We couldn’t be more proud to announce that Sophie Dewaal, Virginia Tech alumna, recently made the Forbes 30 under 30 2022 list for Finance. Congratulations Sophie!

Sophie graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Finance in 2013. During her time here, Sophie was an analyst for BASIS, which is a student-managed bond fund at Virginia Tech. When Sophie graduated, she started at Bank of America as an Investment Banking Analyst and then moved up to become an Investment Banking Analyst who moved into Consumer and Retail. Currently, Sophie is a Vice President in the Consumer and Retail Investment Banking group at Bank of America.

We got to connect with Sophie to discuss her reaction to the big news, her time at Virginia Tech, and some advice for students. Here’s what she said:

How did it feel when the news came out?

Really exciting. It was interesting because I feel like when I learned of it if anything it made me more thankful for all the pieces that lead up to that, I’ve worked really hard since I left Virginia Tech, but I had a lot of opportunities along the way that were enabled by other people, but you can really trace it back to my time at Virginia Tech.

What made you decide to be a Finance major?

I came to Virginia Tech originally to be a veterinarian and was studying Animal Science. It was during my freshman year that I decided being a veterinarian wasn't actually what I wanted to do, and I knew I needed to transition then. So I switched over to the Pamplin College of Business, but I wasn't quite sure what area of business I wanted to focus on. It was while I was taking an accounting class that it finally clicked for me. Really though getting into Finance classes as well as joining BASIS as a Junior, I learned more about Finance and investment banking through the education and the alumni. I was able to figure out that accounting seemed like it fit a lot of my skill sets and thought it was interesting, so I ended up doing Finance, and then ended up going into investment banking.

It sounds like BASIS helped you grasp an idea of what you wanted to do after graduation, is that right?

Definitely, it’s really nice to learn about fixed income investing, and I’m sure it’s similar to SEED with equities and coins. While that’s part of it, the other piece is being able to take trips up to New York to meet alumni, having the alumni come back for the alumni reunion, meeting the board members that are often older professionals in their fields, and getting that exposure to a world you didn’t know existed beforehand or not knowing the different paths you could take down them.

What advice would you give to Finance students looking to pursue a similar career as you?

I think the most important thing is to really understand what the different paths in Finance are. Never be afraid to email somebody or call them because worst case they don’t respond, and you’re in the same place you are now, or best case they do respond and you learned something from them. Once you have an idea of where you want to go, join an organization that will give you more experience in that area. Generally, Virginia Tech is great at having that extracurricular piece. It is important to use that experience to get internships, which is becoming more and more important as you want to get into your full-time career after college. Building on that block, figuring out what you want to do, joining an organization, getting that internship, and then hopefully getting a full-time job!

Do you have any tips for our students who are looking to land an internship or get that full-time placement?

Networking is the most important thing when trying to differentiate yourself. You can learn from a book what these concepts are but to then be able to articulate that, it often takes talking to somebody in the field to really understand okay this is what I’m reading and understand, but as someone who actually does this, is that right? You can adjust your understanding. As for your networking, not everyone is going to be the golden ticket, you just need one person to see potential and support you to be able to get that job. When I was networking for my internship, I had one in particular where I met with somebody and it wasn’t an interview, but they were asking me interview questions and I remember totally falling flat, and I didn’t get hired by that firm. After that, you better bet I never missed any of those questions asked in any interview. You need those harder experiences to prepare you for the future.

What is your most memorable thing about Virginia Tech?

I loved the tailgates, and I loved the football team. We had Tyrod when I was a freshman so that was very exciting, after that it was a little more up and down. But it’s the fact that the school spirit makes Virginia Tech really feel like a family, all maroon and orange in a sea of people. Tech is really special in terms of the environment it allows you to exist in for four years.