Born into a West African family, with parents hailing from Guinea and the Ivory Coast, Saran spent most of her childhood in Gabon, a country famed for its rich biodiversity and expansive rainforests.
She moved to the US at the age of 18, where she studied chemical engineering and promptly began a career as a field engineer. But witnessing her company conduct various acquisitions meant Saran grew interested in the role of investment banking.
Her interest piqued, she decided to switch careers.
“It made sense to go back to school to get my MBA so I could have experience that would be useful while recruiting,” she says.
Enrolling in a top MBA program
When choosing an MBA that could help pivot her career, Saran was keen to enroll in a program with a strong track record for helping students achieve their career goals.
She was impressed by the MBA program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where 98% of the class of 2022 secured and accepted job offers within three months of graduating and 10% entered investment banking. Emory also boasts small class sizes and a highly diverse student base.
“I valued that small size and the opportunity to be able to interact closely with my teachers. Also, diversity is something I have always valued throughout my career,” she explains.
The location in Atlanta, an affordable and vibrant city with a diverse food scene, was an added bonus: “I’m a big foodie so I was never closed off to that opportunity,” she says.
Life at a top MBA program
After arriving on campus, Saran threw herself into the opportunity to develop her knowledge in areas that are fundamental to investment banking.
With experience limited to a career in engineering, modules covering finance, investment principles, and accounting provided her with essential knowledge. The overall curriculum also helped her develop a holistic business acumen.
With a low student-to-faculty ratio, the Goizueta MBA professors played a large part in her development, she says.
“The professors were very passionate and really open to just sitting down with students who are willing to learn. So that was really helpful.”
The Goizueta IMPACT module—a four-month leadership development program requiring students to work on a strategic consulting project—helped Saran develop her soft skills.
Tasked with solving a key business issue for a partner company, she expanded her ability to problem solve and think critically. Working in a team of diverse individuals from the Goizueta MBA cohort also taught her how to work alongside people who hold differing perspectives.
“These were soft skills we needed—things like problem solving but then also communication skills and interpersonal skills; it all was very useful,” she says. “All these different elements very much made me confident to go into investment banking and just be ready for the job.”
Preparing for a career in investment banking
With a clear idea of her next career step after the MBA, Saran set about doing what she could to increase her exposure to the investment banking industry during various extracurricular opportunities.
She took an active part in the Goizueta Finance Club, where she met other like-minded students. Participants in the club regularly offer support to one another, as well as the opportunity to share connections with professionals working within the sector.
“It was a great support system while recruiting because I didn’t have any finance background and the leadership of the group really mentored us to make sure we were ready to compete during interviews,” Saran explains.
She was also part of The Consortium—a group dedicated to offering fellowships and networking opportunities to help business school students from underrepresented communities. This provided another support network she could rely on during the program.
This extensive support base proved essential in preparing Saran for her next career step.
Landing an investment banking internship with Morgan Stanley
It was during Goizueta MBA networking sessions where Saran was drawn to the prospect of an internship at Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street’s most prestigious investment banks.
Interacting with alumni working at the company provided insights into the Morgan Stanley culture. She was impressed when they offered support and advice on how to have the best chance of success during recruitment.
Morgan Stanley also offered a unique opportunity to undertake a generalist internship before rotating between various specialist parts of the business. This would give her a chance to further develop her understanding of the industry before making any firm career choices.
“I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to specialize in, so it was a great opportunity for me to rotate,” she says. “You can choose where you’re going to be able to fit, so that was something that drew me to the program.”
During recruitment, Saran was able to utilize the skills and knowledge she’d developed throughout the program while also relying on the preparatory work she’d undertaken with her peers in the finance club.
"Investment banking has very structured recruiting—it's a lot of networking and a lot of technical preparation for interviews—the MBA was useful as it gave us access to those resources."
Ultimately, she says, it was the connections she made throughout her journey that helped her secure the role.
“You have to talk to as many people as possible to get their honest experience, because I think by just going into the industry blindly you will do yourself a disservice.”