Sara (Casscells) Fry

M.S. in Commerce 2010 (Financial), University of Virginia

B.A. in Math 2009, University of Virginia

After: Rolls-Royce North America, Finance Leadership Development Program

Now: Northrop Grumman Corporation, Financial Analyst (Linthicum, MD)

Leveraging math with business

While my mathematics degree provided logic and problem-solving skills, my business degree helped me understand how to apply those skills to add the most value. Overall, it allowed a much smoother transition into the working world. As most people know, when starting a new job, there is always a learning curve, but the truth is, there are several learning curves. Not only do you need to learn your day-to-day job, but you also need to learn about the company’s products and/or services, how the organization is structured, where to get help or how to submit an IT request, and, if you ever work in defense, an endless slew of acronyms. Large companies and government agencies are incredibly complex and nearly impossible to understand without a business framework like McIntire provides.

Most memorable class: Information Technology for Finance

I found Professor Stefano Grazioli’s class IT for Finance class fascinating. It combined project management, technical skills (e.g., computer programming and designing an interface), an understanding of capital markets, and developing a strategy to optimize returns. Looking back on it now, it also provided one of the most real-world team situations. Our team had four members, all with very different skill sets. One had only computer programming experience and very little financial understanding. Another was just the opposite. Learning how to work together and communicate effectively with team members of varied skill sets and styles to complete a project successfully and on time is an invaluable experience.

The value of Commerce Career Services

Commerce Career Services was extremely helpful in obtaining my first job out of school. The staff helped me prepare through resume reviews, mock interviews, and endless resources (e.g., industry guides and guest speakers). The staff also arranged company visits in the spring, where we went on site to the company, listened to a presentation, and asked questions. It was a perfect forum to learn about the company and make a positive face-to-face impression—I ended up with interviews at two companies and accepted a job offer from one of them.

What makes the job great

I started in Northrop Grumman’s Internal Audit department fairly recently and enjoy traveling around the company and learning about the different products and services Northrop provides. The technology in each program is fascinating, and being in Corporate provides a rare perspective for how it all fits into the larger organization.

A typical day at the office

Audit is generally divided into three sections: planning, fieldwork, and reporting. On any given day, I will wrap up analysis for an audit in the fieldwork stage, comparing multiple files for consistency and documenting my findings. I will then attend a planning session for another upcoming audit, where we discuss the scope and high-risk areas of the program we will be reviewing. Finally, I will meet with a process owner and our external auditors to walk through some key financial controls that we will be reviewing soon as part of our Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance.

Advice for future students

When you first enter the work force, it can be scary. People may assume you know or understand things that you may not. Never be afraid to ask questions and clarify. They don’t expect you to know everything right away—but they forget what it’s like to be new. The sooner you ask questions and get answers, the faster you’ll become a valuable member of the team. And always, always find yourself a mentor—preferably multiple mentors.

Importance of the Global Immersion Experience (GIE) 

I was able to use my Global Immersion Experience (GIE) when I lived in the United Kingdom for six months working for Rolls-Royce. GIE made me more aware and sensitive to cultural differences in business practices. With companies becoming increasingly global, cultural awareness is key—merely being cognizant of the time difference and local holidays can go a long way.

Biggest take-away

McIntire and the University of Virginia do an excellent job of teaching you how to think. School is not job training—it will never be able to cover everything you need to learn to do your job—but McIntire teaches you how to think, to challenge assumptions, and to work with a diverse team to solve problems. Those skills transfer to any job in any industry.

Life after graduate business school

Last year, I coached a 12-week 5K training program. I had beginners, marathoners, and all ages (19-65+). This year, my husband and I bought a 1950s rancher and are renovating it.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

Charlottesville has the best running trails, and the Grounds are always so beautiful. I can’t help but be happy just being there.