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MFin ’18 and ’19 students go beyond the classroom to take on startup world, opportunities at Rotman

June 28, 2018

Manpreet Singh SandhuManpreet Singh Sandhu (MFin ’18) knows his fair share about calculating risks and making financial projections. When he started the Master of Finance program at Rotman, Sandhu was working as an investment analyst at SunLife. Before that, he completed his MBA and held equity research analyst roles at investment firms in Mumbai, India.

Despite his experience working in finance and his curiosity about new technologies, Sandhu was always fascinated — and slightly perplexed — by the startup world.

“Understanding what it takes for an idea to take off and for investors to throw their support behind it seemed like a mystery to me,” explains Sandhu.

“On top of all this, the technology driving most startups is rapidly evolving and these ventures can grow at an explosive pace. With most institutions, you’re looking at what the next 10 years might look like. With startups, you really can’t forecast your progress beyond a few weeks or months.”

Knowing that he needed to get a handle on entrepreneurship and emerging technologies, he reached out to a number of managers and alumni affiliated with the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at Rotman. In his second semester at the School, he applied to the CDL elective course and was eventually accepted into the program.


“What does it take for a startup to succeed? Work with one to find out.”

-Manpreet Sandhu, MFin ‘18


Sandhu was matched with AwakeLabs, a new venture that supports caregiving for individuals living with complex needs. Their app allows family members, teachers, therapists and others to collect and share information, simply by speaking into a smartphone. This past year, Sandhu put his business and finance education to the test by helping the promising startup brainstorm new features for their product, establish a price point for end users and design market entry strategies.

Having now graduated from the MFin program and completed the rigorous CDL elective, Sandhu feels like he’s comfortable working in the startup space.

“Now I have a solid grasp of emerging technologies as well as the business world,” says Sandhu, who is excited about taking on new opportunities in AI consulting. “I feel like I can bridge the gap between data scientists and the business world.”

Sandhu is just one of several new grads and students in the MFin program who have gone beyond the classroom to take advantage of various opportunities at the School. These students are making the most of their Rotman experience by exploring emerging areas in business and finance, and by meeting with senior executives.

Taking a closer look at Fintech

New graduate Varun Sood (MFin ’18) was excited to supplement his classes with short courses developed and taught by the Rotman Financial Innovation Hub in Advanced Analytics (Rotman FinHub), a group that supports research and teaching in emerging areas of finance at the School. Of the many sessions offered, Sood attended a course on blockchain.

“In our industry, bitcoin and cryptocurrency is something we hear about all the time. I was looking for a solid overview of how the technology works, potential applications and issues,” says Sood.

For him, observing Professor Andreas Park complete a single bitcoin transaction, step-by-step, was crucial to understanding this new area of finance.


“In our industry, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is something we hear about all the time. I was looking for a solid overview of how the technology works, potential applications and issues.”

-Varun Sood, MFin ’18


“It’s something you need to see to understand,” describes Sood. “It opened my eyes to how trading and bitcoin mining works. It’s not something you could necessarily pick up by reading a chapter or journal article.”

Importantly, the session also gave him the confidence to speak about fintech topics on the job, says Sood, who is a portfolio analyst at Investment Planning Counsel.

“Being able to answer basic questions from clients about current topics in finance and technology has made a huge difference.”

Connecting with senior leaders

Mentorships at RotmanMeanwhile, other MFin students, such as Flavia Carvalho (MFin ’19), are taking advantage of opportunities to connect with senior executives in the industry.

Carvalho, who has worked predominantly in capital markets and is currently a manager at RBC’s product control division, entered the MFin program knowing that she wanted to stay in finance, but unsure of where she wanted to take her career.

Within the first few weeks of starting the MFin, she applied to the School’s mentorship program and was ultimately matched with Stewart Burton, vice chairman at RBC.

Now, she meets with Burton every term for a one-on-one session. Twice a year, Burton co-hosts an industry meal, where Rotman mentees are invited to hear from other senior executives in financial services.

Carvalho has made the most of her time with Burton by reflecting on her professional interests before each meeting, and by asking him very specific questions about different areas of banking.

She knows that she has the right mentor to support her in helping her discover her place in the industry. “No one else in the industry can match Stewart’s level of expertise and knowledge of banking,” she says.

Beyond career planning, the two also discuss his thoughts on where the industry is headed. And through her mentor, Carvalho has connected and met with a few senior leaders in the bank. It’s been a worthwhile program, encouraging her to think further and reflect more profoundly on her career path.

“The experience forces you to get to know yourself better. It forces you to ask bigger questions: what do I need to learn? How can I grow? What might be next for me?”


Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »

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