Vanda discovered her love for math and coding during high school in her native Croatia. It came out of the blue. She never thought technology would be something that interested her, but learning computer code was like studying a new language. "I was solving tasks with ease, and I was simply good at it. I found it to be very logical."

She would go on to study computer science at the University of Zagreb, earning both bachelor's and master's degrees in the subject. Along the way, she spent a semester as an exchange student in Vienna, where she returned to write her master's thesis and work at a small tech company.

The growth of tech in the financial industry caught her eye because it also married math and coding. Vanda began exploring opportunities at banks and found an opening not in Vienna, but in Budapest, where Morgan Stanley has a robust presence.

From the start, Vanda embraced a problem-solving role. Traders were struggling to understand the risk and profit-and-loss profiles of an often-traded product. Her first task was to design software to help better understand that product—software that Morgan Stanley traders now use in four different regions globally.

She recently took some time to describe her work in more detail. 

Describe your role at Morgan Stanley.

I joined the bank as a summer analyst. I spent four months in New York, then two years in Budapest, and I returned to New York over two years ago. I sit in the Fixed Income division, focusing on U.S. Treasury-related products. I'm a so-called desk strategist, which means I'm responsible for quantitative aspects of the business, such as creating models for pricing and risk management.

The financial markets are dynamic, and new things are constantly happening that my team and I need to handle: new client or regulatory requirements, new products or updates to old products. So it's an ever-changing landscape of challenges.

What's a typical day like for you?

I spend some of my time supporting the desk's daily trading activities, but most of it I spend on developing, implementing and documenting financial models, tools and analytics.

Very often, a client wants something fast, so we need to think on our feet and make decisions quickly.

Does the technology change quickly?

Yes, the technology and the markets both do. We have regular brainstorming meetings to discuss how we can respond to that by making changes within the firm, whether that involves technologies or processes. It’s just one of many initiatives within the firm to push innovation.

How would you describe the culture at Morgan Stanley?

It's very social. There are events after work, as well as volunteering opportunities that people often work together on. One of the first things I did when I came here was to I attend a volunteering event at an animal shelter. And to this day, I still volunteer there once a week. I think it's great that the firm connects us with various volunteering opportunities.

When you got to Morgan Stanley, were you able to find a mentor who could show you the ropes a bit?

Yes, both my manager in Budapest and my manager here in New York have mentored and guided me. When I came here, I took on a much more desk-facing role than I had back in Budapest. That was a big responsibility, but it was also something I was very eager to take on, and my managers have been very welcoming and supportive. It was their critical business knowledge, as well the knowledge about applications, that really helped me move forward. 

What advice do you have for someone looking to join Morgan Stanley?

It's important to be independent but not be afraid to ask for help when you need it, because in huge organizations like this one, you are always having to find ways to get things done and find ways to approach people who can help with that. Luckily, the culture here is very collaborative. I feel supported in those goals here at Morgan Stanley because there's a lot of attention around gender diversity in the firm, as well as in the technology industry as a whole. It’s a good time to be a woman in STEM. 

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