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Extensive networking to obtain a role at a small asset manager

I have been working in bottom-up buy side equity research at a small asset manager for the past 1.5 years. I'm interested in attempting to pursue a role in quantitative portfolio management / research (I was a math major in college and developed an interest in the field by frequently speaking with guys in the quant group at my firm). I am considering applying for MS in Quant Finance / Financial Engineering / Financial Math programs, given that I don't have the right skillset for asset management quant roles at the moment (I only have basic skills in Python, R & Java and very limited knowledge about portfolio management from reading a few academic papers and white papers a week). My question is whether it makes sense to attempt to land an entry-level quant role at a small regional asset manager without a master's program if I spend significant time over the next year improving my skill set through Coursera / Kaggle and maybe trying to create some analyses at work (such as one based on my fund's historical exposure to different factors) that would help my team and help me learn. Any feedback would be much appreciated.
 
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