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Home / Markets / Stock Markets /  Career advice from private equity’s leading women

Career advice from private equity’s leading women

We asked some of this year’s honorees to share career-building advice for other women just starting out in private equity. 

Tips from our 2022 Women to Watch honorees for women embarking on careers in private equity

Women have gradually made inroads into the ranks of private-equity professionals, although they remain only a small percentage of those at senior levels in the industry. Each year since 2015, WSJ Pro Private Equity has honored senior and rising leaders across the industry with our Women to Watch list. We asked some of this year’s honorees to share career-building advice for other women just starting out in private equity. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Women have gradually made inroads into the ranks of private-equity professionals, although they remain only a small percentage of those at senior levels in the industry. Each year since 2015, WSJ Pro Private Equity has honored senior and rising leaders across the industry with our Women to Watch list. We asked some of this year’s honorees to share career-building advice for other women just starting out in private equity. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Lucy Heintz, Head of Energy Infrastructure, Actis

It’s really important to focus on your technical skills and on doing deals. It’s important not to forget that that’s how a private-equity career is made…The other aspect is that as you grow in experience, you realize that understanding people and being interested in people is one of the most important skills that you can have. You learn your technical skills, you learn how to manage deals, you learn how to negotiate. But actually, at the end of the day, it’s all about people, being interested in people, empathetic to people, developing [emotional intelligence], being able to listen—[these] are incredibly important skills and they unlock a lot.

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Lucy Heintz, Head of Energy Infrastructure, Actis

It’s really important to focus on your technical skills and on doing deals. It’s important not to forget that that’s how a private-equity career is made…The other aspect is that as you grow in experience, you realize that understanding people and being interested in people is one of the most important skills that you can have. You learn your technical skills, you learn how to manage deals, you learn how to negotiate. But actually, at the end of the day, it’s all about people, being interested in people, empathetic to people, developing [emotional intelligence], being able to listen—[these] are incredibly important skills and they unlock a lot.

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Ruulke Bagijn, Head of Global Investment Solutions, Carlyle Group Inc.

Embrace opportunities, embrace new projects, and embrace new relationships, new initiatives. I ultimately think that the world opens up to the yeasayers.

Olivia Wassenaar, Head of Sustainable Investing and Co-Head of Natural Resources, Apollo Global Management Inc.

Build your network. We work hard and careers are long. It’s nice to do it with people you like and have that sort of camaraderie, whether it’s bankers, lawyers, accountants, the management teams of my portfolio companies, and then obviously my team…When you’re more junior, part of the job is just getting through the days and getting all the work done. But even from the early days, going to have coffee with someone, doing a mentoring call, following up after you work on a deal with a lawyer, going to have lunch with them, just beginning to build that relationship, these are just so valuable. Sometimes you get so focused on the day-to-day and immediate task ahead of you. But for me, [building a] network has been so wonderful and has made me a better investor.

Angel Pu Shum, Principal, Warburg Pincus

A lot of people [like myself] started in banking, [where working] hours are brutal…I think a lot of women, when they’re going through [similar things], they think, ‘What is my lifestyle today?’ Having done that [brutal working schedule], I finally feel it is actually a sustainable career. So, I hope that people are able to see the other side of it and realize that just because it’s difficult today, or the work-life balance is maybe tough at the beginning, it does get better. And on the other side, it’s incredibly rewarding…I truly love my job and I’m so grateful that I do. How many people can say that [about] their day-to-day [work]? I feel very lucky and I hope other women can find that, too.

Tara Alhadeff, Partner, Permira Advisers LLP

Find a firm—and a team within that firm—where you can be your authentic self. If you are wasting half your energy on trying to fit in somewhere that does not feel authentic to you, you are never going to achieve your full potential there (and you will be exhausted in the process). Also, remember that nobody has the ‘right’ answer. Just because someone is more experienced than you, or more confident, or louder, it doesn’t mean that they know all of the answers. Be hungry about soliciting input from others. But at the end of the day, you have to make your own mind up and trust your judgment.

Brenda Chia, Chief of Capital Development, Paladin Capital Group

I mentor several young men and women in the industry and they are typically in their mid-to-late 20s, mostly post-MBA. I like to remind them that they’re playing the long game and the rewards from their relationships and the economic rewards from what they’re doing today are typically five to 10 years down the road.

Mina Pacheco Nazemi, Managing Director and Head of Alternatives, Barings

It sounds so cliché, but your network is so critical in building relationships. One of the things I found when I moved to Charlotte, [N.C.] was this old notebook I had kept during my summer internship. Anyone I had met, I had their business card and kept in touch and a lot of those people moved up [in their careers]. That personal touch makes a difference. Finding ways to build relationships with individuals is the most important thing for anyone trying to build a successful career.

Brooke Nakatsukasa, Vice President, Private Equity, Flagship Fund, Vista Equity Partners

Mentors can be anyone. My success has been accelerated and guided by mentorship. Seeking out a culture of mentorship is very important. Even if there aren’t 10 different people that look like you, as long as you have a chance to be heard and respected, that will give you an opportunity.

Annie Lamont, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Oak HC/FT

I think that staking out particular areas of expertise is critical. You need to be able to differentiate yourself [as] it’s hard to be a generalist in this world. Find an area that you know more about than anyone else in the room. That is a powerful thing that will stay with you.

Rebecca Schlagenhauf, Vice President, Baird Capital

[You need to] have thick skin. Being a woman in finance and private equity can be pretty tough. I think things are changing and I am hopeful the landscape will look different in the future. Find a good support system and know there are people that want to bring you along. You just have to find them. Also, your career, much like life, isn’t linear, so keep pushing forward because this job is really fun and really worth it.

 

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