Alex Lopez

Alex Lopez

M.S. in Commerce 2016 (Finance), University of Virginia

B.A. in Economics 2015, University of Virginia

After: Financial Analyst, Capital One (McLean, VA)

Now: Senior Product Owner in Finance, Capital One (McLean, VA)

Leveraging liberal arts with business

Although I went to undergrad at UVA, my fourth year in the M.S. in Commerce Program was very different. I loved being in a smaller program and really getting to know my classmates and professors, since that was something I did not really have in undergrad.

After completing my economics major, I felt that I had a general, theoretical idea of business, but not what I needed to know in order to land a job, or succeed in that job. The Finance Track really taught me the quantitative skills I use today, and the M.S. in Commerce Program as a whole gave me the necessary experience presenting and actively contributing in discussions, as well as collaborating and working with others. I was also a studio art minor in undergrad, which allows me to think out of the box and see things in a different light.

Most memorable class

Professor Grazioli's "IT & Finance" class was the most applicable for my current job. Knowing how to automate processes and create macros in VBA is something that is woven throughout almost everything I do. Professor Grazioli was also so helpful and approachable. Towards the end of the semester, as everyone is busy preparing for the Hedge Tournament, he practically lived in his office and was always more than willing to help out.

Job preparation

The M.S. in Commerce Program gave me the experience and consequentially the confidence I have today presenting and sharing my ideas with executives. I work with a small team of four other people every day, and the fall term of the M.S. in Commerce Program really prepared me well for the amount of collaboration I have to do as part of my job, and not just for a grade. "Organizational Behavior" (OB) was also an extremely valuable class, and something so necessary to be aware of in the workplace as you deal with different personalities in various circumstances. Professor Bateman is right in that even though you think it's common sense, you'll really realize the importance of OB once you're out of school.

Consultations with Commerce Career Services (CCS) at McIntire helped me figure out what job would be the best fit for me after completing the program. CCS also put on mock interviews, which were low-pressure and extremely helpful in that you received real-time feedback afterward. I actually participated in a mock interview with Capital One.

What makes the job great

I like that every day of my job is different and not predictable, so it's not long hours sitting at my "pod" (Capital One's version of a cubicle), doing the same thing over and over. I've loved having the opportunity to be on various committees, and I truly feel that my opinion as a first-year associate is highly valued.

Advice for those interested in finance

Be yourself in interviews; if you're too rehearsed, it will be noticeable. At the end of the day, you want to work with a company that knows and accepts the real you. Work will be more fun and enjoyable for you if the fit is there!

Take advantage of the diverse perspectives you'll be surrounded by and don't be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. Also, be open with your experience and your story.

Most memorable Global Immersion Experience (GIE) experience

I went to Latin America, and Natura was a really interesting company visit. The company is so ahead of the curve. The benefits and the way Natura treats its employees are incredible and something I think more businesses need to model themselves after.

The food tour in Lima was probably my favorite cultural activity, not only because I'm a foodie, but also because I loved that they taught us how to make our own ceviche and pisco sours at the end of the tour!

Biggest take-away

Your network is everything. As much as you're there to go to class and learn from your professors, don't forget the learning opportunity from just talking to your classmates. Long after school is over, you might not remember that certain formula or accounting practice, but you will remember the people you worked with every day on projects and what you learned from that experience, not only about others around you, but also about yourself.

Favorite Charlottesville activity

It's hard to say what my favorite thing in Charlottesville is, but if I have to choose I would say spending a Saturday afternoon at a nearby winery with friends.