What do you wish you had asked somebody earlier in your career?
Managing director and global head of talent at TPG
Partner at Kirkland & Ellis
Member of management, private equity health and life industry vertical at Partners Group
Co-head of the private equity regenerative agriculture strategy at Tikehau Capital
Principal, fund investments at Hamilton Lane
Director, private capital at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
Global CEO at Triago
Managing director, investor relations – EMEA at Nordic Capital
Jean Ghabache: I wish I’d asked what mistakes I was allowed to make. Ultimately, no one is perfect. I have learned that it is fine to make mistakes and ask for support, as long as you give your best and learn from past failures.
Nina Kraus: The hardest question, in almost every aspect of work and life, is asking for help. It’s critical to identify where you need help and fill those gaps early. Make sure you also ask yourself where you can help others. Do it without being asked and without expectation.
Matt Swain: I wish I’d asked more about the books my mentors read. Books on the financial past give great historical insights on what’s to come – more than text books. You can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes and you see them in rich context in books.
Lena Ulrich: For advice, on all relevant questions. I always thought self-sufficiency was a top quality, when in fact everyone is super happy to help out, mentor and pass on their experience, and you can stand on the shoulders of those who have done it before.
What’s your top tip for recovering from a setback?
Anna Edwin: Over time, I have come to recognise that it’s the challenging times that shape our character, and these experiences actually propel us forward. Don’t let go of your long-term goals, but also don’t let one moment define you. Setbacks are often set-ups in disguise.
Jean Ghabache: I would switch off for a few days, reflect on recent events and crystalise key learnings. I would also ask for feedback from my team with the aim to come back stronger.
Hélène Henry-Prince: My top tip for recovering from a setback is to remember that it’s actually rarely as bad as you think it is. In addition, I believe that in order to not let it hold you back from moving forward, it is vital to analyse the situation with a cool head and form an objective view on what went wrong, so as to adapt.
Jonathan Mendonca: I try to find the learning opportunity from any challenge or setback. That helps me keep a forward-looking mindset. We’re fortunate that this is something that is encouraged across teams at Ontario Teachers’, but making sure to set aside time to reflect after a challenging situation is key.
Matt Swain: Always have a plan B, C and D, and be prepared to execute without hesitation. Boost that resilience with mentors. When I get knocked off my horse, I get back on by calling one of the great people I’ve surrounded myself with. To succeed, plan deeply and listen to mentors.
Lena Ulrich: Yell, cry and have a block of cheese with pickles. Or, more constructively, shake it off, don’t make it personal (as long as you gave it your best), and get back up on the horse again.
What is something you thought would be important for succeeding in your field or role, but has turned out not to be?
Jean Ghabache: Luck. Luck comes and goes during a career. It is therefore important to stick to your principles and vision, and then things will likely fall into place.
Hélène Henry-Prince: Perfectionism. Nothing will ever be perfect, whether it is a deal, a situation or timing, and you could be waiting a long time if that is how you frame your expectations. To make the most of any opportunity and actually increase your chance of success, it is much more important to be contrarian and agile. In my opinion, being able to think outside the box, challenge a situation and look at it from different angles creates a great backdrop for success.
Nina Kraus: I thought complicated maths would take centre stage. I would now argue that there are many relevant factors for success. A good understanding of maths is absolutely a contributing factor, but rarely do I see it as a driver of success.
Matt Swain: Traditional investment banking experience or an MBA. I went to a liberal arts college, Colgate University, in central New York. This is not a traditional business background. Entrepreneurial passion has been a lot more important in my career than any post-graduate degree or specific training could be.
Lena Ulrich: I thought pursuing a career in PE would be a decision to prioritise work over private life. I now think you are the most successful fundraiser when you integrate the two. I have over time grown to see many investors, peers and colleagues as friends. I have known them for many years, met them in different settings, also privately, and travelled and experienced events together. I have started to enjoy work events and conferences equally to private trips.
As PE evolves, what skills do you think will be vital to a successful, long-term career in the industry?
Anna Edwin: In private equity, we place a lot of weight on someone’s analytical capabilities. However, we believe our industry can sometimes underestimate the human quotient – the importance of two people being able to connect with each other. You can choose to do business with anyone, but why this firm, why TPG? Being a great dealmaker requires mastery of both the quantitative and human elements, and we believe it’s important to enable your people to grow and invest behind both skillsets.
Alexandra Farmer: A passion for PE and a self-growth mindset are critical attributes for success. There is no doubt that the industry attracts intelligent people, but the ones that flourish in my experience genuinely love the work and believe in the impact that PE can have by transforming and future-proofing companies. What separates the good from the great is a growth mindset – an eagerness to receive and action feedback and invest in being a better version of ourselves.
Jean Ghabache: Strong people skills and the ability to build lasting relationships. This is important internally, as industry leaders are scaling up, which is creating larger groups of stakeholders to manage, and externally, as the market environment is highly competitive. In addition, I believe that industry specialisation, long-term vision and sound judgment are key attributes.
Nina Kraus: Comfort with implementing and using technology and data.
Hélène Henry-Prince: I think that in an increasingly challenging environment, anticipation will be key to staying ahead of the curve and having a long-lasting career in the industry. In my experience, taking a leading role in the development of an innovative strategy was a key driver for success. A good example of this is the regenerative agriculture strategy Tikehau Capital launched last year, which is focused on tackling new challenges and supporting the emergence of new opportunities in the fight against climate change.
Jonathan Mendonca: There is a need to continually re-invent yourself as the industry evolves and as you progress in your career. Being able to adapt your approach to match the current environment is a valuable skill, and sometimes is underestimated.
Matt Swain: The key skill is a constantly honed ability to recognise and react to whatever has the potential to change our industry, from online fundraising and secondary markets to the ecosystem forming around single-asset deals.
Lena Ulrich: The ability to engage in and be relevant for firm strategy; the fundraising climate will be difficult for many years now, and firms need a strong investor relations voice at the main table. In addition, you will increasingly need proper organisational and leadership skills; in a tough market IR critical mass will grow, and there will be a premium on IR bosses that can organise and lead effectively.