Associate to VP Without MBA

Monkeys,I've seen a ton of info on how to break into banking and PE, how to excel as a junior professional and even some fantastic memes on WSO. What still feels a little fuzzy to me is the process of going from associate to VP without getting an MBA. How do firms think about hiring candidates on a partner track (senior associate and VPs) if they have 2-3 years of PE experience but no MBA? Part of me feels like this would be very difficult since you're basically competing against those coming out of business school, but another part part of me thinks it could be an advantage if you're more flexible on start date and are willing to come in a year below VP. What do you all think?

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I did 3.5 years as an associate (at two different firms) and was directly promoted to VP.

First, it's firm dependent. If your firm is strict on only hiring post-MBA Senior Associates/VPs, that's just unfortunately the reality. However, if your firm is open to promoting internally, then that's a really good opportunity for you.

My advice is that you should be able to showcase that: 1) you excel at your job as an associate, and 2) can scale up and play in a VP role. These are two different skillsets. Obviously you have to prove yourself first that you can perform at a high-level on associate responsibilities, but once you do, make sure you're not put in a bucket of "oh yeah he's a really good modeler and good work processer". You want to be able to have opinions and recommendations when asked, you want to show that you can delegate and lead juniors, that you can communicate efficiently upwards, and you know how to manage a deal process. 

Curious how PE firms view an associate candidate who is willing to “restart” as an associate 1 after finishing an associate program at another firm if they are doing so because of geography. For example: say someone is doing PE in NY/SF but really want to move to Chicago/Austin and the only openings are for partner track associate 1s. Is this a candidate PE firms would consider? Or would the candidate be “over qualified”. I know it’s a very specific example and most will say it depends, but hoping to hear the opinions of others to triangulate what’s possible/realistic. Thank you!

There's no one-size-fits-all. I'd recommend looking at the "Team" page of the websites of firms you're interested in and look at the backgrounds of VPs and above. You'll be able to recognize how strict or not strict the patterns are regarding internal promotions, lateral hires, and MBA requirements. You should also feel comfortable asking them about the possible career path directly, asked in the right way of course. There are many paths to the top especially the further down-market you go. I went from Associate to VP without any MBA at my old firm and was offered a VP position from a large BDC (granted, not a traditional PE firm structure but still one of the top players in the space) as a lateral hire as well, still no MBA.

Considering the current slowdown in hiring activity + tougher climate for MBAs to get PE jobs post their programs (even with prior experience), you think the folks that manage to stay in their current investing seats throughout this time would be most attractive to their current & prospective employers… even when the job market picks back up?

Would love folks thoughts, but this is my logic for staying vs going for MBA. For how nice an elite MBA would be, I feel like I’ve seen dozens of folks leave great pre-MBA roles, pay an arm & a leg to go back to school, just eventually land in some true head scratcher spots… again, open to hear dissenting views

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