Channeling the liberal arts into finance & consulting
Saad Ahsan’21 brings a holistic approach to the finance and energy sector, blending the foundations of his liberal art education with relentless energy. From leading Beloit Student Government and representing students on the Board of Trustees to working with public policy experts and economists as a research associate, Saad has proved his leadership and
Looking back to your high school years, what drew you to the United States? How did you prepare yourself to start a new journey in a country that is far away from your family and friends?
My motivation to start my American journey was back in high school. During my high school years, I attended a prestigious private boarding-recognized institution in Pakistan, which successfully instilled a leadership mindset and qualities in me. I got involved in various organizations that helped build up my confidence and develop my leadership skills. I took the lead in student-run NGOs and participated in public speaking and debate competitions. By participating in a public speaking contest held in Boston, I had a chance to be exposed to the United States and immediately got hooked. By that time, I knew I wanted to have my four-year college in the States. Along with my soft skills preparation, I also enrolled in the Engineering Field (taking advanced mathematics, physics, and chemistry), which provided a strong foundation for later thriving in my quantitative economics and mathematics courses at Beloit.
How did you manage to adapt yourself to college life as a freshman?
The diversity and encouragement that Beloit College offered were beyond helpful for me during my freshman year. I had a chance to get involved in many organizations, which kept me connected to the community and helped me unleash my potential. My most enduring experiences were my involvement in International Club and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, my contribution as the First-year Academic Senator, and my first job on campus in the alumni office. I left my freshman year with lifetime friendships and my very first exposure to a professional working environment.
Any advice for first-year students?
Never be afraid to seek out or ask for an opportunity or advice. If given a choice to regret not seeking an opportunity or regret being told no to a chance, always go for the latter because regretting not seeking an opportunity is always the worst.
Could you share with us some examples of being proactive to create your own opportunities?
I was serving as a Resident Assistant in my sophomore year. The position was demanding and challenging, yet I found myself growing out of my bubble and learning to incorporate with a diverse group of people. Being proactive and acting as a facilitator were some of the soft skills that I developed along the way. I was chosen as the Director of Communications and Marketing for the Beloit Student Government (BSG). The experience offered me a chance to learn and understand other students’ perspectives, which, in the end, helped to build up a more efficient communication framework bridging the gap between students and the club. Also, the summer after my sophomore year, I successfully secured my first internship at MCB Bank in Pakistan.
What were the achievements and milestones that you are most proud of during your time at Beloit College?
The International Club (I-Club) award for being the best club at the Homecoming Parade for the third time in my three years with I-Club was one of my fondest achievements. During my junior year, I got elected president of the International Club and the Co-President of BSG. My milestones with BSG were taking initiatives to provide safety guidelines while staying connected to perverse the college experience for Beloit students as much as we could during the pandemics time. Also, with the trust of the school and current students, I was the student representative on the Board of Trustees in the Budget and Planning Committee. This experience gave me a lot of insight into the financial workings of the college. Junior year was also when I got more involved with the Beloit community through the Duffy Partnerships program as a Consumer and Marketing Insight Intern at Kerry, which ultimately led me to my current career.
How about your academics? Could you name some of your fondest memories with professors and courses?
Every economics course that I took. The Principle of Economics course with Professor Bob Elder intrigued me to go in-depth with an economics major. Quantitative Methods with Professor Jermaine Moulton was my turning point to changing my major. I was fascinated by the power of data. I was able to work and experiment with data for getting insights or making better decisions. Besides the Economics department, I took some mathematics courses with Professor Ranjan Roy, which were worthwhile. His caring, enthusiasm, and trust in my abilities supported my confidence and induced me to declare my mathematics major only after taking three courses.
From your experience, how did Beloit College give you the tools to confidently navigate the “real world”? How did it help you shape your career pathway?
I first got exposure to the Consulting field with the Asian Economics and Business with Professor Diep Phan. The scope and materials in that course, from solving real case studies to building economic frameworks, were given a working setting to learn and get my mindset, knowledge, and skills honed along the course. With the support from Career Works, I got to see different parts of a world-class institution with the Sophomore Shadowing Program in my sophomore year and interned at Kerry in the Consumer and Marketing Insights Team with the Duffy Partnerships program in my junior year. I also practiced my critical thinking mindset and qualitative skill with Beloit Investment Club as head analyst and Belmark as Market Research Consultant. These experiences equipped me with both hard skills and soft skills to confront challenges I might encounter in the future.
With the effect of Covid, how did you manage to get the best of your college experience at Beloit College in your senior year as classes moved online and social distancing and restrictions were implemented?
I tried my best to navigate the unexpected and to use my time to its fullest potential. Given my financial knowledge and qualitative skills, I had the opportunity to research with President Scott Bierman, which studied the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, specifically on small businesses in the United States. With the connection from the Sophomore Shadow program, I successfully secured an internship with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) which helped bring a holistic approach to the financial industry and aided my industrial knowledge in my current job.
What’s in store after your graduation?
Through the Beloit connection, I’m currently working as a research associate for NERA Economic Consulting (Boston, MA). My main job focuses on working with public policy experts and economists to build statistical models and use data analysis techniques to answer economic questions that arise in the energy sector for some of the biggest energy companies in the world.