Sitting in a criminal law lecture in the first week of my undergraduate law degree, I could never have anticipated that five years later I would be graduating from a masters in finance programme.
I completed my bachelor of laws at the University of Glasgow, but by the fourth year I had decided against a career in law. It was a great degree, giving me invaluable opportunities and helping me develop skills in problem solving and lateral thinking. I loved the university, too, but found I had developed a fascination with finance.
I was constantly reading financial news and could not learn enough about the industry. I was attracted to its pace and dynamic nature and eager to learn more about it and build a career in finance. Postgraduate study was the next step. I thought a masters in finance would give me the upper hand in a competitive job market, equipping me with the knowledge and skills to break into the industry and to succeed within it.
My older brother, Andrew, had completed the masters in investment and finance at the University of Strathclyde and had a fantastic job with the Royal Bank of Scotland. Andrew had taken a different route to me, having first studied mathematics. He assured me that, although the masters was very intense, it required no prior knowledge or experience provided you were willing to put in the work.
Andrew is sitting Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) level II and told me his masters gave him a fantastic grounding for the CFA curriculum. Along with the reputation of Strathclyde’s accounting and finance department and the business school as a whole, seeing his success and how much he enjoyed the course strongly influenced my decision to study the finance masters.
My first week proved both exciting and difficult and I must admit that I had an initial moment of panic. We were thrown into classes and, as many of my classmates had some background in finance, it seemed they were finding the classes much easier than I. Even though the course starts with basic concepts and theories, I was worried I would not be able to reach the level many of my classmates seemed to be at. I soon realised I had no reason to be nervous. I discovered that Strathclyde has a very open-door policy and my lecturers were always happy to offer help and advice.
Early in the course, I approached my finance professor to tell him that I was worried about the more numerical aspects of his class, not having studied mathematics for five years. He assured me that I would be fine and was there to help if needed. My professor still jokes about this, since what I was most concerned about ended up being my strongest areas in his class.
Throughout the year, the department made special efforts to ensure students enjoyed the social side of studying at the university, hosting social functions that gave us the chance to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting. These social events were integral to my enjoyment of the course and I know they were very important to students coming from different countries. They gave me the opportunity to make a much wider group of friends than I otherwise would have, and I learnt the benefits of studying with classmates with diverse knowledge and opinions.
The year was full of ups and downs. The course was demanding, covering so much over a short period, constantly requiring work on our various assignments and presentations. I loved studying the various subjects and responding to the challenges of the course. There was also the attraction of knowing that, after a full day in the library, there was always the possibility of some relaxation with fellow students.
It is difficult to pick my favourite part of the year, but I probably most enjoyed the summer research projects. I was able to further research areas of finance that interested me and use the knowledge and skills gained over the taught component – for example, putting the theory I had learnt into practice in a financial analysis and valuation of Stagecoach Group.
My masters has given me a great start to my career and I learnt so much, academically and about myself. I can confidently discuss concepts such as options, securitised debt, and credit default swaps. Moreover, I made firm friends from all over the world. One of the big attractions of the masters is the diverse backgrounds of its students, with no one nationality dominating.
Studying for my masters was a very intense year, but is one of the best choices I have ever made.
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● Upbringing Lynsey Ashford was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland
● Education She studied law at the University of Glasgow and moved on to study for a masters in finance at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, where she was awarded her masters with distinction
● Career She now works as an analyst for Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, based in Glasgow