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Three years ago, Xiaoyun Yang and her husband left Shanghai and came to Pittsburgh, where he had been accepted at Carnegie-Mellon University. After graduation, he was hired in the Bay Area.
“I had kind of a gap year in Pittsburgh,” she says, “and I figured it was now my turn to study, so I started looking at schools.”
She had majored in statistics as an undergraduate in China, and had worked in and for analytical centers of an international and Chinese bank, helping develop credit-card models. A degree in finance seemed like a logical progression, and she was accepted into the one-year M.S. Finance program at Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business. She graduated in June 2015.
“I think studying is more fun than working,” Yang says, “and I enjoyed it very much. It was very busy, really intense. But I had a chance to dive into the finance world, learning about different subjects from good professors. The courses were very practical. They pushed you to your limits, taking a theory and trying to apply it practically.”
"The school does a great job of educating students in the program about the job market. You really get a taste of what you need to do to get hired in your field."
Yang describes many of the courses she took as being “project-based education,” and says that approach helped her develop a wide set of business skills.
“In most courses you had to complete a project, which meant rolling up your sleeves and doing something, working with good team members. It challenged your analytical skills and people skills, and for an international student like me, it was a good transition to the American business world.”
Also helping with that transition, she says, was the significant degree of career counseling and support from the university’s career office.
“The school does a really great job of starting out early on educating students in the program about the job market and holding career sessions.,” Yang says. “You really got a taste of what you need to do to get hired in your field. The career counselors did things like setting up career panels, teaching you how to use Linkedin, and showing how to prepare for a job interview.”
What the staff did, she says, was supplemented by help from many of the 30,000 or so Santa Clara alumni in the Bay Area, who helped her develop a network.
“International students don’t have many connections here, so we’re starting from scratch. That’s where connecting with alumni was helpful in developing a network. I found myself starting to talk with strangers, and it went better than I thought. Talking with people got to be more natural.
“The alumni, as people who were already in the business world, also helped with things like explaining how a company evaluates a job candidate. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
As she moved through the program, Yang decided she didn’t want to work for a bank, but rather wanted to take advantage of being in Silicon Valley by doing analytical work for a tech company. In August 2015 she started in the operations department at Apple, working with the finance and marketing departments. “A lot of the key skills in the job are the same as what I learned at Santa Clara,” she says.
The MS Finance program, Yang says, “really prepared me in terms of speaking, presentation, communication, and understanding what’s happening in the business world. But what I really treasure most about it was the people I met — the professors and outstanding students. They were great people who helped me become better.”