Women's tennis alum and former All-East Coast Conference and Capital One Academic All-District 1 First Team selection, Kristyna Nepivodova ('13) is entering her 3rd year with Ategra Capital Management.
Nepivodova, who was forced to serve underhand her final season of college with the Firebirds after a shoulder surgery, says she is currently playing the best tennis of her life. She recently competed in the Citi Open Doubles Tournament in Washington, D.C. Assistant Director of Athletics for Communication, Eric Zedalis, recently caught up with Kristyna for a short interview.
EZ: Tell me about your career path since you graduated UDC.
KN: Right after finishing my MBA, I joined Ategra Capital Management, LLC as an Associate. Ategra is an Investment Manager for two hedge funds - one focused on U.S. undervalued financials, the other one invested in U.S. large capitalization stocks which utilizes both long and short investment strategies. Ategra also manages a Private Wealth Management division. We are based in Vienna, VA. In December 2015, I passed CFA Level 1 exam and work towards Level 2. In October 2016, when I obtained a H1-B visa, I was promoted to Senior Associate in the company. My major responsibilities are working with the management teams of the firm's portfolio companies and maintaining careful oversight of the performance of each investment. I manage Ategra's relationships with its outside brokers and professional advisers. I participate in the regular review of the company's existing portfolio and attend bank industry conferences offering private meetings with bank management teams. That means I travel quite a bit to major U.S. cities such as: Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Currently, I'm awaiting my Green Card which I have been sponsored for by Ategra and already approved for. Upon the arrival of the card, I will be promoted to Principal.
EZ: Also, tell me about your tennis career after UDC.
KN: Following my last semester of collegiate tennis, I started helping at tennis clubs in Northern Virginia. In summer 2013, I worked as Tennis Assistant Pro at Langley Swim and Tennis Club in McLean and Cardinal Hill Swim and Racket Club in Vienna, VA. I also worked as Tennis Professional at Westwood Country Club in Vienna until I graduated.
I joined my first USTA team in fall 2014 and have played on various teams since. Currently, I play on NOVA, DC and MOCO Women's and Mixed Doubles teams. My Mixed Doubles 10.0 team won the National Championship in November 2017. My 5.0+ Women's Team just won Mid-Atlantic Sectionals and is headed to Nationals in Orlando in October 2018. In USTA team Leagues, I'm currently 27-1 for the year (2018) - all doubles. I also represented Mid-Atlantic at the Sears Cup (Philadelphia) in June 2018 where I won both my singles and doubles matches, my first time playing on grass.
This year I also came back to the tournament scene. My doubles partner Nicole Hammond and I won the 2018 Citi Open Wild Card Challenge tournament, receiving the Wild Card to the Main Draw of the Citi Open Women Doubles tournament in July. It was WTA debut for both of us. At Citi we were defeated by Lauren Davis and Kristie Ahn (both USA) in the first round. It was an amazing experience, and we learned we can compete with anyone. We were getting stronger every game, getting used to the level of the competition. Such strong competition is hardly locally replicated. I also won a 10.0 Mixed Doubles tournament with my partner Chris Downs this June.
I'm currently playing the best tennis of my life, finally taking advantage of a strong serve. Following my last shoulder surgery in October 2012, I thought I was never going to fully recover. I'm very happy I don't have to serve underhand anymore.
EZ: How are you enjoying your career? What do you like about it?
KN: I'm really grateful for how my career has progressed. I have very experienced professionals around me, and I learn more about the business every day from them. When I'm in the office, I'm mostly a bank analyst and a stock and option trader - which I particularly enjoy. Since we are a small company, I closely watch how it's run. I love the variability of my position - travelling to meet community bank top management teams (mostly publicly listed companies) is an important aspect of understanding the quality of each investment.
It's very much like tennis, the growth potential of my job motivates me and pushes me to work hard every day. I'm currently studying for Series 65 exam and as soon as I pass it, I will become more involved in both the large capitalization fund and wealth management services. With that, I will learn to analyze large companies of all sectors, utilize different investment strategies, and use much wider range of investment vehicles.
EZ: When did you know what you wanted to do for a career? And how did you go about making it a reality?
KN: Honestly, I didn't know what career path I wanted to pursue until I was almost finished with my MBA. The fact that UDC only offers a general MBA served me well - it helped me to find myself. I really enjoyed Financial Management and Investment Management classes and decided pursuing career in finance would suit my personality well. Thankfully, I had built a quality network during my tennis coaching years and when time was close to graduation, I found courage to ask a few of my tennis clients about job opportunities in finance. Interviewing wasn't easy for a graduate with no professional experience. International student-athletes have a disadvantage when seeking employment after they finish school; the combination of little spare time during the years on sports teams, and F-1 status which limits working in the U.S., makes landing a job tough. My employer, whom I had coached for almost a year before being hired by his company, gave me this opportunity based on the qualities he had seen in me on the tennis court as well as during a lengthy interview. He requested I read his published book and provide him with my best work from MBA prior to the interview. I prepared diligently and tried to stay calm and confident during the interview. I received an offer immediately following the interview.
I learned that the quality of one's resume is critical - good grammar, no misspellings, stated quantitative results. Power of asking a business owner for a position is real, no matter how little the chances are. Networking is a must. And it also takes luck.
EZ: How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for life after college?
KN: Being a student-athlete is no walk in a park. Neither is life after college. No matter how much you all at the athletic department reminded us though, it really takes the person to find the desire to excel, to realize the pressure is real, and to mature faster than our competition - full-time students with no commitments such as sports and daily jobs. From day one as a student-athlete, I gained countless "tangible" and "intangible" qualities. The tangibles are easy to define: learned the language, finished my education, honed my tennis skills. The intangibles evolve continuously over life, and I believe I accumulated many of these during my college years. The daily school-tennis routine made me time-manage, plan ahead, deal with pressure, strive for positive results, refuse to give up. I learned to overcome major obstacles and hardship, to look for plan D if A, B or C fail, and I grasped the concept of vision.
Student-athletes are strong, exceptional people, but it's important to understand that the qualities a student-athlete builds during his/ her sports career don't guarantee a good job. Employers find them attractive but not decisive - they somewhat serve as a tiebreaker.
EZ: How do you still follow UDC Athletics today?
KN: It's difficult to admit it but following UDC Athletic with my schedule is a challenge. Occasionally I catch up on reading website articles and I managed to watch a couple of tennis matches since leaving the team. Social Media helps greatly, I follow UDC Athletics on Instagram and Facebook. I'm grateful for the power of visuals and brief narratives. I'm proud to see our student-athletes excel, and I'm grateful to see them help the community. I take pride in being a Firebird alumnus, and obviously I'm very proud of coach Mahaffey and our successors. I always wish our student-athletes the best of luck in their seasons and hope they can bring trophies home once again.