New Alum's Path Takes an Unexpected Turn

Gennadiy Kapkanov

For recent LeBow graduate Gennadiy Kapkanov, the moment that stands out most in his college career is the one that made coming to Drexel possible.

The Northeast Philadelphia native knew that his family didn’t have the financial resources to pay for him to attend college. When he was accepted to Drexel, he received the Liberty Scholarship, a need-based award that provides full-tuition support to 50 students in each class. “It always goes back to that pivotal moment,” he says. “The scholarship led to Drexel, which led to co-ops and to real-world experience, which led to having disposable income while in college and to experiences that I wouldn’t have been able to afford or had time to do.”

An economics major with a finance minor, Kapkanov focused on economics early on, with more finance courses during his final two years, and the trajectory of his co-ops mirror that process of deepening his experience in finance: first working in a support role at Susquehanna International Group, then at PNC Capital Advisors in a research role supporting the firm’s sector analysts.

That second co-op, he feels, accelerated his development. “At that point, I hadn’t had many high-level finance courses, and then I’m learning about how they make valuations of a company,” he says. In addition to valuations, Kapkanov delved into discussions with investment managers about their processes and how they arrive at and defend their decisions: “Learning things like that was invaluable.”

His third and final co-op, in a financial advisor role with Goldman Sachs, built on his earlier experience and set him up well, he thought, for a career in finance. “If you’re an investment manager, you have to be an inch wide and a mile deep – you have to be a specialist,” he says. On the other hand, “if you’re an advisor, you’re more of a generalist. You have to be an inch deep but a mile wide.”

His immersion in finance grew even more in fall 2017 through taking the Applied Portfolio Management class (FIN 341), better known as The Dragon Fund, taught by Associate Clinical Professor of Finance Diana Sandberg. “It’s not a typical class with a syllabus per se,” he says. “You’re learning things on the fly and you have to keep track of what’s going on in the real world. That was the type of class that I think bridges the gap between textbook and actual application.”

Kapkanov cites Sandberg and David Becher, associate professor of finance, as “someone you could reach out to with a personal question after you’re done in class with them.”

“It took me a while to get over that hump and understand the value of your professors outside of the classroom,” he says. “A lot of professors, I realize now, have really interesting careers and interesting advice outside of the course material to teach you.”

Throughout the job interview process, Kapkanov found himself increasingly drawn to other related fields, and it came as a surprise to his friends and classmates that he’ll be starting his post-collegiate career not in finance, but in real estate. He’s staying in Philadelphia to work as a Commercial Real Estate Agent for Coldwell Banker, which he says stood out from the financial firms he interviewed with.

“It was a lot more conversational, and while they were interested in some of the more technical aspects, there was a lot more focus on personal career goals and my long-term view of things.”

Before he can start in his role as an agent, Kapkanov must first pass a real estate licensing exam, which he admits is “not something I prepared for in college” and aims to do as soon as possible. Post-graduation, he plans to travel throughout Spain with three of his closest friends, whom he met through the Liberty Scholars Community.

“We hit it off and we’ve been close ever since,” he says, adding that the cohort includes two accounting majors and a finance major. “They’re all going to work for Big Four firms, and I’m the black sheep who went to work in real estate.”

He calls going in this unexpected direction “almost a gut instinct, but at the same time it was calculated. I’m happy with my decision, and I can’t wait to get started.”