Mendoza School of Business

Pivoting from Madison Avenue to Wall Street

Published: March 13, 2019 / Author: Ryan Milburn

John Driscoll grew up outside of New York City, attended Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, and earned his undergraduate degree at Fairfield University—just 60 miles north of the city. His goal was to one day work on Wall Street.

But as his career launched in 2011, he found the barrier to entry higher than he had imagined. “I just wasn’t getting the looks from some of the firms that I wanted to work for,” Driscoll recalls. “I was committed to working in a front-office capacity, so I took the next best thing and ran with it.”

For seven years he worked in advertising, primarily in digital marketing sales roles. Now a client strategy manager at American List Counsel, a small, privately held data provider service, Driscoll advises clients on advertising strategy and analyzes the performance of their marketing spends based on various metrics.

But his passion for finance never faded. “A number of financial transactions occurred at my different places of employment—one went public and later was acquired by another large publisher, another was acquired in a take-private deal, and ALC was recently invested in by a private equity firm,” Driscoll notes. “The common denominator of these transactions was that corporate finance and the capital markets stayed firmly on my radar. I realized I wanted to re-focus my energy on pursuing a career in the financial services vertical.”

Driscoll, still living in New York, found that the fastest way to Wall Street was via Chicago—and Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Finance program.

Driscoll debated whether or not to pursue a traditional MBA or a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) and landed on the latter. “At first, what drew me was the fact that Notre Dame’s MSF was more time efficient,” Driscoll explains. “But when I did a really deep dive and started looking at the courses the MSF offered, it was apparent that I was on the right track. For the skillset that I needed to essentially break into investment banking or any kind of high finance role, the MSF seemed more catered to my goals.”

What’s more, Driscoll was pleasantly surprised when he found out the caliber of people that he would be exposed to— “from faculty to guest speakers to my peers, they have all been impressive,” Driscoll says.

Driscoll cites his Equity Valuation course with Professor Timothy Loughran, as well as Mergers & Acquisitions with Professor John Dunbar, as particularly formative. “Both professors were among the most highly engaging and brilliant people I’ve ever experienced in the classroom,” Driscoll says. “They have a knack for connecting with students and also making the material digestible.”

But the greatest value thus far for Driscoll has been in the professional diversity of his classmates—and the bonds that he has formed with people from across industries. “When I came here I thought my classes would be full of seasoned people in finance or people with undergraduate finance backgrounds, but I was really surprised to learn that there were a lot of career changers like myself who were bringing different perspectives to the classroom.”

No matter their professional background, the students in the MSF program share at least one thing in common: they are all part of the Notre Dame family. “We all have the same end goal: to move into the next stage of our careers,” Driscoll points out. “The camaraderie and that common bond that we share is really important. Everyone is willing to help you succeed; it’s one of the things Notre Dame is best at.”

Driscoll has found that the influence of the Notre Dame family extends from Chicago to Wall Street. “The ability to tap into and access the Notre Dame network—particularly in New York, where it’s becoming stronger on Wall Street—has been a game changer,” Driscoll says. “The career pivot into investment banking or similar corporate finance roles is totally possible if you take the opportunities available, apply yourself and make use of the education and the Notre Dame alumni network. It’s already had a radical impact on my opportunities and my career trajectory.”

In fact, now that he’s a member of the Notre Dame family, Driscoll also shares a deeper connection with his own family. “Prior to my enrollment in the MSF program, I was the only Driscoll child who had not attended Notre Dame. My mom, Susan (’80) and both of my younger sisters, Molly (’13) and Kathleen (’17) are all Notre Dame undergraduates. I had a unique glimpse into what the broader ND community of graduates and parents was like, and I learned that Notre Dame graduates are willing to support the broader community in every way they can. This was a huge factor in wanting to be a part of that community: I knew coming in that the network would be there to support me in my career pursuits post-graduation.”

Topics: Student Life