Interview with Alumni: Cassandra Lee’17 shares her experience as Equity Research Associate
“Interview with International Alumni” is a new program consisting of a series of interviews conducted by the Babson Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) and members of the Undergraduate Center for Career Development. This program will invite several international alumni to share their work experiences and career paths.
Graduation Year: 2017
Concentration: Business Administration and Management
About: Cassandra Lee is an Equity Research Associate at Jefferies, primarily focused on gaming stocks. She started her career as an Associate Investment Analyst at John Hancock Financial Services where she worked on potential fixed income investment opportunities and internal credit ratings to existing investments across multiple sectors. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cassandraleec
Jefferies | Full Time
- Equity Research Associate, Jun 2019 – Present
John Hancock Financial Services | Full Time
- Associate Investment Analyst, Jul 2017 – Jun 2019
JP Morgan Chase & Co. | Part Time
- Summer Corporate Analyst, Jun 2016 – Aug 2016
Q: Your route of career and finding your true path is really interesting, could you tell us more about your route?
A: Well, I graduated in three years because I brought a lot of AP credits from high school, so the definition of junior and senior was kind of blurry to me. I did get an internship at JP Morgan Chase as a summer corporate analyst for my second summer. However, the fast track I took did limit my internship opportunities.
After graduation, I got my first full-time job as an associate investment analyst at John Hancock. However, I kind of regret graduating early because I missed out on so many opportunities. For example, I could have studied abroad or gotten into the MCFE or the Babson College Fund program offered at school.
Q: What are the reasons that you think got you the internships and jobs you had before and you have right now?
A: First of all, I think it is a numbers game. I literally applied to 100 different firms when I was applying my senior year and got offers from only a few companies. At the end of day, part of it is just luck. Another part, however, is just working hard and being prepared for the interview process. I came from Taiwan, so English is not my first language. I did not know the interviews here are more conversational, so I prepared speeches and wrote scripts, and they sound very stiff. In the second summer when I was applying for the JP Morgan internship, my friend gave me a mock interview and I learned that it’s more conversational and more personal.
The CFA exams probably helped. when I was switching to equity research, I referenced it a lot during the interview process. It showed that I am really interested in this field and I made the effort towards it.
Also, networking is a big part. I connected with an alumnus through LinkedIn, and we had a chat over phone call. He referred me for the position, and that’s how I got the first interview. In finance, networking plays an important part. Sometimes you don’t get a reply and that is normal, just keep trying. Be prepared though. I get requests from graduating students from time to time. Some were obviously not prepared, and it would be hard for me to refer them. Also, a really useful tip is don’t send cold email or messages at night or 3AM in the morning. 11AM to 2PM gives you the best chance because lunchtime could be slower for some people. In the cold-email, you should mention your strengths and how they are related to the job you are applying for. Make it more personal by researching the person’s background and think about a way to connect with his/her experience. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to people on the team you are applying to, just be thoughtful.
Q: Could you elaborate more of your career path on equity research and what are the things you are looking for when hiring graduating students?
A: It is little different from investment banking or other finance programs. People usually start as an associate, then move up to senior associate, VP, SVP, and finally MD. How fast you move up depends on the companies, teams, availabilities, etc. Jefferies champions meritocracy, which means people can move up pretty quickly if they perform well. Also some of people would seek other opportunities. For example, people from equity research sometimes go to hedge funds. Another option is corporate finance or investor relations.
Something we are looking for in entry level applicants, I would say are basic finance/modeling skills. You need to demonstrate good understanding of the three financial statements and know how to build a DCF model. These are important. And also you need to sharpen your presentation skills because part of this job is being able to communicate your thesis with your clients. You will probably be asked to pitch a stock during the interview process. The last part would be personality and culture fit.
Q: Is there something interesting about your job or some fun events that happened in your career?
A: I probably have the most interesting space to cover, since I primarily focus on gaming stocks. I once went on business trip with some clients and visited five different casinos in Atlantic City. We concluded the day in a sports bar watching some basketball games. During the pandemic, I also went on a personal trip to Las Vegas with my friends, and after doing this job for a year, it changed how I look at casinos. It might be less fun than you would think because I had to go to six casinos a day. I spent like thirty minutes at each casino and then I have to switch to the next one, so it’s really tiring, but I really enjoyed it.
Equity research also can be like a sales job, sometimes, but I actually like that part as it allows me to get perspectives from buyside people, management, and industry experts.
Q: Did you have trouble communicating with other people or language barriers when you first came to the US? If so, how did you overcome them?
A: I went to an international school in Taipei, so I had some English background when I started in college but I struggled with the writing part. I wasn’t even a good writer in my first language. This could be a bit of challenge because both Hancock and Jefferies require a ton of writings. For example, for one research project I may have to complete thirty pages of writing. Moreover, I have to adapt to senior analysts’ writing style.
However, I think Babson really prepares students for these kind of jobs. I remember I took a consulting class that had a case study, this is extremely helpful because it gave you a glimpse of business writing, which helped me a lot. Do take some of those writing classes and do not ignore the assignments or skip the project because they are really important. There are other really great classes that can help you to improve on writing skills. My suggestion is maybe don’t only focus on the business classes, but also take some of the liberal art course