As Ananth Venkatachalam witnessed the extreme effects of covid-19 pandemic in the financial markets, he began to consider his own role in finance.
After changing his major from chemical engineering to finance and honing his skills by getting involved in the College of Business, he graduates May 14 and is ready to start as a technology analyst in the practice of business management consulting. risk and finance at Deloitte in Omaha.
“At the beginning of covid, we have faced a recession and we have seen so many things that have changed, not just in the way we do business, but more importantly, in the way financial markets have been affected from a macroeconomic view and also investments in general,” Venkatachalam said. “I thought that was exactly where I needed to put my analytical, math, and programming skills to good use.”
For his new major, he took core courses like Business Analytics/Information Analysis (SCMA 350) and Data Modeling and Computation (SCMA 450), which advanced his analytical skills. While learning new software and a statistical programming language enthused Venkatachalam, it was Leon Xu, assistant professor of supply chain management and analytics, who made the classes memorable.
“Dr. Xu has influenced my life because he has reinforced again and again the concept of the importance of business analytics and its impact on operation,” Venkatachalam said. “He is so passionate about this subject and the projects we have carried out with covid house price data and regression analysis has really influenced me and how I see him as a mentor.
Venkatachalam not only developed his skills in his business classes, but he also quickly sought out opportunities to apply what he was learning. He joined the Big Red Investment Club, where students learn to invest by managing a real investment portfolio.
“BRIC has been a big part of my life. I made a lot of friends through it, and it also influenced my career,” he said. “I am currently vice president and director of research where I help find new investment opportunities for our portfolio. This increased my interest in financial analysis and consulting.
The development of true friendships within the club has led to other meaningful collaborations, such as joining the inaugural cohort of the Husker Venture Fund, a student-led fund that invests in early-stage Nebraska startups. After several weeks of an intensive venture capital bootcamp, he and other members did the due diligence to select their first investment.
These experiences meant he didn’t have to wait until he graduated to apply the skills learned in the classroom. His involvement exemplifies student engagement in Nebraska, which ranks in the top 10% of all colleges reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
“Ananth is an energetic student who is always ready to learn and participate. He is also willing to extend the learning experience outside of the classroom,” Xu said.
With parents working in higher education, Venkatachalam spent her life growing up in academia, seeing the many ways people could positively impact students. Believing in the power of every person, he used his academic talents to tutor others through the College of Business’ Teaching and Learning Center.
“I wanted to give back and emphasize important concepts. Students could learn with me in an individual setting to build on what they heard in class,” he said.
Tutoring called him to action in another way — by standing up for underrepresented students studying business.
“I wanted to see how we could help our first-generation students and our students of color navigate the world of work, because it’s not an easy environment to navigate,” he said. “Diversity and inclusion was never really something I wanted to pursue, but when I started I missed seeing a vibrant minority community in the College of Business.
“Through my involvement, I learned to understand the role (diversity, equity and inclusion) that will play in the future of companies.”
His supervisor at the Center for Teaching and Learning asked him to serve as a pilot student in a new program called Inclusive Business Leaders. His comments helped the college launch the scholarship program for underrepresented freshmen.
“We regularly discussed difficult and challenging topics with the student pilots, and Ananth was always very adept at analyzing all sides of a problem and asking critical questions of himself and others. He’s someone who can articulate the change they want to see and then implement the actions to make it happen,” said Kasey Linde, associate director of the CCM and Program Coordinator for Inclusive Business Leaders.
From this experience, he was also invited to serve on the college’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board, which establishes and monitors DEI Goals. Through these efforts, Venkatachalam seeks to break down the stereotypes often seen in her field of study.
“When we think of finance stereotypically, it’s often seen as a profession where you only see white people, but I wanted to bring my perspective as a financier and as a person of color and see how I could have an impact in this region,” he said.
Getting involved on campus and in the College of Business turned into one of the best decisions Venkatachalam made for himself in Nebraska.
“All of these clubs and experiences have shaped my life. They have inspired me to give back to people, and I probably wouldn’t have acquired all the skills I have now without them,” he said.
For Venkatachalam, he found that Nebraska supported him every step of the way to his dream job, even during a pandemic. He has developed essential professional skills both in and out of the classroom and alongside his peers in clubs, special programs and case competitions, such as winning the state’s Charter Financial Analyst Research Challenge. His job at Deloitte allows him to put into practice all the experience he acquired in college.
“I really enjoy working with clients and applying the knowledge I gained as a finance major and business analytics minor to much of the work we will be doing,” Venkatachalam said.