For Yannik Birkhahn, MFin ’20, the MIT Sloan Master of Finance program was a watershed moment. Diving into amazing opportunities like the Proseminar in Corporate Finance/Investment Banking, an internship at Advent International, and a leadership role in the MIT Finance & Policy Club, Yannik realized that he could help make the world a better place through his role in finance.
Why did you decide to pursue the MIT Sloan Master of Finance program?
During my undergrad studies in Germany, I had the chance to come to Cambridge for an exchange semester at Harvard, where I was able to cross-register at MIT Sloan to take an advanced corporate finance class within the MFin program. I got to know so many great people and was so excited about the time there. In fact, MFin was the only master’s program I applied to—from hands-on experience, I realized it was the right path for me.
The MFin curriculum is pretty flexible. What did you focus on academically?
I knew that my 18 months at MIT Sloan was going to fly by, so I set a clear plan for what I wanted to focus on. In addition to taking some of the rigorous courses within the Corporate Finance concentration, I also took advantage of the opportunity to cross-register at Harvard, enrolling in a hedge fund and private equity law course at Harvard Law School and a private equity class at Harvard Business School.
MIT Sloan finance faculty are world-renowned innovators and leaders. What was it like learning from them?
I was surprised by how approachable the professors are. For example, Professor Gregory taught my favorite class, Corporate Financial Strategy (15.436). I would often chat with him after class about questions I had or an article I’d read. One day, I sent him an email to ask for some guidance on which steps to take after the program. He responded right away, and that afternoon we had a long chat about potential career paths.
One of the most difficult aspects of the MIT Sloan experience is deciding how to spend your time. What extracurriculars did you choose?
I was involved with the MIT Venture Capital and Private Equity Club. We hosted many events, including a PE trek to London where we visited various private equity firms. I also took a leadership role in the MIT Finance & Policy Club. One highlight was working with the MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy on a research project for the U.S. government. We also hosted guest speakers like the former vice chair of the Federal Reserve, Stanley Fischer, and former CFO of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Doug Criscitello.
I also helped organize the German-American Conference as Finance Lead. It is a three-day event jointly hosted by students at MIT, Harvard, and other universities in Boston. I met so many students outside of finance who are doing such incredible things, like exploring the future of energy, cancer research, and medicine. All these activities really got me thinking: What do I want to do with my skills and knowledge in finance? How can I make a big impact? It was a turning point for me.
How is the MFin experience helping you in your current leadership role?
I’m working at Siemens within a two-year rotation program. Right now, I’m in the equity finance division. We’re investing in a wide range of asset classes, including renewable energy projects, health care assets, funds, and in operating companies that are active in areas like data storage and energy as a service.
I really benefited from the corporate finance and private equity classes that I took, as well as the Proseminar in Corporate Finance/Investment Banking. Those courses gave me a broad understanding of the industry and hands-on experience.
Looking ahead, what are your career goals?
This is actually the big question that my MIT experience helped me to answer! I knew that I would be surrounded by so many inspiring people—students from around the world who want to make the world a better place. I asked myself, “What can I do within finance to contribute to this mission?”
I’m motivated to making a contribution toward sustainability and tackling the overarching crisis of climate change. To that end, I’m exploring ways to use my skills in finance to support projects and businesses—like investing in renewable energy companies—that are making a big impact.
How do you plan to stay connected with your Sloanie network?
Right after graduating, I got involved with Sloan 5 in Germany, which is a networking group for new Sloan alumni in each region. I really love MIT and have spent a lot of time thinking about how I can return to campus, after gaining some work experience, and continue developing my skills as a leader. So, I decided to apply for MBA Early Admission and secured my seat in a future MBA class.
Finally, what is something that a prospective MFin student might not know about the Master of Finance program?
Everyone is so motivated and determined to make an impact in their field. The cool thing is, people come together and collaborate, and share their talents and skills. The students, professors, advisors—the whole MIT family—are at the core of what makes the program so unique.
There’s a saying that coming to MIT is like “drinking from a fire hose.” And now I can say it’s 110% true! This is such a huge growth opportunity—and the flexibility you have to cross-collaborate in subjects, programs, and fields is amazing.