Alum of the Month - November 2020

Govind Sankar

While this is one of the most challenging times in the recent past, what is encouraging is that everyone has joined hands in working together to safely navigate this pandemic. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Govind Sankar


  • Programme studied: MSc Management of Information Systems and Digital Innovation
  • Year of Graduation: 2008
  • LinkedIn profile

Meet our November Alum of the Month, Govind Sankar. Govind is a derivatives trader at J.P. Morgan and talks about his roller coaster ride through three different careers, navigating the financial crisis of 2008 and the important lessons he learned from studying at LSE.

Tell us about your career journey since graduating from LSE.

I graduated in 2008 when at the peak of the financial crisis. My first job was at Lehman Brothers where I started the graduate training program to work as a Corporate Generalist. This lasted for a whole 15 days before the bank filed for bankruptcy and I was laid off with several thousand other employees. The financial crisis had announced itself with a big bang and everything looked very dark and gloomy overnight.

As an overseas student, obtaining a work visa was an additional challenge that I had to overcome. I had to be very inventive (like printing my CV on a white t-shirt with ‘Lehman Brothers’ in bold and going to job fairs) when it came to restarting my job hunt during these turbulent times. A bit of hard work and hundreds of applications later, I joined Deutsche Bank in December 2008 as an Analyst in the Equity Derivatives RAD technology where I worked until 2011. I moved to JP Morgan in 2011 as a Senior Associate in the SPG technology team before joining the SPG Derivatives Trading desk where once again I re-started at the very bottom.

I have had the privilege of three fresh starts to my career in three very different areas within the financial services industry – one as a Programmer, the second as a Desk Quant and finally as Trader. Another highlight was perhaps that JP Morgan ended up buying the old Lehman building and brought my whole journey a full circle, where I now find myself in the very same building where I started my career in London.

In 2018 I started a small sports start-up that aims to provide pro quality cricket training to children where they get the opportunity to learn from various international cricketers who have represented their country. I am very passionate about cricket and hoping through this start up I can give something back to the sport that I love.

LSE is a very strong brand name and I strongly believe the MSc Management of Information Systems and Digital Innovation (MISDI) course gives you all of the tools necessary to have a successful career in any field that you choose. This course made me think very differently to how an engineering or a science degree taught me to solve a problem. Throughout this course, you are constantly reminded that there is no right answer and that information systems are just as much about people as technology. For an engineer this can be very confusing, as you are programmed to think that every problem has only one unique solution. How wrong I was.

The ADMIS (or MISDI) family has alumni from all parts of the world working in numerous professions from start-ups to politics, banking to consulting. The alumni network is an invaluable resource that can help you through many difficult challenges and I would urge you to stay connected.

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your career?

I have always been a tech enthusiast and loved working in technology. One of the greatest challenges I have had to overcome in my career was to give up what I was good at and start fresh as a trader with very little or no skillset in finance. It was indeed a steep learning curve but I knew that opportunity does not come knocking twice and I took up the offer without giving it a second thought. I can vouch that the Masters program at LSE is very daunting and prepares you to face tough challenges head on.

You have worked at JP Morgan for over nine years and have been Vice President for over five. What is the most important lesson you have learned on this journey.

One of the most important lessons I have learned over the past 12 years working in financial services is always be afraid of getting too comfortable. Continuous learning is key, and you must always be ready to start afresh if need be.  With retirement age only going one way and pensions the other, anyone graduating today can expect to retire no earlier than 2066 (unless of course you hit the lottery). You have to continuously reinvent yourself as there is no guarantee that what you are doing now is going to exist in ten years, forget 50. 
Your role is based in London and you must be used to living a very busy lifestyle in the career you are in. What is your take on the longer-term effects of COVID-19 on cities and city lifestyles?
The socio-economic effect of the pandemic will take several decades to recover from. We will have to rethink our way of life taking into account several factors like re location of activities, working from home, travel and holidays, birthdays and festivities and many more- these are going to pose enormous challenges in the years to come. I am a glass half full sort of person and feel this pandemic will only intensify our obsession with growth and innovation. While this is one of the most challenging times in the recent past what is encouraging is that everyone has joined hands in working together to safely navigate this pandemic. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. 
Something that cheers me is the ‘never say die’ attitude of people, particularly in times of hardship and crisis. While everything seems to be crumbling and falling apart, you also see several wonderful stories about how COVID-19 has created a new set of entrepreneurs who are forging ahead and innovating during these tough times. I believe the world will find a way to move ahead as the human race always finds a way to overcome any challenge. In adversity we always tend to come together as a race. The world has overcome two world wars and several other crises. I pray we get through this one as well. 
You studied your undergraduate course at Anna University in Chennai and were very involved with the local community and with university life. Tell us about your time studying here and why you were inspired to study Information Technology?
I completed my bachelors at Anna University in Chennai where I studied Computer Science. I have several fond memories of my university days. One of the highlights of my time there was starting a chapter of the Rotaract Club at the university and encouraging students to get involved with the local community.  One of the lessons I learned as a young boy from my parents is when you give to charity, give with open arms. Never hold back. My proudest moments is without a doubt when we conducted a pulse polio campaign and inoculated over 5000 tribal children - a local record during my time. 

Share a sentence on your Covid-19 experience. Has it made you rethink your career goals or what is important to you?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made me realise the world is really small and no matter how far your near and dear ones are they are only a phone call away. This pandemic makes me think about work life balance in a very different light. By embracing technology, you can achieve a good balance (particularly for those working a desk job) without compromising on efficiency. I think my career goals would still stay the same but definitely the path towards achieving it would see significant changes.