Each Friday this summer, the Daniels Newsroom is telling the stories of the behind-the-scenes staff who empower students, faculty and the College at large.
Ali Machado went from banker to career coach, and wouldn’t change a thing
He knows it starts with finance and is focused on advancing the career outlook for the College’s finance-focused students. Regardless of his title, Machado’s path to get it wasn’t an ordinary one. And yet, he doesn’t regret leaving a high-profile career in banking behind to do it.
Machado’s windowless, hallway office at Daniels is a radical change from his past career. He followed his family’s footsteps and spent two decades in the corporate banking world before returning to the University of Denver.
Machado studied engineering for his undergraduate degree, and then the Venezuela native came to Daniels in 1996 with his wife Elizabeth to earn an MBA from the College while his wife received her master’s in finance. They’d return to Venezuela and work in banking, just as Machado’s great grandfather, grandfather, uncles, brother and more did, for almost two decades. Machado spent that time at Citibank, Delsur Banco Universal and Republic International Bank.
Then, in 2009, he was fortunate enough to acquire a banking license, which allowed him to launch his own bank. He immediately called his brother, and the duo began planning their venture.
“If I don’t do this now, I’m going to regret it when I’m in my 70s,” Machado recalled thinking. But this was on the heels of the global financial crisis, and starting a bank didn’t seem like the most fiscally responsible move at the time to many.
“People called us crazy,” he said. Machado and his brother forged on, starting and leading Commonwealth Bank until they sold it in 2015.
That experience proved invaluable to Machado, and he was looking to impart that wisdom on the next generation of finance leaders. He returned to Denver at the time of the sale, finding stability for his family while Elizabeth pursued a second advanced degree at Daniels. The family was back in Colorado, living on a student visa, when Machado was presented with the opportunity that would alter his future.
He was serving on the Executive Advisory Board when Brent Chrite, the College’s dean at the time, asked him to stay at Daniels in a full-time capacity. The College would bring Machado on in a career coaching role that gave him the chance to work with finance students in an advisory fashion. Machado leapt at the opportunity.
“I often get teased that I’m volunteering here, but it’s been a privilege,” he said.
Regardless of his title or office location, Machado is just happy to be back on campus, and is willing to do whatever it takes to improve the outcomes of students. His official title, finance internship director, gives him the chance to help guide current students to top-tier industry internships at major financial institutions.
He’s uniquely qualified for the role, bringing decades of banking experience into each conversation and revealing the secrets of the industry to help students get a leg up.
“In the corporate banking world, you need to understand that this is a profession that you open everything with your technical skills, but at the end of the day it’s about communication,” he said. “The financial world is about communication. If you don’t trust me, you aren’t going to deal with me or my institution.”
He doesn’t pretend to be an academic. The banker turned career coach says the students are the reason he shows up every day. He recognizes the value of mentorship, fondly recalling his relationship with former faculty member Don McCubbrey that extended long past his days as a Daniels student. That’s something he’s looking to pay forward.
“I try to have conversations with our students to find out why they want to be in the industry,” he said, adding that the ‘why’ is more important than anything else.
When he’s not working with students, Machado loves to spend time with his wife and children, enjoys a round or two of golf, and runs a family investment office with his brother.
He laughs at where his career has taken him, from running his own bank in Venezuela to submitting a weekly timecard at his alma mater. But he wouldn’t change a thing.
“My most important title here is an alum,” he said. “That is a relationship that is never going to end with the school.”