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Five Questions on Institutional Investing as a Career with Jena Michels, ’10 Master’s in Finance, Associate, Hedge Fund Investments, The University of Texas Investment Management Company

By the Eller Finance Department, for MSF Connect: Alumni News

What type of professional experience have you had so far?

During my Master’s in Finance, I worked as a graduate assistant for Arizona’s Investment Office. After graduating, I joined a nonprofit hospital system in St. Louis, Missouri helping invest their balance sheet and pension fund. I was working across asset classes (private equity, long-only, hedge funds, etc.) conducting due diligence on managers. In 2013 I moved to Austin, Texas to join the University of Texas endowment to help manage their hedge fund portfolio.

Jena MichelsMost of my professional experience has been in less-structured environments. I have never been part of a formal training program so I have had to learn on the fly and take a lot of initiative.

What surprised you about institutional investing?

The breadth. Careers in finance or investing can often be narrow. With institutional investing, you have the ability to look at a wide variety of investments with an infinite time horizon. That provides a tremendous amount of flexibility and room for creativity that I don’t think is always possible in other finance jobs.

Why did you choose to work for the University of Texas Investment Management Company? 

There is something very special about working for an endowment, which I experienced firsthand at Arizona. I am passionate about education and feel very good about what I do. I get to work in an industry with the brightest and most successful investors, but I’m working to make education more accessible. It’s a win, win.

What was the hardest thing about transitioning into full-time employment after the Master’s in Finance program?

The lack of measurable feedback. In school you always knew where you stood because your performance was measured in the form of grades. The professional world is much more ambiguous and you have less direct feedback about your performance (unless you are a portfolio manager, in which case the market is constantly grading you). That was a struggle for me, and I’m still working on it today.

What has your professional experience taught you? 

You can never be done learning. Experience helps you become more confident with your decisions, but I am always learning something new. I’m always working towards mastery, but I know I’ll never get there. And that’s okay.

Top image by geralt, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Jena Michels courtesy Jena Michels.