An analyst for one of the leading global investment companies, BlackRock, Inc., Mykhaylo Ignatenko ‘11 shares his experiences at White Mountain and what led him to where he is today.
Could you talk a little bit about your experience at White Mountain?
Growing up in Ukraine, I knew I wanted to study at an American university so I started looking at high schools in the U.S. White Mountain was like some sort of a fairy tale. It was the complete opposite of what I knew. I grew up in suburban Ukraine. WMS was in the mountains and had a tiny student population with student-centered and individualized teaching practices. It also had all of these amazing outdoor opportunities.
I took every opportunity to try new things at The White Mountain School. Despite not being very outdoorsy, I learned to ski. I did some mountain biking. I even did Farm & Forest and a little bit of rock climbing. One of my favorite memories was going on a Field Course along the Appalachian Trail. We stayed in tents and everybody was miserable because it was raining. Even our sleeping bags were wet. But, we were able to talk to locals about the impact of the trail on their lives, their businesses and the environment. Looking back I even enjoyed the whole experience.
Where did you go after leaving White Mountain?
Once again I wanted something completely different. At this point, I knew Europe and the northeast, so my next step led me to the midwest and the College of St. Scholastica. I took full advantage of and embraced the liberal arts atmosphere. Although I majored in math, I took as many classes in as many subjects as I could. The educational philosophy at St. Scholastica was very similar to White Mountain. You can’t just study one narrow thing in one subject area. You have to go out and explore academics broadly and deeply.
You graduated from St. Scholastica with a degree in mathematics. How did you end up working at BlackRock?
After I graduated from St. Scholastica I moved to Minneapolis and worked for a company that made educational apps for teachers. I liked Minneapolis a lot but I wanted to branch out again after going to college and then staying in-state and working in Minnesota. I discovered BlackRock because it combined my two biggest interests – technology and my professional experience making apps and my personal interest in the stock market and dabbling in stock trading. A position opened up in San Francisco and I decided to take it. Now the financial management industry is changing so much it might be better to study computer science to get into that industry than the traditional route of business and economics. An article about BlackRock in the New York Times the other day really opened people’s eyes to the world of computer-managed funds.
I’ll definitely be with BlackRock for a while, at least until somebody writes some cool algorithm that replaces the need for my position. There are so many ideas and startups happening just south of here, in Silicon Valley. I won’t necessarily stay in financial management, but there’s a lot of great energy a short commute from San Francisco.