Making a successful career switch, especially to investment banking, is notoriously difficult, but it does happen.
Nicola, 30, was born and raised near Cremona, Lombardi, Italy. He moved to Milan to attend Bocconi University, received his law degree in 2006 and started working as a lawyer there.
He then landed a role as a corporate and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) lawyer at UK law firm Simmons & Simmons. It was while working as a lawyer that he developed a passion for M&A and decided he wanted to become an investment banker.
Nicola spent his first year summer internship with Barclays in London and has been invited back to join the Investment Banking Division when he completes the MBA. We talk to Nicola about moving from law to investment banking and why he chose Chicago Booth to help him make the transition.
Are there many other lawyers on the MBA?
Way more than I expected. I believe that experience as a lawyer is extremely valuable in business school and in a number of careers. Of course, students with law backgrounds may need to put in a bit more work to master the quantitative aspects of the program than say economics majors, but nothing which cannot be overcome with dedication.
Are you interested in working in Europe?
Yes, my idea has always been to move back to Europe after the MBA. I will be joining Barclays full time in July 2013.
I think Europe offers the best opportunity for me because, despite all the economic turmoil, there I can leverage my cross-border M&A experience and my language skills. Moreover, London grants me the opportunity to be in one of the world’s top financial centres while being close to home.
Why didn't you get your MBA from a European School? Were you worried about being away from work for too long?
I chose the US because I had never lived here and because, as a career switcher, I felt a two year program would give me the time I needed to develop and acquire all the new skills necessary.
In addition, a two year program and the internship provides you with more flexibility to pursue different career and academic interests. This was a huge value advantage to the MBA experience.
What makes Chicago Booth a great place to study, apart from the typical things like ranking and reputation?
I love Chicago Booth
because of the tight community, the incredible level of the academic offering and the daily challenge of working with brilliant classmates.
The community is unbelievable. Second years dedicate an inordinate amount of time and effort to help first years even before they land on campus.
Faculty are always available and makes a conscious effort to engage students even outside the classroom, and all the staff (academic services, career services) are incredibly dedicated, providing one to one help and assistance whenever needed.
The quality of the faculty, which is evident even from outside, surprises a lot of students because it is not limited to the well-known, star professors. The junior professors are also outstanding because of the constant investment and rigorous standards applied by the school.
Finally, going through the program together with my remarkable classmates has motivated and inspired me beyond any expectation – their friendship and kindness helped me whenever I couldn’t get things done on my own.
You spent the summer with Barclays, what were the main things you did during your internship?
My internship was in Barclays Investment Banking Division and I performed all the normal tasks a summer associate does to learn the role.
I mainly worked on pitches to clients which included financial analysis and modelling, but the highlight of the summer has been working on the early stages of a live deal.
Can you highlight some of the MBA knowledge you used on the job?
The first year of my MBA was instrumental in me being able to perform my job over the summer. As I pointed out earlier, this is why the two year program is, in my opinion, way more valuable than the one year program.
The classes I took at Chicago Booth
not only provided me with the financial and accounting skills I needed, but also with much improved “softer” skills which allowed me to be effective while making presentations to senior audiences, negotiating, organizing my work, as well as managing up and down.
The competitions I participated in during the first year proved to be a terrific way to apply my newly acquired knowledge in a realistic setting and the practical training offered by the school and the student groups were an ideal bridge between the school desk and the work desk.
If you were not an MBA student right now, where do you think your career would be headed?
I would probably still be a lawyer in Milan.