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Natasha Ghatak

Occupation:  Associate, Promontory Financial Group, an IBM Company
Education: Gaithersburg HS (Academy of Finance), University of Maryland, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

You work in the financial industry.  Can you explain what you do?
My company works with banks and other financial institutions to help them follow the rules set by the government to ensure a safe and sound financial system.  We’re kind of like bank doctors.  Any time a bank is in trouble, we come in to help them. For example, in money-laundering situations, we help banks figure out who the bad guys are so that they don’t accidentally open accounts that might be funding illegal activities. My current position is in business development. I look for new banks to help.

You went to the Academy of Finance in Gaithersburg HS.  Why did you choose that program?
I was looking for a way to differentiate myself from others on college applications.   Everyone was taking AP classes and involved in extracurricular activities, and I wanted to stand out from the pack. As a sophomore, I had an internship through the academy and was able to speak to my experiences during the college application process. Growing up, I was always drawn to the corporate world, whether visiting my father at his office or playing strategy games. I thought wearing a business suit, attending meetings, and helping companies strategize was glamorous!

Do you think your experiences in high school gave you a competitive advantage?
It absolutely gave me an edge. I took college-level classes in high school, and so when I started college I could immediately take more advanced courses. The paid internship I did with Comcast in accounting gave me exposure to a career field that I was interested in and was a launch pad to my subsequent roles in my career path. As a high school student, I was exposed to many executives and got a chance to ask questions, shadow people in leadership positions, and spend time with various companies. I could see what it’s like to run a big company first hand as a student, an opportunity you don’t normally get even as a full-time employee.

Is this when you knew you wanted to work in finance?
That actually happened in 11th grade when we took a field trip to New York City and visited companies in the financial district. I was inspired by a high-powered female who gave our class tips on how to make it on Wall Street. I could really identify with her and see myself in this world. 

What were the most valuable skills you learned in the Academy of Finance?
I learned what it means to be professional—how to dress, write a resume, how to interview, how to manage my time effectively, and how to get things done.  I remember attending a Chamber of Commerce networking event. My task was to tell the business people there about the academy and persuade them to hire students as interns. I was really nervous. But I learned the elevator pitch and was taken seriously as a professional. Because we were exposed to a lot of adults and real-world situations, I became very comfortable and competent at an early age.  

Do you think the program helped to launch your career?
A definitive yes!  I stayed with finance because of the academy. I met the CEO of my current company at an academy board meeting where I was a speaker. He told me to call him after I finished business school, and the rest is history. It’s rewarding to work for someone who believes in these high school programs and invests in my career. There is never a typical day, which makes it exciting to be in this profession. 

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