Fords on Friday: Isfar Munir ’18

“I think the real value of the Haverford degree, in some degree, is the alumni network and how strongly alumni feel about helping current students and young people get started in their careers”

Isfar Munir, a class of 2018 economics major, currently works as the Assistant Vice President of US Economics at Citi. When he first arrived at Haverford, however, he had a completely different plan.

Munir went into college thinking he would be a physics major, get a PhD, and become a professor. As time went on, he learned that he preferred economics to physics, and coming up with a career plan would be a little less straightforward than he thought. By the summer of his sophomore year, a time when many finance students do their first summer internships, Munir did not have anything lined up.

It was during this time that Munir says he discovered “the value of the Haverford alumni network.” He had been looking in the alumni directory for economics alumni in the San Francisco Bay Area for life advice and came across the CFO of SoFi, which was just a startup at the time. The company’s very first cohort of summer interns had just finished for the summer, and the CFO was looking to take on some more for the fall. Munir, who was willing to take a semester off to work, happened to be in the right place at the right time, something which he calls “a recurring theme of my time at Haverford and beyond.”

Coincidentally, the people at SoFi were drawn to Munir’s physics background. They wanted him to model interest rates using stochastic differential equations (SDEs), which appear in physics, as well as use R to do prepayment models. Munir admitted, “I didn’t know SDEs [or R], but I knew enough to figure out how they work and how to implement them. So I ended up doing a pretty good job actually. They were pretty happy and so they invited me back the next summer.”

More importantly, Munir had finally found a potential career path that he enjoyed. When he returned to campus in the spring, he did so with “a little bit more purpose, a little bit more direction of what [he] wanted to do.” 

By the time Munir returned for the summer, SoFi had doubled in staff, and their needs had shifted. At the end of his internship, Munir was advised to broaden his skillset somewhere else before potentially returning to SoFi in a full-time position.

“I kind of neglected to network with other alums that spring. In hindsight, I should have done that, even if it didn’t lead to anything,” said Munir. “So, don’t be like me– always be reaching out to alums and be networking.”

Luckily, Munir was in the right place at the right time again. After submitting a shot-in-the-dark application to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and not hearing back from them for months, one day he received a call for an interview. The reason his resume was picked out of the file? The person doing interest rate forecasting for the Fed saw he had done interest rate forecasting at SoFi.

During his two years at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, he gained exposure to policy work and economic research that PhD economics students become involved in, which helped him realize that a PhD wasn’t right for him. 

“As much as I like to research, I didn’t like the really long time horizons associated with academic research, which led me to conclude that maybe I should not do a PhD in economics [as] that sets me up mainly to do long-term projects,” said Munir.

With many of the senior positions at the FRB requiring a PhD and the onset of a global pandemic causing hiring freezes across the nation, how did Munir figure out where to go next? The answer, once again, is networking.

A while back, Munir had connected with a Haverford alum who also played cricket during undergrad. This alum introduced him to the Director of Research at Citi, and Munir had maintained that connection by emailing the Director every couple of months. Coincidentally, when Munir emailed him in early 2020, they had just had a position open up, and the rest is history.

“I think the real value of the Haverford degree, in some degree, is the alumni network and how strongly alumni feel about helping current students and young people get started in their careers,” said Munir. He strongly encouraged students to reach out to him and other alumni on Haverford Connect early on to take advantage of this support system.

When asked about other Haverford experiences that helped set him up for success, Munir talked about the benefits of his liberal arts education. 

“I took a pretty diverse set of classes when I was at Haverford,” Munir said. “I recommend that everybody do the same. Get up there and challenge yourself, take different classes, take classes that don’t have anything to do with each other, because they will teach you different frameworks and different lenses with which to deal with new information, which ultimately is what you will be doing on almost any given job.”

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