FRE Alumni Spotlight: Sierra Smith
“Graduating during COVID posed quite the challenge. I lost the job I had lined up with The Walt Disney Company and was left scrambling for an opening.”
Sierra Smith graduated from UF in Spring 2020 with a degree in Food and Resource Economics, specializing in International Food and Resource Economics. She currently works as an Investment Analyst at Citizens First Bank in The Villages, Florida, although it wasn’t her original plan. COVID posed a challenge for her initial career path: “I lost the job I had lined up with The Walt Disney Company and was left scrambling for an opening. Luckily, through some connections and lots of emails, I landed an internship at the bank” After interning in several different departments over the course of 4 months, she was inspired to become an Investment Analyst.
“I absolutely love my job!”
Sierra is part of a team that manages part of the bank’s balance sheet through fixed-income investments. “Along with my role as an analyst – reviewing muni’s, banks, and new syndicate credit deals – I have also been tasked as the project manager to a new database we are building. This project kicked off in January and I have been working closely with a third-party software company to build a cloud-based portfolio platform. In the end, it’ll be one convenient location for our entire team to view, manage, and edit our entire investment portfolio, and I’m super excited to see something like that come to life within the next few months.”
How Does the Position Relate to FRE?
Sierra notes that FRE teaches students solid business foundations, such as accounting, finance, and data analysis, but with real-life examples. “For example, we look at municipal bonds that might have exposure to the energy sector. My knowledge from Economics of Natural Resources helps tremendously when I read credit and can relate it to what the municipality is doing, then relate it to bond basics from Ag Finance. It’s all pretty connected, more so than I thought when I first started here.”.
She says that she would be lost without these foundations, especially from her Ag Finance class. FRE taught her how to be analytical, “I never thought of myself as someone that was analytical or good at math. FRE quickly taught me otherwise which I’m super thankful for because I wouldn’t have the job I have today without that.” The classes that helped her prepare most for her current position are Data Analytics, Econometrics, Ag Finance, Ag macro, Natural Resource Economics. Subsequently, Ag Finance and Data Analytics were her favorite and most educational classes.
Thoughts on FRE as a Graduate?
Sierra’s favorite part of the FRE major was being exposed to many different topics. “Instead of just basic business classes, FRE teaches so many aspects of fundamental topics from macroeconomics to data analytics – which is all stuff I use day to day in my career”. FRE offers a wide range of knowledge, which she says makes a resume stand out.
She would like to thank Dr. Sharp (FRE Lecturer and Undergraduate Coordinator) for her constant encouragement and all of the memories from studying abroad in Germany. She would also like to give a shoutout to Danielle Shu (FRE Undergraduate Advisor) for pushing her to do Advanced Microeconomics and Econometrics. “Those challenging courses are probably the ones that I learned the most in!”
Recommendation to Current FRE Students?
Sierra wants current FRE students to know: “Don’t think your career opportunities are ever limited! FRE is one of the most versatile degrees so use that to your advantage! Also, challenge yourself, do those internships, and don’t be afraid to make connections.”
If you’re interested in speaking to Sierra about networking or professional opportunities, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.