From Science Class to the Financial Sector

“I’m all about finding connections,” says Stephon Henry-Rerrie ’19 about his path from engineering and sciences classes to the Financial Sector. 

Stephon Henry-Rerrie grew up in Brooklyn as the oldest of five siblings. He loved math puzzles from a young age and entered MIT primed for pre-med studies. He would never have predicted ending up where he is now — but he wouldn’t change a thing. “I have taken a very weird, nonlinear trajectory,” Stephon says. “But along the way I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the world.”

After graduating MIT, Stephon moved back to NYC and started a full-time job at BlackRock, a global investment manager and technology provider. Today, he is an Analyst in BlackRock’s Risk & Quantitative Analysis division, specifically on the Investment Risk team. We sat down with him to learn more about his journey from freshman year to first-year Analyst.

Gaining Exposure

Stephon’s academic trajectory evolved throughout his time at MIT. While he entered as pre-med and shifted into chemical engineering, it was an internship on the trading floor of an investment bank that led him to his current path. He says that this experience fundamentally changed his life: not only did he learn to speak up among many powerful voices, he also realized that science and engineering are directly tied to economics. “I think I needed that exposure,” he says. “Because if I hadn’t, I feel like I wouldn’t have the perspective that I have now on, what does this all mean? What is going on? What’s this larger system that we exist in?”

Inspired after meeting a number of former physicists and chemical engineers, he realized that professionals in financial services come from a variety of educational backgrounds and that your career success is not dependent on your college major. With that, he decided to follow his passions and declare a double major in physics (rather than economics). Going into his sophomore year, he enthusiastically explored scientific interests while also preparing for a role in finance. He then took his sophomore summer to try something different by interning at a chemical engineering company. 

As he considered his options for a future profession, Stephon found that his heart was with financial markets and decided to pursue a career in finance. He was more excited about the problems he could solve in the finance sector and enjoyed working in the industry. Having made that choice, he spent his junior year diving deeper into statistics and math.

The Interview Experience

While looking for opportunities within the financial services industry, Stephon discovered BlackRock. He “was drawn to BlackRock for its reputation, culture and access to learning opportunities.” As he began the recruitment process, he found the interviews both engaging and informative. He participated in a large super-day with over 100 candidates in NYC, which allowed him to learn more about the firm while networking with both full-time employees and fellow students.

Following that super-day event, Stephon was awarded a BlackRock Founders Scholarship, a $17,500 merit award for students from underrepresented groups who have demonstrated leadership in their communities while exemplifying the BlackRock Principles. During the scholarship interviews, he was excited by how the interviewers focused the conversation on learning more about who he was as a person and how he could pursue his passions at BlackRock. He accepted an offer to join BlackRock’s Summer Analyst Program in the Risk & Quantitative Analysis division. 

Life as an Intern 

Throughout his internship, Stephon worked on a project that was a combination of behavioral finance and data science, blending performance and behavioral finance data to aid in trading strategies. Beyond his project work, he also joined a lunchtime forum to hear from colleagues, gain insight on analysis tools, and connect with his peers. These gatherings would involve 20-30 employees and, according to him, “serve as a nice way to get people to come together and have fun through the type of work we are doing.” Outside of the work on his team, he led a group of interns in a firm-wide portfolio innovation challenge, which allowed him to build his network at the firm and learn more about the different business areas at BlackRock.

"During my internship at BlackRock, I was able to apply so much of what I learned” (at MIT). Not necessarily the technical stuff, but the way of problem solving, of thinking. I also found that finance touches everything, everybody’s life, in a very real way.” 

Stephon also participated in additional training, speaker series and networking events as part of his BlackRock Founders Scholarship. He recalls, “the most valuable lessons that I learned from the scholarship programming stem from the realization that financial markets are constantly evolving at an accelerating rate and because of that, so are the types of people that are engaging with financial markets.” He added, “we have to be able to represent the entirety of our clients and to do that, you need to embrace diversity at its core. That point was reiterated through the scholarship program and when I started here full-time.”   

He was always a big believer in the importance of mentorship, having mentored younger MIT students as a member of Chocolate City on MIT’s campus. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the support and mentorship Stephon received at BlackRock heavily influenced his decision to accept a full-time role. His mentors also introduced him to people across the organization. Today, when looking to build his network and learn new skills, he continues to engage with BlackRock’s internal groups including the Black Professionals Network.  “My favorite mode of connecting with people is working on projects with others so I try to do that as much as I can.”

For Stephon, BlackRock provides the perfect combination of what he loved about both chemical engineering and finance. He practices many of the techniques he learned in engineering, while contributing to purposeful work in the finance sector by helping more and more people experience financial well-being.

Finding Connections

Stephon is grateful for the context that his humanities, arts, and social sciences (HASS) classes provided him. “A lot of ways that we evaluate people and what they’ve done can be super muddled if we don’t understand the history of how things came about,” he says. It’s that kind of learning, and bridging concepts that he never thought were related, that he really enjoys. 

“Investment risk entails collaborating with portfolio managers on understanding their risk to the market and how to navigate that. My day to day role requires analyzing the risk of our mortgage trades and portfolios through reports that we generate and ad-hoc analysis. There is constant communication with the Portfolio Managers through our daily risk meeting. On a longer term, there are projects and analysis that I work on and manage.

 

I’m all about finding connections between very weird things. Things that don’t seem that related.  My most exciting projects have been ones that require creative and innovative thinking since nobody has done them before."

What “excites me the most about working at BlackRock is that I have the opportunity to do very interesting work that has a meaningful impact for our clients. There are times that I am so pumped about a project or analysis that I can't wait to get started on it!”