Paying Excel Forward

All of our Excel journeys start somewhere. For many people, it’s a first job using Excel to keep track of tasks or log working hours. For others, it is a college class. For Prarthana Magon, it was the Financial Modeling Club (FMC) at the University of Arizona. Her Excel journey led from the FMC to the MECC and will soon take her to her first job as a Wall Street investor. Along the way, a key focus for Prarthana has been engaging her fellow students and paying it forward by kick starting their Excel journeys. In this edition of the MECC Chronicles, we highlight Prarthana’s journey to inspire you to get your fellow students involved, and pay Excel forward in your own way.

Prarthana’s journey began as a freshman “not knowing anything about Excel.” When she learned that the Financial Modeling Club was starting, she joined as a founding member to learn technical skills that would help her career. For Prarthana, learning Excel was more approachable than financial modeling, because the MECC presented Excel as games and puzzles, emphasizing logic skills and Excel formulas and techniques over the need for advanced financial knowledge. Learning through the MECC also provided early dividends. “Academically, it has allowed my assignments to be a breeze. Professionally, the MECC provided great interview material and helped me get my internships at Tigress Financial Partners, Bank of America, and an upcoming job at Blackstone. You learn problem-solving, quick thinking, and resilience. All skills that are transferable in all areas of your life.”

Prarthana Magon, University of Arizona Eller College of Management

Moving from the FMC to competing in the MECC took overcoming several obstacles. First, she needed a nudge from her mentor to try the competition. “I was afraid of failing, and it took someone else believing in me to take the leap of faith.” Prarthana’s leap of faith was rewarded, and in her first year, she finished in the top 20 and qualified for the MECC finals. Second, she needed a shift in perspective on what it means to fail. When she didn’t finish on the podium, she embraced failure as a part of the learning process. She realized that growth stems from resilience and consistent practice and now encourages other students to take a leap of faith and try an Excel competition.“ Everyone starts somewhere, and you learn by failing, so get those reps in!”

In Prarthana’s senior year, in addition to being president of the FMC, she extended her role in the MECC by mentoring the University of Arizona team. She practiced cases alongside her mentor, and in turn, she coached the students on the team and in the Financial Modeling Club. Prarthana and her team qualified for the MECC finals. Individually, Prarthana had a strong finish. While she didn’t make the podium, she ranked 4th in the US and 12th internationally. The University of Arizona team, however, became MECC Champions. Prarthana firmly believes that competing has significantly enhanced her skills in a meaningful manner and now advocates for other students to engage in competitions as well.

Prarthana’s successes and direct encouragement has inspired many University of Arizona students to get involved with the Financial Modeling Club and the MECC. Under her leadership, membership in the Financial Modeling Club grew from a half-dozen students to over 100. Enrollment in the new Excel esports class grew from under ten to almost 30 once Prarthana began encouraging students to get involved. She shared, “You learn how to think, you learn basic logic skills, and those skills go really, really far in any career you choose. Those were my motivations to learn, and I wanted to share that joy in learning and that experience with other students. That’s what initially sparked my interest in wanting to help other students get involved in learning Excel.” 

To those contemplating their own MECC journey, Prarthana’s advice is simple: compete! Start with one competition and let the experience unfold organically. It’s not just about winning; it’s about the journey of growth, learning career-essential skills, and helping others along the way. 

From a novice in Excel to a seasoned competitor and mentor, Prarthana’s experience displays the power of dedication and community. As she prepares to graduate, her legacy serves as inspiration for future Excel-ers at the University of Arizona and beyond. How will your Excel journey unfold and how can you pay Excel forward?

Karthik Kannan, Dean of Eller College of Management, Prarthana Magon, David Brown, Associate Professor of Finance at Eller College of Management
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