How I pivoted into FinTech with a degree in mechanical engineering

By Mubarak Abdul Kader

Posing in front of Doe Library at UC Berkeley

By the time I was applying to UC Berkeley to major in Mechanical Engineering (ME), I had worked with a large infrastructure conglomerate, had co-founded an eCommerce startup in the generations old money flush wedding industry, and was about to start working with a unicorn startup in the food-tech space. After three years of working with companies across maturity stages and across industries, I landed in San Francisco. It was my first time ever in the United States. A year of eclectic experiences later, I found myself looking at not just one, but three offer letters from companies — the kind of possibility that I would have disregarded as false advertising if someone had told me about it during the first few months. The things one can do with the right environment never ceases to amaze me.

The things one can do with the right environment never ceases to amaze me.

To the main course now: My next adventure is with LendingClub, the pioneer of peer-to-peer lending, where I will be working as a Senior Analyst. My first thought was “Cool, what will I analyze?” The answer is the best part — everything. Be it marketing, risk, or geographic expansion, the problem was sent to our team with the sole objective of growth. The constant in all of this is one of the key things that lured me into this role, and it is that we use data as the core driver of all these analyses. I sense what you’re confused about. What is a ME major doing in the FinTech space with data? I’ll try to answer this and at the same time give you insight into how I made it into a completely new space with a newly learned skill set.

At a time when data is being heavily leveraged, the boundary distinguishing the skill set required in solving problems across domains is blurring. Data Science, a field with pioneers and experts having majored in Physics, Biology, and Math, is proving to be a truly interdisciplinary field that has already started unraveling formerly unsolvable problems. This was the first characteristic that drew me towards this field when I was introduced to it thanks to the Capstone project of the MEng program.

Alex Beliaev is the Director of Academic Capstone Experience and is one of the interesting professors that I had the privilege of meeting at Berkeley. For those of you who are entering the program in the years to come, he’s a person you would want to spend time with.

Having worked on multiple projects, I can confidently say that a major part of our skill set is already transferable. For a person to be well-versed with leveraging data, they have to excel at a few things:

Coding

Let’s start with coding. We, as mechanical engineers who have dealt with MATLAB, can pick up Python and R, which comes from my personal experience.

Mathematics

Second would be math, specifically knowledge of statistics and probability. None of us engineers would have reached the point of doing a master’s degree without learning the basics, and that is enough to build on.

Business Leadership

Third, business savviness to make sense of data and the communication skills to convey that to non-technical people. This is a part that some of us struggle with as engineers. For communication, readers who have taken an interest towards any activity including but certainly not limited to debating, elocution, or even heated dinner discussions about random but topics with nuances would have less to worry about here. With respect to business, I had the privilege of running my own company and working with a unicorn startup.

What matters at the end of the day is your passion for this field along with your discipline and hard work to make something out of it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up using the hands on experience I gather at LendingClub in a completely new industry. These diverse experiences are what I strive for. Ask yourself: “What do you strive for?”


If you’d like to learn more, feel free to reach out to me at mubarak_abdul@berkeley.edu.