ISTAT News | 04 June 2019
An Interview with ISTAT U Program Alum Connor Duchen
ISTAT University, or ISTAT U, provides an overview of the many facets of the aviation finance and leasing industry and exposes students to real-world concepts and methodologies. The curriculum has been specifically tailored to help prepare students for internship as well as long-term career opportunities in the field of aviation finance, leasing and trading. In the first installment of this alumni Q&A feature, we speak with Connor Duchen, an analyst at SkyWorks Capital who went through the program.
Tell me about your path to being an analyst at SkyWorks Capital.
When I began my collegiate career at Purdue University, I was pursuing an aviation technology degree. However, I knew that I wanted to tie aviation into a more finance-oriented career path, so I began concurrently pursuing a degree in finance. My junior year, one of my professors, Denver Lopp, introduced me to ISTAT. After doing some research, I was fairly certain that aircraft finance would be an excellent way to tie together my interests in aviation and finance. I ended up joining ISTAT that fall and attending my first ISTAT Holiday Reception in December. At the Holiday Reception, I began introducing myself to folks around the room, and I was fortunate to meet some of the SkyWorks team. Within a few weeks, I had received an offer for a summer internship with SkyWorks. That summer, I had a tremendous experience, and I knew that SkyWorks was the place for me. I continued working remotely for SkyWorks while finishing up my degrees, and then upon graduation in December 2017, I joined SkyWorks full-time.
What interests you about aviation finance and trading?
Ever since I was young, I have had a passion for aviation. However, none of the traditional routes, such as being a pilot, sounded like quite the right fit. What really interested me about aviation finance is that I would be around aviation but in a role that helped determine the direction of an airline. Because the aircraft themselves play such an important role, I find dealing with the assets to be an interesting part of the business. Additionally, working with airlines on strategic decisions regarding their fleet and how they finance aircraft is something I find extremely rewarding.
How did you get introduced to ISTAT U 2.0?
To be honest, I don’t totally recall how I was introduced to the program. My recollection is that the program was mentioned to me by [ISTAT Foundation Chairman Jep Thornton] or [ISTAT Foundation Vice Chairman Damon D’Agostino] somewhere along the way. Once I found out about the program, I was eager to participate, as the value of the program was self-evident.
What has been your experience with the program?
My experience with the ISTAT U program was tremendous. While at Purdue, my studies in aviation and finance were in separate schools within the university. While both provided an excellent education, each was siloed off from the other. The ISTAT U program provided the opportunity to bring these two areas together in one unique program. I can say unequivocally that the ISTAT U program offered the most practical curriculum of any course I took during my collegiate career. The program provided a broad overview of topics that are now incredibly useful in my day-to-day work. I cannot recommend the course highly enough to anyone interested in working in aviation finance and trading.
Is there one thing in particular you learned that you found enlightening?
I think one of the unique things about this program is that it takes a very hands-on approach to teaching the material. It wasn’t a course that was about reading a textbook. It was the type of course that said “here’s a lease, please model the lessor’s return, taking into account the lease cash flows, maintenance reserves, security deposit, disposition of the aircraft, etc.” The hands-on experience in the course helped me gain valuable knowledge about the industry, and it increased my understanding of financial modeling. The unique set of knowledge I gained in the ISTAT University program provided me a significant leg up at the start of my internship at SkyWorks.
What is your dream aviation role?
At the risk of sounding a bit corny, SkyWorks is my dream job. I find the work at SkyWorks highly rewarding and challenging, and I couldn’t be happier here. I have learned a vast amount since joining the firm, and I credit that to being surrounded by a team of highly experienced industry veterans. My sights are set on continuing to learn and trying to be better at what I do each and every day. I feel extremely fortunate to have found such a rewarding career at SkyWorks.
About ISTAT U
ISTAT University, or ISTAT U, was lauched in 2015; the program provides an overview of the many facets of the aviation finance and leasing industry and exposes students to real world concepts and methodologies. The course materials have been developed by the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) faculty working in partnership with ISTAT industry practitioners. The ISTAT U curriculum has been specifically tailored to help prepare students for internship as well as long term career opportunities in the exciting field of aviation finance, leasing and trading.
Learn more about ISTAT U.