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Flexibility & Fatherhood: Q&A with Tom Rajan, Master of Fintech Student

“My kids are the center of my universe,” Tom Rajan says.

He is committed to making sure their emotional and physical needs are met – no matter the circumstances. That’s why he understood that he needed to be careful when choosing the right place to pursue a graduate degree. 

After more than 20 years in the banking industry, Tom knew it was time to flex his knowledge and learn more about the evolving technology in the finance world. Taking on graduate school while navigating a full-time career and family brings unique challenges, and he is determined to tackle them. 

We sat down with Tom to learn more about his experience going back to school as a professional and, more importantly, as a father. 

School of Professional Studies (SPS): What drew you to Wake Forest School of Professional Studies and the Master of Financial Technology and Analytics program?

Tom Rajan (TR): Most of my professional experience has more or less been in the payments space of the banking industry. I began looking for the next step that would help me better serve the organization I’m at and my career overall. It felt like fintech was the best avenue. I started researching and Wake Forest’s program really stood out. It was important to me to find something 100% online and with the flexibility for me to still be present for my family. 

SPS: How has the transition of you going back to school been for your family? 

TR: My wife and I have had to develop a ‘shotgun approach’ to things. It’s kind of like, ‘if you see something that needs to be done, just do it.’ That’s been really helpful for us. We have two children, and our son is autistic and nonverbal. In general, that poses its own challenges in making sure his needs are adequately met. 

SPS: So it sounds like balance has already been a part of your family’s life?

TR: Definitely. We’ve become involved in the neurodivergent community. For my wife especially, it’s become a life calling. She went back to work as a paraprofessional and is currently earning her special education certification. But at the same time, we have a daughter, who does not have autism. We try really hard to make sure we’re as equally engaged in her life as we are with her brother’s. 

SPS: It sounds like being engaged is as equally as important to you as being present. What has it been like trying to stay engaged with your family since starting the Master of Fintech and Analytics program last fall?

TR: It hasn’t necessarily been easy, but it’s more than doable. The structure of the program allows me to meet the needs of my children, my wife, and my job. The asynchronous classes give me the flexibility to work in studying and assignments around the other priorities in my life. But even with that, I’ve had to develop a regiment and find a groove that works for me.

SPS: What does your study regiment or routine look like? 

TR: I’ve found what works for me which is dedicating 30-45 minutes a day to school and my assignments. But I think the most important part of that is the 10 minutes I take before I even start the work. As a parent who’s also working full time, my life is hectic. I’ve found that taking some time to collect myself before diving into course works improves the quality of my work. 

SPS: How do you plan to adjust that routine going into the summer semester? 

TR: I’m actually taking the summer off and will return in the fall. It was the right move for us and will allow me to spend more time with my family. We have a couple of road trips planned and, in general, just enjoy life at a slower pace together. I’m really grateful that the program allows for this kind of freedom. Everyone at Wake was very supportive and helpful. 

SPS: What’s been your biggest takeaway from the program so far?

TR: There’s so many. I would have to say that one of my biggest takeaways has been the applicable knowledge of data modeling and data management. Those are tools I’m able to use right away in my professional life. But I also think another important thing I’ve learned is the importance of enjoying my time in school and involving my family in the process. I was working on an assignment once when my nine year old daughter Emma came in. She asked what I was doing, and I told her, “I’m learning about artificial intelligence. Let’s learn it together.” Of course, we just covered the basics, but it was something I was able to share with her. That’s an opportunity I’m truly grateful for. 

Learn more about our online Master of Fintech program today.