Hari Santhanaraghavan: Voices of Penn Engineering Master’s Alumni

This is a part of our series of articles, written by Penn Engineering alums about their experiences at Penn and how it shaped their lives. Our next article is by Hari Santhanaraghavan, who graduated with a master’s degree in Robotics in 2017. Santhanaraghavan currently works as an analyst in the Securities Division of Goldman Sachs.

Hari Santhanaraghavan at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida

One of my favorite memories growing up was playing the board game Monopoly. I started playing the game with my parents in elementary school, and kept it up with my friends through high school. The classic way to play Monopoly is through rolling dice, building houses and collecting rent. This obviously becomes boring after a while, so we started introducing different monetary tactics to the game. We loaned each other money at different interest rates, sold insurance against other players going bankrupt, and also securitized the future cash flow of sets of properties. We would research different financial securities used by banks and hedge funds and introduce them into our Monopoly game. I still have very fond memories of those games, and in some ways, they helped me pick a career path out of my many interests.

After high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I chose Penn because it was a really good school that offered the most options in terms of different curricula. I started in the College of Arts and Sciences my freshman year, and transferred to Engineering’s computer science program my sophomore year. I liked computer science because it allowed me to apply abstract thinking into cool technical projects. As a junior, I decided to stay an extra year and submatriculate into the Robotics master’s program; I was interested in exploring concepts like machine learning and artificial intelligence. And around the same time, I accepted a technology internship from Goldman Sachs.

I really enjoyed doing my master’s degree in Robotics. One of my favorite classes was Bruce Kothmann’s Control Systems course. Professor Kothmann was also my senior design advisor, and I think he does a really good job of engaging his students; he is a terrific professor. The Robotics master’s also lets you take two general electives that don’t have to be robotics-based. One class I particularly enjoyed was Mathematical Modeling in Finance, which I was able to take as an undergrad, even though it is cross-listed as a graduate class.

Given my interests, I was definitely at a crossroads due to being a Robotics master’s student while taking internships at a financial institution. People would always ask me, “You are studying robotics, why are you interning at a bank?” Truth be told, I liked both opportunities and was feeling the stress of not necessarily knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to return to Goldman for a second summer internship between my fourth and fifth years, and picked a robotics-based Senior Design project. I hoped that by the end of both experiences, I would have a better understanding of what I wanted to do. I definitely did have second thoughts on both, and came very close to not coming back to Goldman and instead doing a traditional tech internship.

I was anxious about making such a big decision. But thankfully, my recruiter from Goldman talked me through the process, and convinced me to not change my decision just because of what everyone else around me thought I should be doing. After my summer internship, I realized that I could apply many of my technical skills to finance in the firm’s algorithmic trading business.

I currently work as an analyst in the Securities Division of the firm in the FICC (Fixed Income Currency Commodities) Systematic Market Making group. In my current role, I work on the core algorithmic trading framework. Algorithmic trading in a nutshell is the automated buying and selling of securities. My work requires knowledge of both financial securities, and computer science (particularly low latency programming). My technical work is done in Java, C++, and Python.

I think Goldman is a terrific place to start a career. There is a mentorship culture here that doesn’t exist at many other places. I have a terrific manager — also a Penn alum — who actively mentors me and helps me understand the business. The firm is also unique because it hires a variety of disciplines. Many of the colleagues on my team come from various engineering, math, and physics backgrounds. I also think the firm does a really good job of investing in its people. I have seen many of my colleagues spend their entire career here.

If someone asked me for career advice, I would say take risks and try different opportunities even if it isn’t the orthodox path. I think it is okay to make mistakes and try different things out. Informational interviews through Penn alumni registered with Career Services are a good way to find out about different careers if an internship in that field isn’t possible. Choosing the right job is a hard choice, and I have to say I am very lucky that I went to Penn and had great opportunities presented to me. I think taking the time to find interesting work and exploring that path is a good thing personally and professionally.