Paloma Sarkar, ’11, is a loan operations analyst at Pathfinder Bank. Her day-to-day responsibilities include analyzing loan portfolios, determining the risks associated with various loans and analyzing credit or income statements.
For Sarkar, it is the perfect job opportunity to satisfy her interest in finance.
“I’m very happy,” Sarkar said. “It’s challenging to find the most accurate number and it’s interesting to me.”
Following a Passion in Finance
But a few years ago, Sarkar had a different outlook. Originally from India, she earned the equivalent to a bachelor’s degree back home at Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology in computer engineering – a field she was told was profitable.
“In India the culture is different. If you are not a doctor or engineer or have a good education, you are looked down upon,” Sarkar said. “I didn’t want to do IT…but everyone said computer engineering was good and everything was on computers, so this is what I should learn.”
After graduating in 2007, Sarkar was hired at an IT company in India. She found the work wasn’t something she wanted to do for the rest of her professional career.
“I didn’t realize it would be so taxing to sit and write lines and lines of code,” she said. “Initially it was fun, but it became very monotonous.”
One part of Sarkar’s IT position peaked her interest – the financial aspect of her job.
“When I was working there, I was introduced to finance,” she said. “It was hard for me to understand and write code from the finance module and I wanted to understand finance, learn about it and know where it came from.”
Sarkar resigned from her position in 2010 and began applying to schools in the U.S. for finance for the spring 2010 semester – schools like University of Buffalo, Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina.
“I always heard there were so many opportunities in the U.S. compared to India and I always wanted to earn my MBA,” Sarkar said. “I thought it was time to change my career to finance.”
Sarkar thought her education goals would be put on hold after she was informed the programs she applied to didn’t accept students in the spring.
That was, until her cousin told her about a school in Oswego with an MBA program.
Sarkar applied and was quickly contacted by two faculty members – the director of the MBA program and an administrative assistant from the international student and scholar services.
“I immediately liked it when I heard about it. I knew this is where I should go,” Sarkar said. “When you’re going so far from home, you want to be sure you’re going to a good place. After speaking with them, I felt I was in good hands.”
Sarkar moved to the United States and enrolled in SUNY Oswego’s MBA program in January 2010. She said a large part of her success was due to the program’s curriculum.
“The MBA program is not about just studying books and writing down answers, it’s about knowing the outside world and what is going on,” Sarkar said. “Now, I have a strong foundational knowledge and also good practical knowledge of the world.”
Sarkar’s favorite part of the program was the opportunity she had to work closely with the program faculty.
“The best part about the program is the individual care you get from the professors,” she said. “My focus was in finance and I had some of the best professors in the field that I could ask for help whenever I needed it.”
Sarkar said even the dean of the school of business, Richard Skolnik, was always available to the students.
“You can go to [Dean] Skolnik’s room anytime. I used to go in and ask for help or to ask him to explain something,” Sarkar said. “When I told him I wanted to take my [Chartered Financial Analyst] exam, he gave me his book without even hesitating. He’s always encouraged me and still does.”
Sarkar began at Pathfinder Bank as an intern while in the MBA program. She was offered her position as loan operations analyst in May 2011 – a full three months before she graduated with her degree.
Sarkar’s experience did more than just help her facilitate a career change; she also grew as a person during her time in the MBA program.
“My experience in Oswego has been amazing. After coming here and being so far from home, I am more confident as a person,” she said. “I know for a fact I am capable of doing so much, I'm so satisfied with what I am doing and I know for sure this is only going to get better.”
Although now she wishes she earned her undergraduate degree in finance, Sarkar believes that her position in IT was meant to lead her to SUNY Oswego.
“I never thought I’d be here because I was never even looking for it, but it’s been such a great experience and a great decision,” she said. “There are some things that you are destined to do, and my destiny worked out well for me.”