Ashley Gilbert isn’t one to let obstacles like COVID-19 get in the way of her career aspirations.
The finance-accounting double major was studying finance in Italy in February when the pandemic cut her semester short and forced her return home to Point Pleasant, N.J. Then, the summer internship she lined up in the U.S. was cancelled for the same reason.
So, what does an aspiring investment banker do under those circumstances?
“I had to pivot, just like in the real world,” Ashley said. “I wanted to further my career in some way over the summer, so when my summer internship was cancelled, I knew I had to find something else to help further my growth and career.”
Girls Who Invest is the online opportunity Ashley “stumbled upon” when other career enrichment opportunities dried up as a result of the pandemic. It’s a non-profit program that seeks to increase female representation in the asset management industry. The three-part program is administered through the Wharton School of Business, the CFA Institute and Wall Street Prep, and those who complete the three modules successfully receive certifications from each.
“I was not about to let the pandemic distract from my career goals, so on nights and weekends when I was not working my lifeguarding job, I spent a lot of time working through the modules” Ashley said. “Investment banking is an incredibly hard industry to break into. It’s very competitive and many of those positions are filled by Ivy League graduates.”
Ashley’s pursuit of a competitive advantage in her desired career involved a commitment of about four hours, two to three days a week from March until the last week in August. It took her two months to complete the CFA Institute module. After passing the final exam, she received an Investment Foundation certificate from the institute. Then, she received a corporate finance certificate from Wall Street Prep, a private company Wall Street firms utilize in training their employees.
“The last module was through Wharton Online and was set up like a class actual UPenn students would take,” she said. “I studied the foundations of investment management, focusing on the quantitative side of finance, which I also received a certificate in after passing the final.”
Ashley holds a UPIC internship and is taking 20 credit hours of classes this semester. Beyond that, she’s fully engaged outside the classroom as a member of the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, a College of Business recruitment ambassador, and a finance representative on the College’s Student Advisory Board and on the board of the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. With a full plate, she sees benefits in the untraditional return to classes with a hybrid learning model.
“There’s been some anxiety in returning to campus with all of the unknowns and changes to our normal way of life. But I like the hybrid model and I think our generation is going to see that the pandemic is going to change how and where we work,” she added. “This new learning environment is actually helping prep us for our future careers. And, given my course load and extracurricular involvement, it’s helped my time management since I can do work at my pace and from my apartment.”
She said Girls Who Invest helped advance her financial education but has also contributed to her building relationships with the industry in a unique way. And, it’s already led to summer internship interviews for research analyst positions.
“Besides the industry-specific benefits I got from the program, it also put me in touch with an incredible group of girls, both current scholars and alumni, who are on a similar journey. It has definitely inspired me to keep pushing for my dream job and made me realize that it is possible with a lot of hard work.”
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