Rose-Gaëlle (“R-G”) Belinga is a Technology Associate in the Global Expiry System group at Morgan Stanley. R-G recently spoke with Vault about how she landed an internship and full-time position with Morgan Stanley, the best aspects of working for the firm, and the advice she has for students looking to pursue a career with a top financial services firm. Below is an excerpt of that conversation.
VAULT: Where did you grow up and go to school? And how did you find your way to Morgan Stanley?
R-G: I was born and raised in Yaoundé, Cameroon. My father, who had studied abroad in New York City, encouraged me to also study abroad and gain exposure to other cultures. That’s how I ended up in Atlanta and Auburn. I received a Bachelor of Arts from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and a Bachelor in Software Engineering from Auburn University. I also got my Master’s in Software Engineering from Auburn. While at Auburn, I did two internships at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. These internships were really exciting, and I truly enjoyed working with scientists and applying what I had learned in school.
While in school, it was difficult to find female role models, but the Association for Computing Machinery and the Society of Women Engineers (two associations I joined) were really helpful. They both had great communities. It was through the Society of Women Engineers Conference that I found an internship at Morgan Stanley.
At first I thought, ‘Why would I want to work for a bank if I was interested in technology?’ But I was really impressed by what the representative from Morgan Stanley told me about the strong technology talent at the firm and the internship. In fact, what struck me the most was the fact that he knew exactly what he was looking for in an intern: that the internship was merit-based, that I would be doing real work, and that he was quite enthusiastic about his job—that made a huge difference to me! Also, I am someone who gets bored easily; therefore, I was excited to learn that there are opportunities to move around and see different parts of the company. I ultimately started with Morgan Stanley as a Summer Analyst in Prime Brokerage Technology.
VAULT: Can you talk a little about your initial experiences at Morgan Stanley?
R-G: The internship was basically a 10-week interview where you’re interviewing the company and they are interviewing you. I frequently met with different technology teams to understand the business unit better while gathering requirements for my summer project, which was a proof of concept for a new mobile application. Until then, I had never developed a mobile app! Moreover, there were several social activities organized throughout the summer to encourage Summer Analysts to get to know each other—several of whom I am still close to—and get exposure to senior management.
The end of the program was the most memorable part for me, because I not only got to present my application to my group and to our business sponsors, but also because I was amazed by how much I had accomplished in such a short timeframe. This fantastic internship experience motivated me return to Morgan Stanley the following summer as a full-time employee.
During the full-time training period you go through a well-defined series of accelerated courses which bring you up to speed with respect to how technology is used in the industry—whether inside or outside the firm. We also got the opportunity to work on small projects to showcase our ever-growing tech skills. In fact, I implemented web application games for this, which was quite fun. There are also a lot of activities and opportunities to bond with other trainees.
At the end of your training program, you are given a list of teams that have Analyst openings, and you are matched with a team based on your preference—which area you are most excited about. It is almost like matchmaking. You give your top picks, and you are matched up with a team based on need and your skill set. You also get help from your mentor before giving your top choices, so you are not making your choices blindly. Through the training program, you are assigned a peer mentor as well as a more senior mentor.
After the training program, I joined Morgan Stanley as a developer on the Listed Derivatives Clearing Technology team. After three years, I was offered the opportunity to switch to the Global Expiry System team and seized it. I wear multiple hats, but I pretty much implement and manage the complete software life cycle for each task I am given.
VAULT: What have you found to be some of the things at Morgan Stanley that set it apart from its competitors, both in technology and in banking?
R-G: People often stress the differences between working in technology for a startup, a big tech firm, and a big bank, but I think this is a misleading conversation. The tech companies and investment banks often work together. In fact, when you look at the core of our day-to-day duties, our main goal is to implement innovative technology solutions for our users, regardless of the domain.
Since I have friends at tech companies and other banks—I regularly attend meet-ups, hackathons, and conferences—I am well aware of what many other companies are like. And one of the main features unique to Morgan Stanley, and what primarily drew me to the firm, is the company culture. It really fosters your career growth. As a matter of fact, my initial plan was to work here for two years , and now I have been here for five and counting! The culture is very collaborative and collegiate. We help each other out. It is a fun place to work, with great people. Everyone really cares about you. It is like an international family. In fact, I met many of my best friends at work and love visiting several of them in Budapest and Montreal.
The commitment to career growth and support is great, too. I was given great mentors, and I have had the chance to be a mentor myself, for Summer Analysts and new full-time hires. I love doing this as a way of giving back, since my mentors helped me so much.
Also, as part of my job, I often have to make presentations to my team. And to help you learn how to do that better, there’s a Toastmasters group within the company. Toastmasters is a public speaking group, and it has really helped me out, both with my career and outside the firm.
Finally, along with technology, I’m passionate about art. So I really appreciate that Morgan Stanley sponsors a lot of museums, and sometimes brings in famous writers and Broadway actors to speak. We can also attend receptions at museums and movie releases. It is great to have the opportunity to participate in such activities through work.
VAULT: Are you involved with initiatives within Morgan Stanley outside of your day-to-day job?
R-G: I am involved in a lot of our diversity networks, such as the Women in Tech, as well as the Latino, Asian, and LGBTQA employee networking groups. These and other diversity groups all help a lot when it comes to personal growth, as well as recruiting and retention. Through them we get to learn so much about each other, and learn how to avoid unconscious bias by understanding the people we work with.
VAULT: What advice do you have for students about how they should go about getting a job, especially through on-campus recruiting?
R-G: As far as interviewing, first, you should come prepared. Do your homework on the company. Second, you should be yourself. Don't worry about trying to impress your interviewer with things that aren't true. And third, have fun and ask a lot of questions. Interviewing is a two-way street. Never forget that you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Ask yourself, is this a place I can see myself working?
VAULT: This is going to sound like an interview question, but where do you see yourself in five years?
R-G: It is hard to know where I will be in the future; nevertheless, when I look at my long-term goals, they are all under the umbrella of helping the global community and working on technology that is making a difference.
This post was sponsored by Morgan Stanley.