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Seeing the Bigger Picture

Julian Sanchez MSF ’19 earns a graduate degree in finance

April 08, 2019
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Yes. Quantitative Methods in Finance is a challenging class. But you need to not complain, concentrate and just get it done. That’s Julian Sanchez’s way of thinking, anyway.

The 27-year-old graduate student is in his final semester of the Master of Science in Finance program at USC Marshall. He managed to get through that class and the one it’s a prerequisite for. He has already accepted a job offer from Goldman Sachs and will be off to a training session in New York City after graduation before settling in to his new role in Salt Lake City come August.

Sanchez is also legally blind, a two-time double-organ transplant recipient and a cancer survivor.

“My greatest fear is not accomplishing what I am set on earth to do,” he said. “I was given a second chance by a greater power, and I don’t want to waste this opportunity.”

“Julian has been challenged, but has successfully overcome some simple things we take for granted,” says Rahsan Akbulut, associate professor of clinical finance and business economics and academic director of the MSF. Reading the data on an Excel spreadsheet, for example, is something a sighted student doesn’t think twice about. But for Sanchez, there are mine fields. He relies on technology to read the cells of worksheets, and it is crucial that the screen reading software he uses is capable.

“He has a quick mind. He has found a way around any obstacles that have come his way,” said Akbulut. “He gets things done, and he never complains. He never complains about anything.”

It’s a mindset born of necessity. Sanchez was born with polycystic liver and kidney disease, which began manifesting in life-threatening ways at 2 years old, when his mother ultimately donated her kidney to replace his. At the age of 9, that liver began to fail, resulting in a major gastrointestinal bleed. This event limited oxygen to his optic nerve which led to the loss of most of his eyesight. At 17, he was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder and had to undergo chemotherapy. In 2013, he underwent a double organ transplant, which necessitated his being airlifted from Singapore to Chicago for the operation.

He has the dubious distinction of being one of three such cases in the world, he said. The doctors and nurses at the University of Chicago know him by name.

No Quitters

His health issues may have kept him from completing his education on a more typical time frame, but they have not kept him from college.

“I learned from a very young age not to quit just because things are hard. I believe that my will to succeed, coupled with deep interest of the subject and hard work, can more than compensate for my lack of sight,” said the guy who passed Quantitative Methods in Finance, Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management, and several other highly analytical courses.

Persistence is key, he said. After transferring to USC from the University of Illinois to complete his undergraduate degree (he is a native Californian who was born in Apple Valley, and his father and grandfather are longtime Trojan football fans), he studied economics with a minor in finance. He liked numbers, but found economics a bit too theoretical. Corporate finance, however, was exciting.

One of his mentors, Scott Adelson, co-president of finance at Houlihan Lokey described corporate finance as “…like rolling a boulder up a hill…and it keeps rolling back down. But you can’t stop pushing it back up.”

That resonated with Sanchez. “I was up for that challenge,” he said. After graduating with a BS in economics with a minor in finance, he applied to and was accepted for the MSF program.

He has also made the most of his time at USC. “He joined everything,” noted Akbulut. “He took every social and networking opportunity, and has also been volunteering with onboarding our incoming MSF students. A true Trojan.”

He was vice-president of the graduate finance club. He also joined a fraternity.

The Charm

Breaking into the world of investment banking taxed his persistence. After securing an internship with Houlihan Lokey and another with Cappello Group Inc., he applied to Goldman Sachs. Twice.

A professor and mentor in the Department of Finance and Business Economics was able to help get his resume in front of the right people at Goldman—and the third time was the charm.

After a spate of interviews, Goldman offered him a job in its credit risk department. He was excited, but pensive as he considered all of his options. “I’m stubborn,” he admits. Then came the phone call from an executive at Goldman Sachs, who knew the faculty member in question. “If he thinks you’re great, we want you on our team,” he told Sanchez.  

Chalk up another win for the Trojan Family. “The Trojan network is truly remarkable!” said Sanchez.

As he finishes up his final semester, Sanchez knows he is facing even bigger challenges. The idea of living by himself in Salt Lake City is daunting, he admits, but Goldman Sachs has already mobilized resources to ensure his transition is successful.

He notes that 10 years ago he would not be where he is. The technology just wasn’t there. Today he relies on audio software that can read out complex equations as well as emails. “I listen very well,” he said.

“I’ve been extremely blessed in that my friends and professors have been so supportive,” he said. “I am only here because my family—my own and my USC Marshall family—have believed in me.”