Having set her sights on a career in finance, Hanah Azar (MAM2020) discovered a passion for algorithms and analytics during an internship in Madrid. Today, the BlackRock analyst explains how our Masters in Analytics and Management helped her develop the technical skills to kick-start a career in finance.
I was born and raised in São Paulo, but my family have roots in Germany and Lebanon, so I’ve been exposed to lots of different cultures from a young age. Both my parents are Brazilian; my dad’s family are Lebanese and my mother comes from Germany. I remember visiting my grandparents on my dad’s side and having huge family dinners with big bowls of amazing hummus, falafel and Middle Eastern food. Then, on my mother’s side, I remember my grandma telling me stories about her experience being a teenager in post-World War II Germany. Their lives were completely different, and learning about their individual experiences was a valuable opportunity for me as a child; it taught me that everyone is unique and has their own perspective.
I was fascinated by the cultural differences in my family, and wanted to learn more about how national perspectives differed around the world. In 2014, this led me to study International Relations and Business Administration at IE University in Madrid. I’ve always been passionate about my Brazilian heritage, but as a country, Brazil has a lot of social inequality and infrastructure challenges. I wanted to learn more about the world and how other countries have addressed issues like these through business, with the hope of one day having a positive impact on Brazil as a place to live and work.
I knew at IE University that I wanted to move into the finance industry but was unsure where to focus. After completing several internships, I discovered a passion for analytics. I started with an internship in the retail industry, working for Jerónimo Martins – one of Portugal’s biggest supermarkets – in 2017. The following year, I went on to intern for J.P. Morgan in Geneva. I’d previously thought that banking was an interesting sector, but quickly discovered that the high-pressure company culture wasn’t for me.
In 2019, I landed an internship at Wealthinitiative, an alternative investment platform for non-bankable assets like watches, art and yachts, back in Madrid. It was then that I was introduced to the analytics tools the business used to process investments and instantly became fascinated by algorithms and data. I spent five months there – the longest of my three internships – and became more and more determined to pursue a technical career path involving, in some way, analytics.
I knew I needed a programme that would help me develop my technical skills in a hands-on environment; the Masters in Analytics and Management seemed the perfect fit. I wanted to move into a role in analytics, so needed to build my knowledge in that area – which the MAM clearly focused on. From studying and working in Europe, I knew of LBS’s excellent reputation, and that the School was renowned for having a practical, open-minded approach to learning. I’d experienced a similar thing at IE University and really enjoyed it – I much prefer engaging learning methods like group work and immersive activities over reading and self-study – so I knew that LBS would be the right environment for me.
I’d always wanted to live and work in London: it’s one of the world’s biggest finance hubs so there’s no better place to build your experience in the industry. I wanted to start my career here and knew that the best way to do it would be to join a business school with strong ties to global financial organisations and institutions, which LBS is known to have. It’s also one of the best cities for tech; it has an incredible startup scene, which is something the analytics job market goes hand in hand with, making the city a great place for analytics roles. From a cultural standpoint, London was always a city I wanted to experience. It’s incredibly diverse, and being surrounded by people from different countries and cultures has always been important to me. In many ways, it reminds me of São Paulo – more so than any other city in Europe I’ve lived in. London really has felt like a home away from home.
I’m no stranger to diverse perspectives, but LBS was definitely one of the most global environments I’ve ever been part of. My class included people from almost every corner of the world – from France and Morocco to China and the Netherlands. I was also able to meet students from regions like Asia, who I hadn’t studied or worked with before. I found that my Asian classmates had a much more structured and methodical way of approaching problem solving and learning – so just when you think you have a good understanding of different cultures, you discover something new to learn!
The sessions on sustainability with Professor of Finance, Alex Edmans were what encouraged me to pursue a career at BlackRock. We explored how sustainable and social impact initiatives can add value to organisations and drive profit; a few months later, I was interning as a Summer Analyst at BlackRock in London and was introduced to their sustainable investing arm. I already loved the organisation and the function of my role, but it showed me that BlackRock as a business has similar values to myself and is making strides in a sector I’m passionate about. This left a lasting impact on me, and encouraged me to continue looking for opportunities with them after graduation.
I kept in touch with friends I’d made during my internship at BlackRock, which eventually led to me securing a role as an analyst in March 2021. Today, I work on BlackRock’s solutions and investment platform, our internal software which is sold to clients and used throughout the organisation. I sit between developers and account management, in a product specialist type role. The intensely practical, application-driven nature of the MAM gave me the data science and technical skills I needed to overcome the steep learning curve that has come with the role. In fact, I’d say that the combination of real-world application and analytical knowledge that the MAM provided is truly unique, and has given me a solid foundation that I don’t believe I would have gained on any other programme.
A colleague at J.P. Morgan once said to me that life is like sailing; you sometimes have to tack back and forth in different directions before you reach your end destination. This definitely mirrors my career outlook. I’ve never been the most structured person and don’t tend to think about the long term, so for now, I’m focused on my role at BlackRock and building my experience as an analyst. I’m definitely keen to return to Brazil one day though, and I’d love to potentially help BlackRock expand and grow in Latin America, with the aim of bringing greater investment to businesses that can shape and improve life in my home country.