ValueChampion Student Interview Series: Aditya Karkera, Yale-NUS Class of 2020
University education greatly influences career paths and financial futures. ValueChampion is interested in sharing the personal stories of the future generation of Singapore's professionals. With this in mind, we are conducting a series of Q&A interviews featuring top students at universities in Singapore.
Born in Mumbai and raised in Oman and Qatar, Aditya Karkera, a junior at Yale-NUS, studies Mathematical, Computational, and Statistical Sciences (MCS). He has also been involved with student groups such as the Yale-NUS Student Investment group and the Yale-NUS Student Government. He is interested in pursuing a career in investment banking following his studies.
How did you choose Yale-NUS and how has your experience been thus far?
I'd known of Yale-NUS College from when I was in high school through the Yale-NUS College Asia Pacific Model United Nations Conference. I was drawn to the vibrant community of students I'd interacted with, as well as to the unique institution that Yale-NUS seemed to represent. My experience at Yale-NUS has been nothing short of brilliant and really has dwarfed any calculations of uncertainty I had when heading in. I've grown more at Yale-NUS intellectually and personally than I might have at any other institution.
Did you consider any other schools, and if so, why did you choose Yale-NUS?
Apart from similar schools in the United States, the immediate choice for me was between Yale-NUS College and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Madras for a Master's program. The prospect of helping construct a start-up institution that melded the world's finest pedagogical traditions amid the exciting backdrop of Singapore and Southeast Asia was too alluring to ignore. Yale-NUS's nonpareil diversity and study abroad opportunities, which I saw as vital to a deeper interest to fulfill the 21st century's requirements of human citizenship, also sealed the deal for me.
What is your major and how did you choose this path?
My intended major for most of my time at Yale-NUS was Economics, but I've since veered strongly towards Mathematical, Computational, and Statistical Sciences (MCS). I've always harboured a strong love of economics since I first studied it in high school, but I believe that being comfortably numerate, armed with strong tools of analysis, and a quantitative bend are skills that should, like any trusty investment, only appreciate in value over time.
What is your favourite class so far, and why?
My favourite class so far happens to be a class I'm taking right now, incidentally: Seminar on Corporate Finance. Without a doubt, the amount of learning per class has been phenomenal and items I took for granted on otherwise dry financial statements are coming alive. I think it's best summed by a line shared to the class by the professor facilitating it (Michael Schmertzler of Yale University): "Companies don't make money, they make shoes."
Are you involved with any extracurricular activities at Yale-NUS? How have these activities shaped your experience?
In my time at Yale-NUS, I've variously edited for The Octant (the College's student newspaper), served as Director of Finance and Director of Enterprises of the Yale-NUS Student Government, and led the Yale-NUS Student Investment Group as President. From these experiences, I've learned the value of simultaneously managing times, teams, and terms and learning that managing those three is a zero-sum game has been one of the greatest life lessons provided to me by the challenging yet stimulating extracurricular landscape at Yale-NUS. The College, through both resources and mentorship, has been immensely supportive of the activities and projects I've undertaken or pursued during my time at Yale-NUS.
We understand that you won the HOLT valuation challenge organised by Credit Suisse, could you explain the competition and your submission?
The HOLT Valuation Challenge, organised by Credit Suisse and Project Firefly, is a global educational and interactive challenge that invites participants from across the world to learn of Credit Suisse's proprietary HOLT Methodology of valuing companies and then apply it to a pair of companies (using Credit Suisse's HOLT Lens platform) to produce an investment pitch. My investment pitch compared Visa and Mastercard. Using quantitative trends and data to back a qualitative argument, I expressed a buy recommendation for Mastercard on the back of its superior managerial quality in a time of tempestuous change for the payments industry. This recommendation came despite Mastercard being slightly less competitive than Visa on some financial metrics.
Have you participated in any internships? If so, what did you think of this opportunity? If not, do you plan to apply and what types of internships interest you?
I interned with Bloomberg in Mumbai in my first year, where I worked with financial data and news, and KPMG and Deloitte in Qatar in my second year, where I worked with the firms' deal and financial/transaction advisories. I see an internship as a fantastic, and frankly unparalleled, engagement when it comes to learning outside the classroom. It gives you a chance to push yourself and getting a handle of what's out there. Finally, it helps you decide whether the job is your cup of tea, and if so, how best to sip that tea. While an internship is still an avenue of learning, the expectations of performance slim your own threshold for sloppiness, procrastination, and avoidable mistakes and help make you far more effective. In terms of value added to my personal and professional growth, I can say that internships have been immensely useful and have led to an equally useful translation of several skills and processes to my academic and personal life.
What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?
I've received tons of advice throughout my time at Yale-NUS, but something that sticks with me, especially lately, is actually a (likely apocryphal) line from the 1970 film Waterloo. It's the endgame of the eponymous battle and things are looking crummy for the Grande Armée, and Napoleon looks to his dejected generals and proclaims: "I've been in this position before at the Battle of Marengo. I lost the battle at five o'clock, but I won it back again at seven!" Tenacity, ambition, calm in the eye of the storm, and rational flexibility are all valuable traits I take from that line and apply across whatever I do. Yes, Napoleon lost Waterloo, but I contend that's not the point.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 and 10 years?
In the immediate term, I hope to be able to join, learn from, and add value to a major investment bank either in Singapore/Southeast Asia or in India - where two separate but equally interesting growth stories are strongly brewing. Beyond the immediate term, I'm keen to see where I go but I am on the whole flexible to what kismet throws my way.
How has Yale-NUS prepared you for your career goals? Is there anything additional that you wish your university could help you with regarding your career?
Yale-NUS is several leagues ahead of most other comparable educational institutions when it comes to identifying and imparting skills of value in the coming knowledge economy, and I believe that the potent combination of fundamental hard skills and interpersonal soft skills is one of the strongest contributions Yale-NUS has made to my pursuit of career goals within the financial services. Yale-NUS's Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE) has been very helpful in assisting me in better navigating the seeming murkiness of an incipient professional career. I have much to be grateful for, but one idea that Yale-NUS could potentially explore is allowing interested students to pursue semester-long internships and translating their work experience to credits that count towards graduation.
How are you financing your education, and what are your most helpful online resources or tools?
My education is financed jointly by the generosity of Yale-NUS's wide-reaching financial aid program and the Tuition Grant Scheme of the Government of Singapore.
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