Student Insights: The 12th Annual MBA Women in Investing Conference

By: Kate Nguyen, Two-Year MBA ’23
women smiling on a zoom call

Keynote panelists from Macquarie Asset Management discuss their roles and share career advice with students.

This fall, I participated in the 12th Annual MBA Women in Investing Conference hosted by the Parker Center for Investment Research at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. This long-running event, founded by Parker Center Executive Director Lakshmi Bhojraj, MBA ’01 is a great platform for MBA women to learn about careers and recruitment in the investment industry, where they are vastly underrepresented. This year, over 70 women drawn from 16 business schools participated in the event virtually. The conference allowed women to hear from practitioners, practice and obtain feedback on stock pitching skills, network with corporate representatives and peers, and explore and interview for internship opportunities. Every day was thoughtfully crafted and included interesting and highly relevant panel sessions, such as “How I Generate Investment Ideas” and “How to Interview Management Teams.” It was particularly inspiring to hear from successful women in the industry about their roles and career trajectories and I walked away learning something new every day.

Conference kick-off with Dave Breazzano, MBA ’80 

screenshot of zoom call with dave breazzano
Dave Breazzano, MBA ’80, president and CIO of DDJ Capital Management, delivered opening remarks at the conference and answered student questions.

Dave Breazzano, MBA ’80, president and CIO of DDJ Capital Management, delivered opening remarks at the conference and answered student questions.

The kick-off speech by Dave Breazzano, MBA ’80, president and CIO of DDJ Capital Management, influenced me to be more open-minded and mindful of my career choices. He encouraged all of the students to be open to different options early in their careers, and he recommended exploring different investment functions—such as equities, credit, private equity, and quant—as we determine what is best suited to our personalities, abilities, and investment styles. He also pointed out that an investment research career will always keep us on our toes while we constantly speculate about future outcomes, stretch our comfort zones, and overcome the fear of being wrong. One of his talking points that struck me was when he said the day we feel comfortable doing investment research is the day we stop growing.

Notable moments from the multi-day event

Preeti Sayana answers questions on a zoom call
Keynote speaker Preeti Sayana, research analyst and portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments, listens as a student participant asks her question.

Another great speaker was Preeti Sayana, research analyst and portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments. She delivered a heartfelt speech, sharing with the audience how her background growing up shaped her investment interests and style and discussing how she balances her family and investing career. The audience was riveted by her words and lined up with numerous questions to seek her advice and wisdom on career-related issues.

A unique part of the virtual conference this year was the speed networking sessions, where representatives from sponsoring firms were rotated through a series of Zoom breakout rooms to speak with small groups of students for short intervals. I found these sessions to be helpful as they gave me exposure to different companies and investment functions and allowed me to understand what it takes to pursue roles such as equity and credit research and client-facing roles.

On the second day of the conference, I enjoyed the “How to Launch Coverage and Interview Management” panel moderated by Professor Scott Stewart. Hearing the different panelists talk about their research approaches was insightful, and it offered a rare, behind-the-curtain glimpse into how these professionals think and work.

Professor Scott Stewart moderates a panel session on zoom
Professor Scott Stewart moderates a panel session.

It was an intense but rewarding week, and each school brought its “A-game” as students came prepared with thoughtful questions and made their own stock pitch presentations. Our game was elevated when our Cornell team’s mentor—an industry professional assigned to us by the conference organizers—met with us online, providing constructive feedback on our pitch and challenging us to think further. The process mimicked the real nature of investment research as your “best” work is torn apart and put back together with improvements. Based on what I have learned, you definitely need a bit of thick skin and must be willing to absorb constructive feedback as part of your growth journey. The judges also provided detailed feedback across all school presentations, allowing us to learn from each other.

Final takeaways

I walked away with lots of takeaways and deeply appreciate the effort made by all the companies and organizers to deliver such a great conference. We got great exposure, networking, and recruiting opportunities in such a short amount of time. The lifetime support system for women created through the conference is particularly valuable.   All in all, it was a conference truly worth attending.

Kate Nguyen

Kate Nguyen, Two-Year MBA ’23

Kate Nguyen is a Vietnamese MBA candidate in the Two-Year MBA class of 2023. Growing up in a family with a background in entrepreneurship and private equity shaped her business acumen and trends in the emerging market. Before Johnson, Kate worked at PepsiCo North America focusing on innovation, insights, and marketing analytics for legacy brands such as Pepsi, Bubly Sparkling Water, Aquafina, and LIFEWTR. She leveraged market research and data analytics to identify growth opportunities for the brands. Recently, she was accepted as a first-year sector analyst in the student-led Cayuga fund, managing $2M. She is also passionate about investing in blockchain technology, especially in the fintech and gaming sectors. Most notably, she had identified 87x and 40x return projects within the crypto space. Wanting to become a well-rounded investor, she enrolled in the Johnson MBA program to gain exposure to different investment functions, including equity, credit, and private. Kate focuses on building a robust systematic research approach and gains exposure to institutional investing. Upon graduation, Kate hopes to pursue a career in equity research. She is a member of the Investment Management Club, Old Ezra Finance Club, and a Forte Fellow.