Iryna Ambroz is an MFin 2015/16 student and the MFin Class Teaching Rep. She grew up in Kozova, a small provincial town in the Western Ukraine. Iryna continued her undergraduate education in the US (United World College, Clark University) and the UK (London School of Economics) having read Economics and Mathematics. Before the Cambridge MFin Iryna worked in asset management consulting at Meketa Investment Group in Boston. She loves dancing and travelling, studying and learning about different cultures.
I’d spent quite a few years studying and working in the United States and I enjoyed it, but I started planning to move to Europe in order to be closer to my family. The timing was right. Work was going well, and I thought of furthering my studies and applying to a graduate programme in three or five years after my undergrad. Initially, I wanted to pursue an MBA, this is why I was trying to get more experience. However, quite unexpectedly the decision found me – then I decided that it would be better to get my graduate degree sooner rather than later. So I applied to Cambridge MFin about a month before the final deadline. Soon I was invited to various interviews and had a good range of options for my further studies. Somehow it boiled down to MBA in Europe versus Master of Finance at Cambridge. I decided in favour of the Cambridge MFin because of its focus on finance; an MBA seemed too broad for me.
Are you happy with your decision so far?
100%. I really enjoy the programme and especially my classmates.
What has been your major stress during the Cambridge MFin programme?
Nothing major I would say. ERP presentation day was more nerve wracking than usual, although it felt great afterwards. I am not that confident (yet) with public speaking, so presenting for four or two minutes in front of the audience added some stress. But most importantly I didn’t want to let my team down, I wanted to earn their trust. After all, I was the one presenting the results of the entire team’s very hard work!
What is the best advice you have been given in your life?
Everything is impossible until it is done, so just keep on going, even when no one believes in you.
Who shared that with you?
I read it somewhere. Also, my history teacher in Ukraine repeatedly told me that “If you don’t try how will you and the others be sure that you can or cannot do something?” She was right.
Being here, in Cambridge is another proof of it. I had my aspirations, but I could not really imagine that I am going to be at Cambridge when I was applying to business schools. Last spring it was a quick decision for me to change planning around my career radically within a month and a half. I have even abandoned CFA preparation for business school applications. The odds were not exactly in my favour, but I ended up with a great range of choices, and having options for me is the key. I feel that I have changed my life plans in just one month.
What keeps you going every day?
First of all, 25 alarm clocks help me wake up in the morning, because mornings don’t like me and the feeling is mutual.
I begin each day thinking “I need to go to School and perform at the level of everyone else”. The definition of the ‘level’ varies depending on the class and people I aspire or work with in my groups; and so far I think I had the best teams for all my projects. The biggest strength of our class is that everyone is experienced in different sub-industries of financial services and beyond. Each person encourages me to step out of my comfort zone and continue growing. That is what keeps me going. My work in America was great but I knew that I was reaching a plateau and needed more incentives to grow. MFin offers a healthy competition. The environment that MFin people create – in and outside the classrooms – helps me grow every day.
On finance industry
What part of finance inspires you?
It is a complicated. I grew up in the 1990s, when Ukraine became independent, and the times were very difficult in my country’s history. The economic situation was bad, we had skyrocketing unemployment. Throughout secondary school I kept hearing that “the economy is bad” and “financial system is not working”. Of the 27 people in my class, about 20 students’ parents were working in lower paid jobs to provide their families back home with remittances. The only way these kids knew their parents was through Western Union transfers – it was not right and neither it was sustainable.
In my ideal world, the minimum standard of living and the question of money as a necessity are taken off the table. Already during my secondary school I began to tackle big questions. It seemed that there was no money in our economy, because the financial system wasn’t working, so I started to think about fixing it. That is why I decided to study economics. I was just happy and grateful that none of my parents had to move abroad and that I was raised by both of them. I appreciated that my family stayed together and unlike many others in Ukraine it didn’t fall apart because of long-distance life caused by necessity to look for a job outside the country. And then I got into finance industry because I like the magnitude and the drive of it. Every single sub-industry in the financial sector has a tremendous ability to change things for many people.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am cautious to look that far ahead and prefer concentrating on the opportunities I have at hand. I believer, one can never guess where these opportunities can take us.
On Master of Finance programme
What memory of the MFin programme will you first turn to when you are sitting at your desk 5 years from now?
People never grow up and this is awesome! You know why? Before I started this programme I thought I am going to be the youngest student and I would have to behave very maturely. Then I came to Cambridge and immediately felt at ease – we can all have fun and it doesn’t matter if someone worked 10 or 5 or 2 years, everyone likes to have fun and joke around. It is like we all got stuck at 18. I love people who are not afraid of having fun; we don’t always have to be mature and serious.
What will you miss the most?
Not biking. And the opportunities of meeting new people almost every day. Also, the challenging environment of being at Cambridge. We will all have to face learning curves at our jobs, but when it gets comfortable we can forget about stepping out of our comport zones and meet new people.
On women in finance
What is your opinion of being ‘a woman in finance’?
I have a slightly different opinion about this concept. It seems that one can go too far the other way. ‘We are strong women in business’, ‘Society of women in finance’, ‘Women in investment banking’ – I think that this differentiation may create unnecessary inequality. For me, it belongs in the same category as ‘minorities’ – many only start feeling the connotations of this concept after being categorised this way, whereas before it is likely they never even thought of it. Of course, I am talking about my experiences in places I come from and lived in. In short, I don’t think this separation should be created. I am failing to understand why the world’s leading companies have this practice.
What do you think about the salary gap?
One’s remuneration should be decided based on their knowledge, skills, value added, tenure and other factors that can be subject to improvement and growth.
Do you feel the women in MFin City Speaker Series are representative of strong women in finance?
I do. I really respect people that are knowledgeable and successful in their fields, but are well grounded and fairly humble, at the same time.