Forté’s annual College Fast Track to Finance Conference encourages undergrad women of all majors to explore career opportunities in the financial world. On Thursday, Oct. 14, and Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, we brought together 121 undergrads from 51 different schools with representatives from 15 Forté partner companies for a series of interactive and informational events. Two of the undergrads who participated spoke with us about the experience. Making Connections with Women in Finance Arina Shalobodova, a sophomore at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business, is a finance major. She says, “A couple of years ago, I became interested in banking. I’d heard that the banking industry is a very male-dominated field, and I was wondering if there was any support for women.” An online search led her to Forté. It was very fulfilling to interact with a lot of people interested in the same field. I got to speak with the female bankers from different investment banking firms and actually hear how they experienced the workplace. Arina liked how the Fast Track to Finance Conference was structured. She says, “It was easy and interesting to follow, because the content was constantly changing and it was targeted at students with different interests.” She appreciated that the event included “cameras off” portions, where students could observe and absorb the information, along with interactive sessions. The investment banking simulation was a highlight for her, because the students worked together on small teams. She says, “We were able to talk, and then we connected with each other on LinkedIn.” After graduation, Arina plans to start her career in investment banking and go from there. She says, “It was very fulfilling to interact with a lot of people interested in the same field. I got to speak with the female bankers from different investment banking firms and actually hear how they experienced the workplace. That was just incredible.” Overall, she says, “The conference was awesome. It was a great way to meet a lot of people and a great way to learn about finance.” Considering Potential Career Options Jenny Ding is a sophomore at Smith College, where she’s studying computer science and economics, but hasn’t decided on her future plans yet. She says, “My major gives me different career options like tech, finance, or any combination, so I’m still exploring.” Jenny heard about Forté through an email from Smith’s career center, and a friend mentioned the conference to her. She says, “I saw on LinkedIn that some of my friends have attended these events and had really good feedback, so I decided to come and do it.” For Jenny, the Fast Track to Finance Conference was a chance to familiarize herself with the finance industry. She says, “I hadn't had any career exposure to finance before, because in our liberal arts school, we don't have business classes.” At the two-day event, she learned about everything from sales and trading to accounting and valuation. On day two, she had the chance to try out an investing simulation. “We were separated into small groups and collaborated with another group on a high-stakes negotiation. We created strategies that prioritized the needs of our company,” she says, “In the live dialogue, we got a sense of how quick and sharp an investment banker needs to be and learned some critical techniques one can use to successfully make these deals.” I hadn't had any career exposure to finance before, because in our liberal arts school, we don't have business classes. Her favorite part of the event was being able to have one-on-one meetings with recruiters from J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, and other companies. She says talking with people who actually work in those firms was a valuable experience. “From our conversations, I gained insights on the latest news impacting the finance industry, how their companies adjust to the trends in the business world, how they paved their own way into finance, and what the long-range career trajectory is like in their firms.” Jenny sums up the conference this way: “I feel like it was a really good experience for me.” Advice for Future Conference Attendees Both women shared advice for other undergrads who may be considering attending the Forté Fast Track to Finance Conference in the future. Arina says, “Definitely go! It’s one of the best opportunities to learn about different fields in finance, if you're still not sure what you want to do.” Jenny also encourages other students to attend — and she recommends staying in touch with everyone you meet after the event is over. Her advice: “Follow up with these people. Send emails to update your personal information, write a thank you letter, or ask questions. Keeping those connections is important.” Want updates about future Forté college conferences? Sign up here!