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In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” Bostonia brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations.

They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.

Erinn King (Questrom’03) is a principal at Payden & Rygel Investment Management, one of the country’s largest privately owned global investment advisors, managing more than $117.1 billion in assets. The firm is headquartered in Los Angeles, but also has offices in London, Milan, and Boston, where King works. King, who is a chartered financial analyst, has been at Payden & Rygel since 2010, when she was recruited as part of the leadership team that opened its first East Coast office.

Prior to joining the firm, she was a vice president at Wellington Management Company LLP in Boston, but she didn’t set out to pursue a career in finance. Before earning an MBA at Questrom, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in ballet performance and an MFA in dance. From 1998 to 2000 she was an apprentice ballet dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company, where she performed and toured in productions of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Romeo & Juliet.

  1. Bostonia: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in finance?

    King: My path to finance was rather untraditional. After retiring from a career in the performing arts, I completed a Master of Fine Arts and did some soul searching. I narrowed down my next steps to either a law degree or an MBA, ultimately deciding my math skills were superior to my writing. In starting my MBA at BU, I was convinced that marketing would be my avenue of choice, but was immediately drawn to the macro and micro economics courses, along with finance. After only a few weeks, I was hooked and decided to complete a concentration in finance and investments.

  2. How competitive is the field for new college graduates?

    Finance remains a very competitive field that continues to draw numerous applicants. It is a rewarding career and one that requires a high skill level and analytical ability.

  3. What are the qualities you look for in the people you hire? Are there deal breakers?

    Aside from the necessary academic credentials and quantitative aptitude, cultural fit and an ability to think critically are paramount. At our firm, investing is a team-based effort. Personality fit, lack of ego, passion for what we do, and a willingness to go above and beyond for our clients and team are all equally as important, if not more, as being able to do the calculations. Critical thinking and an ability to analyze data from different perspectives are also desirable. Finally, an aspiration to complete the chartered financial analyst designation—the gold standard for investment competence and ethics—is essential.

    Deal breakers are almost always tied to culture. There is no room for arrogance, non–team players, and those with an unwillingness to continuously learn and grow.

  4. What kinds of questions do you ask during an interview?

    I seek to understand an individual’s reasons for going into finance: are they truly passionate and fascinated by it? I also want to get a sense of how they problem-solve, if they are a critical thinker or not. That said, the interview begins from the moment you say hello and shake hands, in terms of assessing cultural fit. Things like small talk on the way to the interview room are sometimes even more important than the direct line of questioning.

  5. What are some common mistakes that young job candidates make?

    The biggest mistake is not being prepared. Most companies have a lot of publicly available information on what they do. There is no excuse for not doing your homework. I am also skeptical of candidates that don’t have questions. They can’t possibly know everything about the company and the job opportunity. Lastly, it is important to be yourself and find ways to connect with the interviewer.

  6. What advice would you give an employee for the first day on the job, and for the first six months?

    Be a sponge and learn, learn, learn! There is a lot to take in during the first six months. Be proactive in asking questions and seeking to understand your role and the business overall. Get to know your teammates. And always be prepared—you never know when you will be called upon for a view or a question.

  7. Are there mistakes you’ve made during your career, and if so, what lessons have you learned from them?

    No career is without mistakes and it is often from these downfalls that we experience the greatest growth. A few key things I have learned are: the importance of understanding the business in addition to the investment strategy and your role, that no detail is too small and if you are unsure—ask, and how delegating tasks, while giving up some control, often leads to outcomes that far exceed expectations.

    At the end of the day, there will be disappointments, some we could have changed and can learn from, and some unavoidable. Being able to discuss these constructively with your team, and when appropriate, being able to laugh at yourself and not take everything too seriously is incredibly important.

  8. Who has had the greatest influence on your career—teacher, colleague, boss, family member—and what did you learn from that person?

    I have had the great fortune to learn from a number of mentors in the field, beginning with Israel Shaked, a Questrom professor of finance, who gave me the skills and confidence to stand behind my analysis. Phoebe Zaslove (CFA’76), a former Wall Street managing director who shared a background in the performing arts, convinced me that it was an asset, not a barrier. The head of our Boston office, Justin Bullion, and our CEO, Joan Payden, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, leading by example.

Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for Bostonia’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at orourkej@bu.edu.