both of these internships were around 1-2 months, I didn’t have a great experience. I don’t regret doing these internships because they helped me identify what I don’t like, and I think this is the primary reason to do internships. It helps you figure out which field you want to build your career in.
After my first year at EDHEC Business School, I came to Mumbai and interned with this boutique Investment Bank, Equirus Capital, in their Mergers & Acquisitions department. This was by far the most interesting and challenging internship that I have completed. I had around a 100 hour work week with extremely rewarding responsibilities. They environment was so fast paced and exciting, I was completely addicted to my work. I got to be a part of of several landmark M&A deals in the MSME sector. I personally liked this role because it made me feel like I was contributing to something significant and relevant happening in the finance industry.
My current internship is with a shipping company called V.Group in their Financial Planning & Analysis division. This experience is completely different from my previous experience. It’s quite a relaxed job with a 40 hour work week. Contrary to my previous internship, the current one is not a client facing job and hence, is much slower. In a broader sense, I contribute to the formulating of the company’s financial strategy.
I think the key is to get your hands on as many different fields as you can to figure out what you are best at. An Internship allows you to test your soft skills as well as your application of theoretical knowledge in a real world scenario. I suggest all students to be extremely active on LinkedIn, network your way into great internship experiences.
Could you summarise your academic experienc at EDHEC, pursuing the MiM and MSc Corporate finance and banking course, and cover the decision making process of picking this course, dig into the details!
Like I said, I hadn’t applied for the dual degree programme initially. I was looking at something in Financial Markets due to my inclination towards derivatives. So when I started my application process, I was searching for a one year MSc. programme in finance with a financial markets specialisation. In 2017, EDHEC Business School’s MSc. in Financial Markets was ranked 1 by Financial Times, and thus, I decided to apply to EDHEC.
I didn’t have one school as the goal, I had shortlisted a few universities – HEC, ESSEC, EDHEC, Frankfurt Business School, but I ended up applying to 3 of them. I picked EDHEC because firstly it was in France, and they were giving me a good scholarship, the course in Frankfurt Business School was an MSc. Finance course rather than the specialised Financial Markets being offered by EDHEC.
I signed my offer letter, sent it back to the school, and a few days later I got a call from the country manager. He told me that, after a basic Mumbai University degree, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the difficulty level of a specialised Masters programme. He suggested that I shift to the dual degree programme, so that I can start with the easier MIM degree, and hence, be well equipped to tackle the specialised Masters programme. My initial reaction was that he is trying to upsell me to a more expensive course, but when I came here, I realized that I truly wouldn’t have been able to handle the MSc. in Financial Markets degree. Thankfully, I had listened to his advice. I also interviewed for a scholarship for Indian students doing the double degree programme, and managed to get it. 2 Indian students get a 50% reduction in their tuition fees. Due to this scholarship, I ended up paying less than a one year programme.
All the students from Mumbai University, who are planning to apply for an MSc. in Finance or other one year specialized Master’s degrees in Europe, a big heads up, don’t do it, I just got lucky that I got into EDHEC Financial markets because of my SOP. Compared to the kind of people applying to these courses, you won’t stand a chance. It is better to apply to a dual degree MIM + MSc. programme. The MSc. programmes are meant for people with more technical and mathematical knowledge and work experience.
My post grad experience turned out very different from what I had imagined. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to work in derivatives trading, but, turns out the kind of work in the financial markets field is quite different from India. In Europe, traders don’t actually make trades for their clients but rather automates trading through coding. Me being a person who doesn’t like anything to do with coding, naturally changed my career goal. After studying several brilliant courses in my first year, I developed an interest in Investment Banking and Financial Modelling. Thus, now I am going to pursue the MSc. in Corporate Finance & Banking instead of MSc. in Financial Markets that I had initially planned to study.
After going through the application process, I realized that what admissions teams look for is how rare and unique you are as a person. Initially, I had hired a counsellor from IMS to help me with my applications, but it turned out to be quite useless even though she was the head counsellor at IMS. I believe these counsellors barely add any value to your SOPs and LORs, but they decrease your chances of getting into a university. They have a typical template which they share with all their customers, hence making sure that you get lost in a crowd. So Finally, I stopped taking advice from my counsellor and started doing exactly the opposite of what she asked me to do most of the time. To anyone who is planning to apply abroad, talk to people who have gone through the application process and try to do the application all by yourself. The application process is self explanatory and easy. The admissions teams are quick to respond and would help you with any small issue that you have. Writing a strong SOP and having good LORs help a lot. The endless number of times that you have to rewrite and edit your work is challenging, but, the more times you rewrite the better your application gets. The application process was smooth for me, I started applying in September and by December I had the offer letter. So, I would say it may sound like a herculean task but it is very straightforward once you start it.
I think my biggest selling point was having very contradictory interests which made a unique multidimensional candidate. Being a finance student who is obsessed with derivatives on one hand and being a person who is really into poetry, literature, and art made me stand out. In my SOP and interviews, this was my major focus, I portrayed myself as a technically sound guy with a vivid creative streak. A poetry spewing finance professional is odd and gets noticed. So, while writing your SOPs try to introspect and find out what is unique about you, what’s that talent or skill that differentiates you from other students in the field.
Could you give the reader some advice on upskilling pertaining to the finance front, what are the core skill sets according to you and what extra courses/ certifications that have broadened your knowledge and enabled you to further enhance your value proposition as a student and a future full time working professional?
Hopefully every student knows that the theoretical knowledge that you have about the field wouldn’t give you the edge over other students looking for jobs and internships. Theoretical knowledge is the basic requirement that almost all applicants have. What will set you apart is how quickly you can become completely operational and be able to work independently with a sense of responsibility for the company.
As far as I know the most important things you should be an expert in to succeed in finance is Excel and Powerpoint. Before you actually start working, you should be able to use these softwares without touching a mouse. To increase your employability, learning how to code is important. The ability to use Python, R, MATLAB, SQL and VBA will take you a long way. Also, being well versed with databases like Bloomberg Terminal, Capital IQ, Merger Market etc is an added benefit.
One of the most useful courses that I have done is called FMVA – Financial Modelling and Valuation Analyst Certification – by a company named the Corporate Finance Institute. Financial Modelling is an important skill in the Corporate Finance industry and this certification covers almost everything. Bloomberg has their own certification which is a good way to learn how to use the Bloomberg Terminal. Other coding courses from sites like coursera will add a lot of value to your profile.
Lastly, how have you been coping with the Pandemic on a professional and educational front?
Truthfully, I am as clueless as most students out there, but I have this one belief that I tend to stick to. The Pandemic is definitely going to affect all businesses. There will be a massive economic slowdown resulting in several employee layoffs all over the world. When the economy starts recovering again after the pandemic, there is going to be a huge number of unemployed people competing for jobs. So, now is the time to pursue further education, and upskill yourself. This will ensure that you are able to compete with the several experienced and qualified people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Those who are planning to apply abroad, this is actually the best time to get a degree and I suggest that one should continue studying for as long as possible. Take the CFA exams, explore certifications, try to do more than one master’s degree, maybe go for a Ph.D. if you’re into academia. All of it will definitely put you in a better position when the market is in a better state.