When Heather Hauck graduated from the D'Amore-McKim School of Business (DMSB) in 1999, she went right to work in investment banking. But just a few years into her budding career, she left the industry. 

“I loved my job, but I opted out too early,” she confesses. “I had no female role models in the industry, lacked mentorship, and, frankly, I missed out on an opportunity for early financial independence.”

Today, Hauck is the Director of Student Engagement, Affinity, and Inclusion and a Senior Co-op Coordinator at DMSB. She helps expose students to competitive co-ops and summer analyst programs and helps them find their footing in their professional paths.

In 2018, after noticing a dip in female finance concentrators, Hauck identified a need for more services geared toward supporting women interested in pursuing finance. She established the Women in Finance initiative to help young women discover finance, achieve that financial independence she'd missed out on, and blaze their own path in an industry that's traditionally male-dominated. 

“It started as a passion project,” she says. “I wanted to explore the impact that providing such early exposure might have on women in their freshmen year.” 

Hauck then founded the Women in Finance Trek, a cornerstone of the Women in Finance initiative, in partnership with Mary King, DMSB'19, who'd been an instrumental student leader of the Women in Finance initiative and an Investment Analyst with Backcast Partners at the time.

Women in Finance participants listen to a panel discussion during their NYC Trek in 2024.

A three-day journey to New York City in early February, the annual trek is a transformational experience for both first-year students and a mix of junior and senior mentors who lead first-years in preparation, provide support, facilitate coffee chats, moderate fireside chats, and support student reflection upon their return to campus. 

“Students play an important role in the trek's execution, and it couldn't be done at this scale and scope without their partnership,” Hauck says. “There's also significant student preparation and reflection that happens to maximize impact.”

A combination of firm visits, fireside chats, and more intimate coffee chats with DMSB alumni, the trek offers exposure, plus endless opportunities to make connections, ask questions, and gain familiarity with a world that can feel stubbornly inaccessible to those on the outside. Hauck is meticulous about planning the trek, including which industry areas are included and providing exposure to all levels of alumni.

“If you're interested in finance, and you think that it might be for you, this will give you a really strong understanding of what that means,” says King. “And without being in person and talking to these people, it's hard to really understand what the job actually is. What is the team culture? What is the industry like?”

At the heart of the journey are DMSB alumni—mostly female—who range from recently graduated and starting their careers to seasoned professionals. 

“Most of the alumni who are involved were involved with the program as students and we've maintained relationships with them,” says Hauck.

Having strong connections is essential—and it's a testament to the power of the Women in Finance initiative that alumni are so dedicated to paying it forward.

“Some of the people that Heather's able to get students in touch with are hard to get in touch with otherwise,” says King. “They're relatively senior people with full calendars. The fact that she's able to get them in a room for that long—it's pretty remarkable.”

And King knows.

In 2021, she switched gears and became an Investment Associate with Aligned Climate Capital, a climate-focused investment firm where she works on the venture side. After a year with the firm, King became Senior Associate in 2022, and in January 2024, she was named a Vice President. It's women like King who lead the trek's intimate conversations with DMSB's future female financial game changers, like Business Administration major Riya Maknojia, DMSB'27.

Maknojia learned about the Women in Finance Trek the summer before coming to Northeastern. While doing her research on campus clubs and organizations, she came across the Women in Finance Instagram and clicked ‘follow.'

“I was exposed to many interesting events, but the one that caught my eye the most was the trek,” she recalls. “I applied because I wanted to present myself to the finance industry as early as possible and make connections early in my professional career. Hearing about how we would have the chance to speak with incredibly successful women in such a male-dominated field was very motivating.”

International Business major Aastha Das, DMSB'24, has been involved in Women in Finance since sophomore year, even while not concentrating in Finance, and serves as Co-President of the leadership team and a student advisor. A mentor on this year's trek, Das is headed to work at one of the companies she recently visited—and that's all thanks to the trek.

“I was able to take so much from the experience through making real connections with alumni while facilitating conversations during firm visits and coffee chats,” says Das. “And I've talked to alumnae even after the trek just through reaching out and saying, ‘Hi, I'd love to have a conversation.'”

Das says she knew having a healthcare management concentration wouldn't hinder her from working in finance so long as she picked up experience along the way, which she did, thanks to the Wall Street Prep Series through the Women in Finance initiative, and co-ops with G2 Capital Advisors and FTI Consulting. There, Das gained real-world experience in the investment banking and consulting space, thanks to exposure to finance and connections with dedicated alumni and peer mentors from the Women in Finance Initiative, truly revealing the power of the organization's network.

“It's so empowering to know that so many people want to support you without even knowing you, and they're willing to take an hour out of their day just to answer questions and talk you through things,” says Das, who plans to remain involved with the trek after graduating, too.

For Maknojia, the trek was equally affirming and confidence-building—and it wasn't just about hearing from the alumni; she also enjoyed hearing from her peers. “One of my favorite parts was interacting with the fourth-year mentors and hearing about their experiences on campus and what steps they took to get to where they are today,” she says.

“After returning, I feel confident and supported by my peers, mentors, and professionals in the industry. I left this trek learning about many different careers in finance and how to leverage my strengths to pursue a career path that aligns with my goals.”

Business Administration major Eleanor Eskandar, DMSB'27, was uplifted by the immense ethnic diversity of the alumni she met on the trek.

“Not only did they disprove the gender stereotypes, but the group also consisted of broad representation across all cultures,” she says.

Even though it's been a few weeks now, she's still glowing from the experience.

“This journey meant everything to me,” Eskandar says. “While we can dream all day about what we want to do in the future, sitting down and having a woman who also went to Northeastern University tell us her story made everyone feel empowered that we too can accomplish our goals.”

Women in Finance on NYC Trek in 2024.