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Q&A: How the Och Initiative Has Supported These Michigan Ross BBA Women to Pursue Their Interests in Finance

By Bridget Vis

The Och Initiative for Women in Finance at the Ross School of Business is designed to help Michigan Ross undergraduates to explore careers in finance through outreach, education, and engagement.

Since women have been historically underrepresented in the finance industry, the Och Initiative offers valuable resources to support BBA students in their career and academic journeys. This includes connecting them with peers who share their interest in finance, along with faculty, alumni, and business leaders who can serve as valuable mentors and role models. 

This Women’s History Month, three Michigan Ross BBAs on the Och Council talk about being a part of the initiative, how it has contributed to their B-school experience, the women who inspire them, and more.

Paulina Garcia

Program/Year: BBA ’23

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Post-Graduation Career Interest: Investment banking

Why did you join the Och Initiative? 

When I got the email about the West Coast trek being open to first-year students, I knew I had to apply. The summer before coming to Michigan Ross, I participated in the Ross Summer Connection program and I had the privilege of hearing many Ross faculty speak about the great opportunities available to us, one being this trek. As a first-year, I was just starting my career search and wanted to have the benefit of Ross’ academic preparation to find the best business opportunities available to me.

Why do you believe the Och Initiative is important to have at Michigan Ross? 

I think the Och Initiative is extremely important to have at Michigan Ross because it provides women at Ross with a community of like-minded individuals and mentors. It allows women to explore different careers in finance by hearing from Ross alumni and meeting female leaders at major companies. As a woman in business, it’s often the case that representation in industries, particularly finance, isn’t readily available. The sheer showcasing of women being successful in this field does leaps and bounds for aspiring women in the field to at least look into it, and the mentorship and sense of community available through the Och Initiative inspires many (myself included) to not only consider finance, but ultimately look to pursue it. 

How does being in the Och Initiative fit in with your journey at Ross and your career goals? 

As a participant of the Och Treks and a member of the Och Council, I have been exposed to Och’s amazing community that empowers women in finance. I had the privilege of attending an Och Trek as a first-year woman at Ross. Like I mentioned above, Och exposed me to different careers in finance and provided me with the opportunity to hear from women who were once in my shoes. After the treks, I reached out to women I connected with and they were extremely helpful. They became mentors and helped me secure my summer internship at Guggenheim Partners. Being able to witness firsthand the impact of women in the Och Initiative, to pay it forward, I realized I wanted to carry that on to incoming underclassmen as well.

How else have you felt supported as a woman interested in finance at Ross? 

I have felt extremely supported as a woman interested in finance during my time at Ross. In addition to Och, I joined many student organizations on campus, such as Delta Sigma Pi, Michigan Investment Banking Club, and Michigan Interactive Investments, that have provided me with resources and mentors to succeed at Ross and in the business world. I am constantly surrounded by strong women and men who empower me to be a female leader in finance. 

Jade Kim 

Program/Year: BBA ’23 

Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan 

Post-Graduation Career Interest: Tech investment banking 

Why did you join the Och Initiative? 

By the time I had decided to apply to the Och Initiative, I was at a point where I knew I wanted to learn more about finance, but lacked the resources and support to do so. A large portion of important information regarding finance and recruiting is disseminated through word of mouth, and it can make things difficult for a student who doesn’t even know where to begin looking. Och was an open door, a potential path I could take that ultimately taught me so much about the finance industry, and I wanted to pay forward all the aid I received by taking up a position on the Och Council. 

What aspects of the Och Initiative do you enjoy the most? What has been your favorite event or program? 

I think the best aspect of the Och Initiative is that it is an inherent “safe space” for women looking to learn about finance. There is no judgment, there is no posturing, so questions can be asked freely. The open dialogue and community built after a few Och Treks together is one of my favorite parts, but in terms of favorite event or program, I would most definitely say the West Coast Trek. 

How does being in the Och Initiative fit in with your journey at Ross and your career goals? 

I’d like to think of myself as a successful use case as I consider my internship offer to be a direct result of the Och Initiative. I attended the Cowen company presentation and networking event and quickly fell in love with the company. I ended up making a great connection, and ultimately received an offer for a junior internship as a TMT summer analyst in the San Francisco office. Och has supported me through every part of my finance recruitment process — from basic education, to networking, all the way to the final result; and I’m incredibly grateful. 

Do you have any women business leaders that inspire you or do you have any women mentors? 

My personal woman mentor is my older sister, Jacklyn. Having attended Ross before me, she knew better than anyone how difficult it was to break into the industry. Having her previous knowledge, expertise, and advice guiding me through life, college, and recruitment has been a key factor in my success. I believe that no one can do it alone, and while I was lucky to find a trusted and capable mentor early on and close in my life, I highly recommend any women who don’t currently have a mentor figure to find one. There are always different insights from a woman’s perspective of the business table. 

Bella Muscarello

Program/Year: BBA ’23

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Post-Graduation Career Interest: Real estate development

Why did you join the Och Initiative?

I joined the Och Initiative to gain an understanding of what a career in finance looks like and how, as a woman, to break into this field. As I learned about the industry and the kinds of jobs I could potentially hold, I felt uplifted by the other women around me and felt less afraid to ask questions. I knew that getting involved in this would expand my understanding of prospective career paths, but I did not anticipate finding a true community of like-minded women that would be a great support network well beyond my years of initial participation. 

Why do you believe the Och Initiative is important to have at Michigan Ross?

I strongly believe that without this program, the systemic issues underlying the gender gap within finance would be so much wider. Without this program, women who have the skills to succeed in finance could potentially shy away from working in a white, male-dominated industry. This program has had such a positive effect on the Michigan Ross community as a whole by empowering its young women to take up these careers. In the long run, enhancing the alumni network has this butterfly effect that leads more and more women into finance.

What aspects of the Och Initiative do you enjoy the most? What has been your favorite event or program?

As a participant, I think my favorite aspect of the Initiative is genuinely getting the chance to meet with companies. I could not have imagined that I would get to speak with managing directors and senior executives in such an intimate setting like those I experienced with Och. As a council member, I love being someone for the current participants to lean on. My path has been anything other than what I thought it was going to be. It was scary for me, but I came out stronger on the other side and I want my experience to help someone else. I remember feeling like I was drowning or that I was so far behind, but there is always something out there for you. It may seem like you are doing something wrong, but now being a mentor and having been through those struggles, I am so happy to be able to reassure women that they will come out on the other side with a job they were meant to have.

How does being in the Och Initiative fit in with your journey at Ross and your career goals?

Whether I end up going into a finance role or not, being a part of the Och Initiative fits into my journey both in and out of Ross for many reasons. First, it provided me with a strong network of women who are much like myself. When you are looking for jobs, or potentially want to make a career switch, the Ross network is ultimately going to be your strongest connection. By fostering these relationships early on, you get to watch everyone grow and continue to learn from their personal experiences. Next, being a part of the Och Initiative as a council member, I got the experience to participate in the National Women’s Case Competition. Without this program, I would have never participated in something like that on my own. The team I work with is incredibly smart, kind, and we all want everyone to succeed. This program is amazing and I am excited to see it continue for years to come. 

Learn more about the Och Initiative for Women in Finance

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