Juan Villafrade (Colombia) – Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University
Skills of the future: Integrating programming & finance
Today, with modern technology and supercomputers at our fingertips, it’s important to equip students with the technological skills needed to succeed in the workforce.
As a Senior Analyst in Finance Transformation and Business Reporting at real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank, Juan has firsthand experience: “I deal a lot with technology. I’m managing a lot of projects that involve artificial intelligence. I manage projects that involve dashboarding and in order to understand how databases are created and managed, it’s a fundamental point of knowledge that every professional should have because from understanding how databases are created, you can create analytics around finance that maybe that company didn’t have.” (3:25)
Choosing the right master’s program is crucial to building future-ready skills and staying ahead of the curve. When it came to choosing his own finance program, Juan tells us, “The finance field is very broad. When I saw the program [at Gabelli School of Business] and I saw that they have these different tracks that you can follow, I understood that this was a program…for fresh graduates and that it would provide the type of orientation that a fresh graduate needs. I understood the global finance program is not only providing me the tools to understand where I see myself in finance, but also…[with] the tools that a professional needs in order to step up their game, just because there’s the programming side.” (8:30)
He goes on: “Gabelli understood that there is a need for professionals to develop programming skills because finance is not done anymore [on] a piece of paper. I think Fordham…understood that companies were migrating rapidly to a more technological approach and therefore they wanted to provide that type of skill as well because that is going to be an excellent way for a professional that is just starting to step up their game.”
“That’s something that I’m very grateful [for]: that Fordham has that particular capability of providing you [with] finance knowledge but also [with] programming knowledge. I think that is great leverage for this program.” (3:25)
Decision-makers of the future: Learning from the 2008 financial crisis
Any finance student today will tell you how important it is to learn from the past, specifically the global financial crisis in 2007-2008.
According to Juan, “We’re always learning about the past and what those decisions brought up as a repercussion and what [were] the initiatives that the government from the US took upon in order to avoid those types of scenarios. By the end of the class, we’re usually just going over what’s new and the new approaches, like what are the new financial theories?”
Looking back and examining the past is valuable for a student in any industry, but it might hold greater lessons for students and professionals in the finance sector. As Juan says, “Understanding what happened in 2008 and the flexibility of the institutions brought upon the economy is very important – not only to create better professionals, but also to educate us in our history. It’s important because we’re going to be the decision-makers in the future, so it is important that we are constantly understanding what we did in the past and how we can avoid it in the future.” (16:39)
Looking to the future: Shaking hands with CEOs and CFOs
Building your career after grad school is a daunting task, but Fordham University students have it a bit easier. One of the opportunities that arise from having a campus in New York is networking.
“When I came from Colombia, I didn’t really have a network,” Juan shares. “I knew a couple [of] people but it was mostly my family, and at work, you are limiting your network to basically work. What I tried to do was go to as [many] events as I could, so I could also create some sort of networking, improve my public speaking skills, understand how I see myself as a professional, and how I want to project that to other people.” (10:12)
“I’ve been able to shake hands with CEOs, CFOs… I could be talking to someone not knowing who they are and then when it’s their turn, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m the lead for risk management of Bloomberg.’ That is an amazing experience because Fordham offers those spaces where you can be with whoever. [It doesn’t] necessarily have to lead to a job placement, [but] just having a conversation with someone, getting to know them… I feel very grateful about that.” (11:05)