MSUM student earns job on Wall Street, chosen among Ivy League students

By Meghan Feir

It’s been said that sometimes, all it takes is one chance to get your foot in the door, and in Minnesota State University Moorhead student Dang Pham’s case, that phrase is more than appropriate.

Pham, a senior at MSUM, reached out to various banks across the country to show his interest in the field of investment banking. Two thousand emails later, 1,999 of which didn’t receive much interest, one bank did ask for an interview. It just happened to be from the hub of all things finance – Wall Street.

Originally from Viet Nam, Pham has been at MSUM for three years, and in that time, he has shared his interest for finance in various ways. As the business manager of The Advocate, MSUM’s campus newspaper, Pham has had hands-on experience working with area businesses. He has also been the bookkeeper for MSUM’s Art & Design Department.

It was during this timeframe that Pham discovered investment banking, which has since become his passion. Parts of an investment banker’s responsibilities include assisting corporations, issuing securities, raising capital and advising on mergers and acquisitions.

When Pham’s initial interest in investment banking sparked, he immediately went to MSUM School of Business adjunct professor Mark Anderson, the president of BlackRidge Financial. “He’s energetic, knowledgeable and always pushed us to do something that’s way out of our current learning curve,” Pham said. “He taught me a lot about finance.”

Anderson put Pham in contact with bankers, recruiters and program managers. “Only about 20 out of 200 investment banking firms in the states are known to sponsor work visas for international students,” Pham said, “and as prestige is highly valued in this industry, investment banks hire almost exclusively from certain ‘target’ schools, namely the Ivies and other top institutions.”

Pham eventually received a call from a recruiter at UBS, and weeks later, an email stating he had been selected for the first round of interviewing.

Physically shaking, Pham underwent his first phone interview – his first interview ever, in fact.

Toward the end of October, UBS flew Pham to New York for the second round of interviews. Following a walk down Wall Street, touching the wall of finance for luck and writing a note in the common book at Trinity Church that said, “Dang Pham from Viet Nam – I have an interview on Wall Street tomorrow. Wish me luck,” Pham spread notes across the floor of his room in the Waldorf Astoria, drilling his brain on answers to potential interview questions and reviewing recent transactions UBS had made with clients.

Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, MIT and NYU – just a handful of the home institutions of 14 finalists also vying for the position. Armed with determination and interest, Pham underwent close to two hours of interviews with various bankers and flew back to Moorhead to anxiously wait for the final decision.

Nearing the end of the following workday, the group director who first interviewed Pham called and officially extended an offer for him to join UBS next July.

After the phone conversation, celebrating was in order. “I went to say thank you to Dr. Anderson and professors in the School of Business, MSUM Career Development Center, friends, supervisors, bankers, recruiters – anyone who had helped me defy the odds. It was the best feeling ever – a happy ending to an 11-month rollercoaster.”

Along with his positions at The Advocate and the MSUM Art & Design Department, Pham is serving as a student affairs chair for the MSUM Student Senate and a peer tutor at the MSUM Academic Support Center.

In June 2014, after he is expected to graduate from MSUM with a B.S. in Finance, Pham will pack his bags and move to New York City, ready to start his full-time job as an investment banking analyst at UBS Investment Bank, which will begin in July.