Student Finds Passion for FinTech Through Internship

In this “Internship Experience” blog post series, we will be featuring the profile and thoughts of our students from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management as they reflect on their internship experience over the last year.

Name: Lena Karakash 
Graduation Year: 2022
Majors: Finance (WHIT) / Information Management & Technology (iSchool)
Hometown: Oakland, NJ
Internship Company/Title: BlackRock Aladdin Client Services Intern

Describe your position and some of your daily tasks? 

My position at BlackRock was titled Aladdin client services intern, and I worked in the technology division of the company. Within Aladdin client services, the team can tackle the hardest, most sophisticated problems in FinTech by utilizing an in-depth understanding of Aladdin, the clients’ business and the investment management process to provide world-class customer service to their rapidly growing, global client base. More specifically, I worked with the end-to-end investment platform of Aladdin in the areas of investment tools, operations, trading, compliance and data. On a day-to-day basis, it was a lot of learning about the platform regarding its use in investment processes, organizing data and troubleshooting client issues. The internship entailed a lot of learning, presenting on findings, shadowing business professionals, networking within the company and doing side projects that demonstrated knowledge of certain product areas, tools and clients.

How did you land your internship?

I landed my internship when I applied straight to the company’s website, given that BlackRock was a company I always looked up to and kept a close eye on to see when they were recruiting. I first was introduced to BlackRock from the Whitman on Wall Street, a wonderful and educational experiential learning trip that the Whitman School hosts in NYC. I was chosen as one of 20 students that got the opportunity to network with finance firms in person at their NYC offices (pre-Covid), and BlackRock stood out to me given their success in the asset management field. I also liked that they offered FinTech positions for students like me who are interested in pursuing both finance and technology for work. I was able to build some connections from this trip as well as reach out to some graduates of Syracuse University who currently work at BlackRock, and both of those outlets prepared me for interviews with BlackRock. The career center was also very helpful in preparing me for interview questions and decorum, along with some trusted professors from whom I asked for advice. 

What did you learn from your internship experience?

From my internship experience, I learned how to adapt to new corporate environments that presented challenges of not only understanding the business and my own position in the larger context of BlackRock’s mission and vision but also navigating all this while networking with employees, building connections with my fellow interns and learning brand new technology that I had never been exposed to before. Most importantly, I learned how crucial it is to have a supportive team of colleagues and mentors when a challenge like this arises. Throughout my whole internship, I felt supported by not only my fellow interns, but my manager and everyone I spoke to, and this made for a very collaborative and friendly, yet mentally stimulating environment.

Has your experience changed your plans or career choice when you leave college?

This experience has changed my plans for a career choice post-graduation, given that before this internship I was very set on pursuing financial or technology consulting. After experiencing my internship at BlackRock, I realize that if I am being challenged to constantly learn new concepts and tools related to FinTech, and I feel as though I am growing both personally and professionally, I should keep pursuing the meaningful work I am given. I enjoyed my experience at BlackRock so much – from the people to the culture to the fast-paced and collaborative environment – that I see myself working there after graduation without a doubt.

How will your internship experience help you after graduation?

This internship experience will help me after graduation in the sense that I have a better idea of what my future will look like and what it’s like to work at an asset management firm. Again, until I finished this internship, I did not realize how much work culture meant to me and how much I needed to be challenged to feel like my professional work is meaningful as well as interesting. 

How has the Whitman School prepared you for your internship?

I feel as though Whitman gives you all the tools needed to prepare you for an internship and professional work – the Whitman Career Center, relevant class and course work, supportive staff and professors, as well as networking opportunities and programs that will allow you to succeed like those offered through the Goodman IMPRESS program. It’s pretty much up to the individual whether they choose to embrace these resources or not, and in my own experience, if you choose to use the help, support, learning opportunities and networking resources provided to you by Whitman, you end up very well prepared for an internship.

What did you enjoy most about your experience?

What I enjoyed most about my experience was the combination of juggling challenging work, but also being supported throughout the whole process by fellow interns and mentors. I think that when you’re put into a new environment where the tasks you receive demand much of you, it’s so important to have people who care by your side to help you along the way and make the day-to-day upbeat, collaborative, creative and exciting. In my own experience, the people at BlackRock are second to none in terms of embodying a great work culture.

Do you have any advice for students who are looking for an internship?

My advice to students who are looking for an internship is to keep applying on multiple job platforms, don’t take rejections to heart, prepare accordingly for interviews, network, ask for help from professors and resources like the Career Center and always be yourself. If you truly have a desire to work at a specific firm or in a specific position, find out everything you need to do to get to where you want to be and don’t stop until you get it. Everyone is willing to help you, and you determine the outcome of your future given how consistently and diligently you choose to work towards that goal.

Mallory Carlson
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