U.S. Army Officer to Aspiring Charterholder
"I attribute my passing score entirely to Salt Solutions," says Zach Zimmerman, who succeeded at CFA Level I using our platform. We spoke with Zach about how earning his charter will help him realize his dream career.
Zach Zimmerman is a U.S. Army officer who recently passed the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) Level I exam using materials from Salt Solutions! He's studying for the CFA® exams to transition to a career in venture capital focused on early-stage technology startups in cybersecurity. We spoke with Zach via email about why the Salt Solutions platform worked for him.
Could you describe your career right now and what you do professionally?
While I’m very enthusiastic about the CFA Program, my current profession is almost completely unrelated to finance. I specialize in cybersecurity as an officer in the U.S. Army. My experience has provided great exposure to the defense and technology sectors, but with less than a year remaining on my commitment I’m ready to pivot to a new career!
What is your motivation for earning your CFA charter?
Without the required work experience, the CFA charter is still an intermediate-term goal. My short-term motivation is learning the fundamentals of investment decision-making to help bridge my industry transition from the military to finance. I’m also in the process of applying to Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs, and a passing score on [CFA Level I exam] was a great addition to my resume. Although people often frame the CFA Program and the MBA route as substitutes, I hope to leverage them as complements. (Editor's note: We're onboard with this approach, as you'll read in our CFA vs. MBA article.)
What is your biggest dream in terms of your career and earning your charter?
I would love to eventually make a career in venture capital, focusing on early-stage technology startups—especially those involved in cybersecurity! The dream is to work at the intersection of my two passions, so that every day brings new curiosity and continued growth. Earning a CFA charter would help me stand out as someone willing to put in the work, and it will help me develop the mental frameworks needed to succeed in this space.
Earning a CFA charter would help me stand out as someone willing to put in the work
What obstacles have you faced in earning your CFA charter and taking the CFA exams?
Although I majored in economics as an undergrad, it took a lot of studying to dust off that knowledge. As someone who doesn’t work with financial concepts in my day job, I relied on Salt Solutions to catch up to the level of competency required by the CFA curriculum. Time management is certainly the hardest part of preparing for these exams; concise lessons and a solid learning plan are critical.
How did you feel the moment you realized that you’d passed your first exam?
I was genuinely surprised and relieved! It was a hard test. The pass rate on the exam was 26%, which seems incredibly low given how many hours candidates put into their studies. Passing gave me a great sense of accomplishment and inspired me to keep working towards that next career.
Passing gave me a great sense of accomplishment and inspired me to keep working towards that next career
What made you decide that Salt Solutions was your best choice for CFA exam preparation?
I originally looked at many exam prep options and even considered using multiple sources. However, after trying out trial content from several providers, I made the decision to completely rely on Salt Solutions. I appreciated how concise and complete the lessons were; they allowed me to make the most efficient use of my limited time. The modern web interface was also a big motivator, as it was simple and engaging. Aside from occasional practice questions from the official CFA Program portal, I spent virtually all my study time on Salt’s platform.
I spent virtually all my study time on Salt’s platform
What was your favorite feature of Salt Solutions and how did it make exam preparation easier?
Feedback is essential in my learning process. If I had to choose one feature, it would be the in-depth explanations following practice questions. The harder ones even have videos walking you through the solution. Other online courses will often refer back to lectures or provide only brief remarks on why your answer was incorrect. Salt didn’t cut any corners here— the content quality really shows.
Thank you for sharing your story, Zach! Keep us posted as you transition from the U.S. Army to pursuing your charter.