Target students who don't make it

How truly difficult is it for a non-diversity target student who puts in the work (good GPA and internships, networks hard, studies technicals wells) to land a BB/top MM job?
Conversely, what do students like this who don't make it do? And why do you think they don't make it (besides glaring errors)?

Comments (140)

Jul 27, 2020 - 3:27pm

Not hard if you check all of those boxes. The profile you describe would have multiple offers + potentially looks from PE.

The target school kids who don't make it have reasons - maybe they start too late and miss out on networking, have a bad GPA, or seriously struggle in the interviews.

Obviously there's some luck involved in getting offers and even strong students may strike out at BB/EB, but generally if you put the work in at a target the jobs are there


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  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Jul 30, 2020 - 10:58am

Anyone still looking for a job in March of their senior year is not going to IB/MBB which is what this was talking about...

Jul 28, 2020 - 3:39pm

Crab Chiggins:

The guys who can't make it big quit and start an online forum and sell courses to wannabe, manipulatable finance hardos.

Yeah. I'm talking about you, Patty Cake.

lol what kind of tool posts at 2am? Let me guess, you're in Bangalore haha

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!
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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 27, 2020 - 4:42pm

Lmao I can never tell if these posts are serious.

"What do you do if you don't make it into IB?" Dude 99.99% of recent grads don't go into banking. If you go to a target school, want to break in, but can't, I don't think it is for you, considering most IB classes are filled with a mix of target and non-target kids. If the non-targets (who literally don't have any looks during recruiting) can break in, you should be able to.

But in all honesty, just go get a career like everyone else. If you are dead set on IB, get a position in M&A in a horizontal function (Big 4, M&A consulting, M&A tax, etc), and try to lateral in.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 27, 2020 - 8:57pm

Second the Big Four, interned at one before going into banking and got exposed to better culture/decent pay.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 27, 2020 - 10:36pm

I actually know someone who was in this scenario. This person had a high GPA at a target school and scored interviews at many EBs and BBs, converting them into superdays as well. I think there was something off about this person based on my interactions with them - kind of antisocial and toxic in some ways and didn't land an offer while all of their friends did. I'm confident they nailed technicals since they were really prepared for interviews. Comes to show that interviewers do somewhat recognize off the bat who they want to work with and who might not be a good fit.

Edit: just saw you mentioned about being personable!

Jul 28, 2020 - 11:38pm

I knew a guy like this! Target school, great GPA, incredibly book smart and good at technicals.. BUT he was a major asshole and not personable at all.

He bragged about correcting an interviewer on a technical, without realizing that his snobiness and attitude is the reason he didn't get as many offers as he might've been otherwise qualified for lmaooo

  • Prospect in Other
Jul 27, 2020 - 11:22pm

Not exactly all of those lol. Just wondering bc when you look at college admissions, etc, you can "check all the boxes" but still get rejected

Jul 27, 2020 - 10:37pm

Probably have asperger syndrome and are completely unaware of what the people around them are doing. To be honest if you're at a target it should be fairly seamless.... network, get an internship (at any MM / BB / Family office in whatever city you're from, or most nearby), leverage that to get a sophomore SA position, convert.

But seriously, if you can't do that you either A) just don't get it B) have some sort of personality disorder preventing you from reading the room and figuring it out C) just don't want it.

Jul 28, 2020 - 5:32pm

even if you did have aspergers or are on the autistic spectrum, there's literally disability diversity programs at most major banks nowadays so it should actually be easier to break in if anything lol

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  • Prospect in HF - Macro
Jul 27, 2020 - 11:45pm

I disagree with many of the comments here. I go to a HYPSMW, and there's definitely capable kids that don't break in. Sure, they might land an ok MM in a random city, but if by "break in" you mean EB/BB, there are smart non-diversity, target kids that don't get the offer. If they don't get a BB/EB offer, I've found that they don't "settle" and will instead gun for something in tech or MBB.

Most Helpful
  • Prospect in PE - Other
Jul 28, 2020 - 7:21am


I go to H. People on this site clearly don't know how it works... if you're not very, very well connected / not a diversity candidate, it doesn't matter which school you go, you're not breaking into MF PE or EBs/BBs easily. I'm honestly not sure the process is even different at all, besides for the firms coming on campus vs interviewing over the phone.

I was positive I wanted to do PE, so I networked extensively for PE, but basically struck out everywhere. I networked a bit for IB and hardly got interviews because of how competitive it is these days. 3.8+ ec concentration with direct finance experience by the way.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 28, 2020 - 11:13am

I get this but if you were at anywhere but H you'd probably be shit outta luck anyways. I go to a semi and even out of the people who enter freshman year fall looking to do IB only a small subset BB/EB

  • Prospect in IB - Ind
Jul 29, 2020 - 1:05am

This is def not true, I have friends at two targets who have told me they got four on campus interviews with zero networking. the process is incredibly streamlined if you go to a target school

Jul 31, 2020 - 4:29am

Extremely bothered by the harsh reality of the sector when I read shit like this. It's almost like the entire industry is built on nepotism. I'm definitely not one to give in, but at the same time, the "I'm the best and I'll get in with ease" mindset is something that is way in my past after I started reading the stuff people say on here.

I'll be taking my shots with an MA and solid post-graduation options, whether this will be enough to make up for 0 conenctions, non-target, non-strong (3.3+) GPA, I guess we will see.

  • Prospect in Other
Jul 29, 2020 - 4:33am

OP here. What you're saying definitely makes sense. However, how would you categorize "capable"? As in they check all the boxes (Started early, networked, strong GPA, etc), or maybe they applied late?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 28, 2020 - 8:46am

Everyone I know at my target who wanted it, like really wanted to go into banking and put effort into recruiting, managed to land a banking gig by the time they graduated. Target recruiting is definitely easier than non-target with all the networking opportunities just handed to you, but what's not handed to you is an interview, and even though you're at a target there's still too many target kids for banks to waste time on interviewing, so you still need to put in effort to network and prep. Almost all the kids that really wanted banking and struck out for SA managed to transfer into IB FT after doing a summer in PE / boutique IB / HF / etc. The kids who didn't make it by the time they graduated... well it turns out most didn't strongly want to do IB anyway. The very few kids who slip through the cracks end up on their feet, because while you didn't land a banking job, let's face it you're at a target so you're going to be fine anyway.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jul 28, 2020 - 8:58am

Went to HYP. Agreed. A lot of it is a function of knowing how to prepare and even being aware of interview timelines / the industry itself. Some kids who would have done really well struck out because they applied later in the cycle after learning about the industry and didn't have a lot of time to network or prepare for interviews. My old roommate in college (3.6 gpa and college athlete at HYP) likely would have gotten an offer but applied really late and only had one interview at a BB which he did not get (also every interview is a crapshoot). Of the kids who know about banking, apply on time, network before applying, and spend a little bit of time on technicals, I would say 90%+ got an offer at a BB / EB in NYC / SF / Chi. But the pool of kids who are well-prepared, aware of the industry, and apply to every firm early on is fairly small, compared to a place like Wharton / Stern, or even UVA / Ross, simply because places like MBB and tech are a lot more "prestigious" in some ways and honestly more sought after. I personally was dead set on consulting, applied late to banking, and managed to get one offer at a mid-tier BB (I think I might literally have been the last to receive an offer). Ended up liking it and doing well but it speaks to the culture at certain schools

Jul 28, 2020 - 6:01pm

so are you saying the kids at wharton/stern or uva/ross are on average more prepared or more interested in IB than hyp? and if so, why do you say that? I always thought IB was a huge thing at HYP.

  • Associate 3 in Other
Jul 28, 2020 - 4:42pm

For me, it was being unaware of what IB/different career paths in finance were until it was too late. I had a 3.5-3.6 throughout UG, went to a top school (Columbia/Duke/UChicago tier), and didn't get any interviews in IB or anything close to it.

I had two internships in semi-relevant areas (PWM and consulting), but really had no clue about IB recruiting and did no real networking or studying technicals because I didn't even know those would be required/what they entailed.

By the time I got to senior year, I had figured it out a little more but my junior summer internship gave me until mid-fall to respond to my offer, and I just took it for fear of striking out. If I hustled my ass off senior fall, I think I could've ended up at a Jefferies/Citi/UBS tier bank, but also probably would've taken a lot of luck at that point.

That being said, almost everyone in my class with 3.5+ GPA who really understood IB recruiting got offers, and a majority of those got GS/MS/JPM or an EB on the tier of EVR/CVP/PJT/Moelis. Of the people I knew with 3.8+ who knew what they were doing and put in the work, I can't think of an example who ended up anywhere but GS/MS/EVR, or in the case of 3 classmates who come to mind, BX/Bain Capital.

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Jul 29, 2020 - 11:42pm

Associate 3 in Other:

For me, it was being unaware of what IB/different career paths in finance were until it was too late. I had a 3.5-3.6 throughout UG, went to a top school (Columbia/Duke/UChicago tier), and didn't get any interviews in IB or anything close to it.

I had two internships in semi-relevant areas (PWM and consulting), but really had no clue about IB recruiting and did no real networking or studying technicals because I didn't even know those would be required/what they entailed.

By the time I got to senior year, I had figured it out a little more but my junior summer internship gave me until mid-fall to respond to my offer, and I just took it for fear of striking out. If I hustled my ass off senior fall, I think I could've ended up at a Jefferies/Citi/UBS tier bank, but also probably would've taken a lot of luck at that point.

That being said, almost everyone in my class with 3.5+ GPA who really understood IB recruiting got offers, and a majority of those got GS/MS/JPM or an EB on the tier of EVR/CVP/PJT/Moelis. Of the people I knew with 3.8+ who knew what they were doing and put in the work, I can't think of an example who ended up anywhere but GS/MS/EVR, or in the case of 3 classmates who come to mind, BX/Bain Capital.

This. I went to more of a semi-target but I was over halfway through college before I had even heard of investment banking or consulting. Saw a NYT at a buddy's place that was like "Jim Simons makes $1B" and was like WTF am I doing with my life??

  • Business School in PE - LBOs
Jul 29, 2020 - 4:21am

You see plenty of target students recruiting for banking roles and not getting them. They end up scattered across consulting, other finance roles, asset management, big 4 etc. The ones who have their heart set on it go do an MBA after a few years and then come in as associates.

Perhaps a bit of a controversial statement, but a good 50-75% of banking associates were people who frankly weren't able to break into those roles out of undergrad, with the balance being direct promotes / people who genuinely enjoy banking and want to continue in it after the analyst stint.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Restr
Jul 29, 2020 - 10:37am

There's definitely information asymmetry with this issue of non-target/target recruiting.

Non-target students who hustle incredibly hard and land offers question how any target school student could blow it. Non-target students who hustle hard and don't manage to get an offer blame their lack of success on the fact that they don't go to a good enough school. The reality is, luck plays a huge role in landing an offer, whether you're a target student or not. Full disclosure, I went to a target school.

Being at a target is of course overall better than not being at one, but you have to realize that you're also competing with more highly qualified peers (often for a capped # of spots at each bank), some alum only hire from their fraternity/investment club (which auto dings a large portion of candidates), and that a large # of offices at BB's actually seem to prefer non-target schools b/c of the alum network (esp. regional offices).

Overall, I suspect that being one of the top students (high GPA, awards, leadership roles in all the prominent finance clubs, etc.) at a semi/low-target school might actually be better for breaking into IB than being a mid-level candidate at a uber competitive place like Wharton.

  • Prospect in IB - Ind
Jul 29, 2020 - 11:35am

Absolutely not, regional offices will take someone with an elite degree over someone who goes to a regional target e.g. UT. Many examples of this on LinkedIn.

Complete non target school kids have their candidacy hurt by the lack of pedigree of their school - e.g. MD asking me to explain why I went to the non target school I did while he mostly interviews kids from regional targets.

Cold emailing does not guarantee your email with your resume even if it's great will be seen even with multiple follow ups. OCR guarantees it will be seen. I've missed out on entire processes where bankers told me I was qualified and were willing to vouch for me bc of the fact that they opened my cold email (after multiple follow ups) too late.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Restr
Jul 29, 2020 - 12:42pm

UT places pretty well across all major cities based off of a quick Linkedin search, not sure what you're getting at here. The point I was trying to make was simply pointing out that if you were targeting a regional office, for example Chicago, you'd have a hard time breaking in even from H/Y/P if 90% of that office came from IU Kelley.

I'd agree with you that complete non-targets are facing a huge up-hill battle, which is why I said semi/low-targets. Schools that have a solid academic reputation, but maybe aren't traditionally focused on finance.

Last point: OCR is way over-hyped on this site. At my target school, the only form of "OCR" we had was ~10 firms come onto campus for info sessions. They didn't conduct interviews or select candidates from these sessions, and went to probably dozens of other schools. The only help it really gave was a chance to network in person.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 29, 2020 - 11:47am

Go to an ivy (non HYP). Like some other people have mentioned, lots of non-targets think that being at an ivy guarantees you a spot at GS, but that is really not true at all.

I'd say of people who are serious about recruiting and are qualified- which I'm defining as a good GPA, networking, relevant internships, etc- about 95% get an IB job at a BB/EB/top MM. That being said, I know plenty of kids with a 4.0 GPA and great resumes that ended up at places like UBS, Greenhill, or William Blair- not shitting on those banks in any way, but just trying to show that ivy with a good background doesn't land you straight at GS or PJT. There are also that 5% that I would say doesn't land anything- on paper these kids look great, but whether it's that their a little awkward or just get unlucky, there are definitely kids who can't land in IB or end up at some no name boutique. Usually these kids go into consulting or big 4.

I think coming from an ivy, a lot of people assume you don't need to network, or you can get away with a 3.4 GPA, or without any internships. I'm sure there are kids in all those camps from my school who did land in IB, but it certainly makes it harder. Being at a target gives you an advantage, but you still need to work hard to land in IB, you can't just coast in on school name alone.

Jul 29, 2020 - 12:40pm

I think this is a fairly unhelpful post and far from accurate. It's easy enough to say "if you have a high GPA at a target school, have strong internships and do strong networking then you have a 95% chance of getting an offer." How many candidates really fit that description? That's the equivalent of saying if you have the perfect profile for IB, then you'll get a job in IB. Well obviously that's going to be true. If you actually look at the number of students from targets / semi targets who pursue investment banking, my guess is that the number who land in brand name banks (BB, EB, MM, whatever) would be around 50% at the highest, and at "lower targets" significantly lower than that. Speaking from my personal experience, of the approx. 50 students who went into IB recruiting, at what would be considered a target or semi target, I don't think more than about 12-15 would have landed offers at these types of firms.

I also want to emphasize, and this is particularly important and can't be said enough, that there is a huge amount of luck in all of this. An earlier poster mentioned this as well. Sure, the top candidate might choose GS over UBS if he has the option of both, but everyone recruits for pretty much every bank. The strength of the specific school at each bank makes a huge difference in terms of placement. I can tell you for a fact, that from my school it would have been drastically more difficult for me (or anyone) to get an offer at Deutsche Bank vs. at Goldman. Our alumni network / presence at DB was and is very weak, and despite networking with the limited bankers there that I could, I didn't even get added to their process. I can list 10 more "low ranked" banks, where I networked a fair amount and despite having a good GPA from a good school didn't even get into the process or got into it and was rejected Pre-Superday.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 29, 2020 - 12:59pm

I would say at my school, I personally know ~25 kids who seriously recruited for IB and did things right (knew to network, got finance internships early, kept their grades up) and there was only one I know who didn't land at a BB/EB/top MM. This obviously is probably a biased sample because I met most of these people from investment clubs so they're likely more prepared than the average student.

But my point is exactly that- if you go to a target and do everything right, going into IB isn't exactly difficult, you basically just need to check all the right boxes (networking, GPA, internships). I'm not saying doing all of these things isn't time consuming and challenging, but in the end anyone who is lucky enough to be at a target and learn about IB recruiting early in their college experience can absolutely do them, and in doing so position themselves really well to get an IB gig. This is very different compared to a non-target who can do everything right and is still a long shot to land in IB.

Jul 29, 2020 - 1:44pm

Went to H/W and I'll add that the competition is fierce, it's just at a different "place". Rather than trying to get noticed or be the few kids given a chance from the school, there's hugely more applicants per slot than you would find at a non-target, even accounting for the greater number of slots overall. High-stats kids can essentially not network and rack up interviews, but the "middle class" still needs to network hard. I managed recruitment for an EB and can tell you our resume-to-first-round conversion at a top school would be 10% or lower. Some of those were great stats kids, some of those we had talked to on the phone. Now, that's an EB, so it is true that target kids are less likely to end up out of IB entirely, but the idea that good grades at a top target mean you waltz into PJT or Evercore or GS/MS is just not true.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Restr
Jul 29, 2020 - 4:01pm

At my target every non-diversity candidate who ended up at a BB/EB/top MM had at least a 3.7. There are just limited seats at every bank and since they can't hire unlimited kids from each school, they'll go with the ones who have the best grades (all else being equal).

Jul 29, 2020 - 11:12pm

For all the non-targets out there that think recruiting for IB from a target school is significantly easier, I can promise you the process isn't much different.

The biggest difference from my non-target process vs someone from HYP was that getting people on the phone is a lot more challenging because the email to phone call conversion rates are lower.

But the moment you get a banker over the phone for an informational interview, it is solely up to you to build a relationship and referral. For non-targets complaining about being ask "why did you go to a non-target" or "why should I take you over other target students and everyone else", as a non-target you should be well-prepared to crush these questions better than anyone else. How could you not prepare for these type of questions when you know your undergrad school will always be perceived as a weakness until addressed?

Lastly as a non-target, I used to think I was the only one who networked relentlessly until I starting working and saw extensive Excel networking lists from people from Yale, Penn and other target schools. Not every target student is well-connected and related to an IB client.

TLDR: Almost everyone I know at top EBs and BB groups network hard, are well-prepared and have good stats and even better story and that's irregardless of school. If you are a non-target who really wants to get into IB, you will feel as if you are being held to a higher bar when you interview/network with people with Penn or other target undergrads, but that's not cause of your school. That is because they are used to speaking with 3.7+ GPA double majors from target schools who are well-spoken and have 20+ mock interviews under their belt. Why should they take a non-target over that?

That is up to you to think hard about, but I can promise you me and other dozens of other non-targets have figured it out one way or another. And once you figure out your bespoke silver bullet reason, no non-target, target or client's son/daughter can touch you

  • Prospect in IB - Ind
Jul 30, 2020 - 12:10am

I don't think people are complaining about being asked. I think people are saying a non target school background shouldn't matter in the first place esp given that a lot of really good schools (e.g. cal poly slo) are non target schools

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 30, 2020 - 9:54am

C'mon man this industry is built on nepotism. This isn't changing in the future and with automation going to eventually reduce some IB headcount you can bet the hiring process is going to be even more skewed.

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 30, 2020 - 9:20am

Just considered a waste of a target degree because anyone can get in. Not a bad place to work.

Jul 30, 2020 - 10:38am

It's a huge company, with more employees combined than pretty much all of BB IB firms, and MBB consulting combined.

But the vast majority of those spots are just regular run-of-the-mill jobs, a good bit removed from high-finance, strategic or management consulting.

I'd say that if you can get into their more coveted groups, then you can absolutely get a good and worthwhile experience. These groups do feed people into top MBA programs tho, so there are opportunities.

Lots of elitism here for different reasons ("It's top 4", "Small deals", "Poor comp", etc etc.) - but the premise of this thread was "Target students who don't make it", and you can't really be a chooser if you're a beggar.

Jul 30, 2020 - 10:26pm

But the "Deloitte" that people are referring to does belong to that "strategic or management consulting" bucket. Most target school kids aren't heading to Deloitte to work in Audit or Tax they're angling for Deloitte S&O or the FDD / Val arms which are signficantly more competitive to get into / reputable than their accounting arms.

It's kind of odd that a bonafide T2 strategy consulting unit or a unit that works on the very same M&A transactions (just in a differnt function) that people are aiming to get involved with is referred to as a "waste of a target degree". In actuality both open up great opportunities and are strong backgrounds to have for e.g. applying to B-school.

Not to mention they also (as do the other big4 firms) have a bonafide investment banking unit that works directly on middle market deals.

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Jul 30, 2020 - 10:18pm

The students that don't make it vote for Bernie to cancel student loan debt because they learned that being a Starbucks barista doesn't cut it and become super depressed when they realize that they didn't need to go to a target in the first place to be a Starbucks barista. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of mediocrity leading them to quit their job, grow a handle-bar mustache and move to either Williamsburg or Portland and join protests to feel important again. They then post excessively on social media about their newfound passion for social issues that don't apply to their privileged target ass at all, while the rest of their target friends are too busy working to care.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jul 31, 2020 - 11:50am

Man, a lot of these stories about not being prepared really hit home for me.

I was lucky enough to find a mentor near the end of sophomore year and I'll never forget one of my first calls with him. He was advising me on places I should start looking to apply, you know, the usual BB's that get mentioned.

Except, I had never heard of BAML before and wrote down "Bammell" in my notes. I was so confused when Google didn't return any searches.

I was able to break into a MM eventually, but I think it goes to show how difficult it can be when you don't come from a family of that background and don't surround yourself with hardos who sit around and talk finance careers all day. Who knows what offers I could of gotten (or at least interviews) if I knew what IB was coming into college.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Aug 8, 2020 - 5:15am

I'm in a similar boat! I go to a target school and changed career paths a bunch of times due to indecisiveness -- consulting -> bizdev -> IB and by the time I had decided on IB, it was very late in the SA recruiting cycle. I had found a mentor in early junior year and got advice on cold emailing and started studying guides nonstop for the next month.

I only had 3 interviews, two of these were no name places, and one was a reputable MM shop. I got super lucky and landed an offer with the MM shop last, but if it weren't for this mentor, I wouldn't have any idea where to begin. The whole process isn't really taught anywhere unless you're savvy and figure it out for yourself or are in a finance club, neither of which I had really done.

I also constantly wonder where I'd be if I had been deadset on IB from day 1, but am ultimately grateful it worked out. I also wonder if being from a target school made this process a lot more frictionless and whether or not I would have gotten looks that late down the line if I hadn't been from a target. There are many counterfactuals to consider I suppose.

  • Works at Citigroup
Aug 2, 2020 - 9:16am

I didn't make it. 3.79 GPA from Berkeley in an engineering field. Honor roll + dean's list each of my 8 semesters, + a sport,+ leadership-based scholarship, + honors at graduation. But because I wasn't in business/econ I wasn't really clued in to business-track roles until my final year. I was dead set on consulting as soon as I heard about it. I made final rounds at several firms (Monitor, BCG, Accenture) and first round at most other firms (McK, LEK, etc.) but couldn't get a single offer. Ended up taking a bunch of low-paying feed-me jobs just to make rent, including working at a casino at nights just to cover food + rent. Later I went to a lower-top-10 b-school. It's been a rocky path even after that. Was in IBD but at a lesser-known regional shop. Make of that experience what you will. Early preparation, studying technicals and getting the right internships are important. Moving over from engineering isn't as easy as it sounds. And for what it's worth I know A LOT of people who fell through the cracks after graduating from Berkeley. Maybe it's a factor of just being such a big school and one having to navigate one's own way among tens of thousands of students. Or maybe Cal is really a semi-target rather than a target the way HYPS are. Dunno.

  • Works at Citigroup
Aug 2, 2020 - 5:00pm

I can't comment, since I prefer to stay anonymous. Nor does my case matter. What is important is that one prepare extensively on technicals, does the right type of internships, and execute rigor. There are many people at Cal who fell through the cracks in the system. So much so that I'd say they were the majority. And when the economic upheaval hit, a lot of folks were washed out of their good pre-upheaval jobs and left scrambling.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 2, 2020 - 1:29pm

why did you choose to go into consulting/finance instead of engineering?

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