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Real Humans of Citi: Diana Pacer, Chicago Booth MBA ’23, Investment Banking Associate

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We kick off our Real Humans: Alumni series, which invites MBA graduates to discuss their paths to post-MBA employment, with Diana Pacer, Chicago Booth MBA Class of 2023. Having settled in Chicago with her family and experiencing the data-based, intellectual approach to teaching at the University of Chicago, Pacer knew it was where she wanted to be to achieve her career goal of working in investment banking. Read on to learn how the Booth network, students, and clubs prepared her for recruitment into the finance industry and her role as an investment banking associate at Citi.

Diana Pacer, Chicago Booth MBA ’23, Investment Banking Associate at Citi

Age: 30
Hometown: Born in Beijing, China. Have lived in Chicago since 2011
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Chicago, BA in Economics
Graduate Business School: Chicago Booth Class of 2023, MBA in Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Finance
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Four years as a consultant at Accenture
Post-MBA Work Experience: First-year Investment Banking Associate at Citi

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I chose to attend business school because I wanted to switch careers to finance. An MBA is the most straightforward way to gain the knowledge and network I needed to achieve this.

Why Chicago Booth? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I attended University of Chicago undergrad. My undergrad experience helped form my passion for intellectual, data-based questioning, contributing to my becoming the Philomath I am today! I wanted to immerse myself in that intellectual environment again. I also love the flexible curriculum of Booth that allowed me to choose a diverse set of courses. In addition, Booth is a very strong finance school, which aligned perfectly with my career goal. Lastly, I’ve lived in Chicago since 2011 and married a Chicagoan. My daughter just turned one when I started business school and I didn’t want to uproot my family and move far away.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Booth is a target school for most of the investment banks. Whether you have a pre-MBA finance background or not, it is not hard to land a job in investment banking as long as you follow the process and put in the work. The Investment Banking Group was extremely helpful and walked every member through the entire process of investment banking recruiting. Everyone was assigned to a squad, which was led by second-years who went through the recruiting process the prior year. They gave advice on how to conduct networking coffee chats, general etiquette of attending events, and how to prepare for behavioral and technical interviews.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at Citi’s Chicago Office as an Investment Banking Summer Associate in the Industrials Group during my first year summer. I really liked my experience at Citi and was fortunate to work on some important live deals during the summer. Some of the deals were closed later on, and I was very glad to be part of them. At the end of the summer, I got a return offer and decided to join Citi full-time after graduation.

During my second year at Booth, I wanted to learn how to think like an investor, so I decided to take several internships in Private Equity and Search funds. I interned at Hive Capital, a search fund founded by Kellogg alum Daniel Besquin and NextGen Growth Partners, a private equity company founded by Booth professor and alum Brian O’Connor. I also participated in the Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge organized by the Polsky Center at Booth, in which our team of four worked with Author Capital Partners, a Chicago private equity firm, for three months to develop a viable investment thesis for the company to execute. I think all these experiences were very helpful to my investment banking career because I learned how to think from the client’s perspective, which made me a better advisor.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I wanted to join a bulge bracket bank because I wanted to work on a variety of deals early on in my career, ranging from debt deals, equity deals, and M&A deals. In addition, I wanted to stay in Chicago. Among all the bulge bracket banks, Citi has the largest presence in Chicago and one of the strongest deal flows. Therefore, I decided to join Citi.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Cast a wide net and talk to as many people as possible, including people currently working at the firm and people who have left the firm. You can figure out companies’ cultures by talking to people and it is important to join a company that fits you culturally.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
I wouldn’t change anything. I’m very happy with what I got and have no regrets.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Now sitting on the other side of the table, I was surprised to find how much Citi’s Chicago office focuses on fit when recruiting candidates. When I was recruiting, I thought technical is the most important thing. However, it turns out fit is very important if not more important than technical.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
It’s easy to get distracted because there are so many things to do and social events going on. I would say know what you want out of your MBA experience and explore programs at the school even after you get the job. After I got my job at Citi, I chose to explore the private equity programs at Booth, such as the PE Lab, SPITC, and Private Equity Case Challenge. I got so much out of these programs and was very glad I maximized my learning experience at Booth.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.