Q&A: woman in growth equity

Figured I would answer any questions while we all still have time on our hands.

Background: business undergrad, levfin at an international bank, associate at a middle-market shop, VP in growth equity.

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Thanks for doing this. Have a couple of questions regarding career trajectory in GE and knowledge/skills needed to excel and grow.

1) What drove you towards GE and how did you make the transition to GE with a levfin/MM PE background?

2) Apart from prior experience, a strong drive and passion for GE, what are some skills and qualities that you look for in Analysts and Associates (when looking at candidates as well as current juniors trying to climb the ladder)?

3) How important is it to have an MBA to grow your career in VC/GE if you already have a IB/PE background and how does this differ at MF/UMM/MM levels?

4) It's well-established on this forum that moving up-market (LMM -> MM -> UMM -> MF) is quite difficult in PE as transaction sizes/level of DD/deal work and other processes differ vastly. Since MM/UMM/MF GEs focus on the same type/size of transactions ($20M Series A, $40M series B, etc..), is it just as challenging as PE to move up-market in GE? If possible, how would you suggest one to make a strong case for himself/herself?

Okay, I will admit that my moves weren’t quite as intentional with GE in mind as end goal. I knew from lev fin I wanted to invest in something credit oriented rather than straight buyout. In my junior capital investing experience, I was doing mezz and pref, and liked the idea of coupling downside protection in structure with the equity ups (I am a very risk averse personally, and my money goes into these funds, too, plus carry so I wanted to invest where I believed I’d get a good risk adjusted return). For me, I had the skills around credit analysis already and the ability to think about relval. that’s all that really mattered.

best skills for me in interviews - I expect you to have technicals down esp if you’re coming from a bank (some people don’t and can’t answer basic NWC questions or think about valuation). I am looking for is intuition, experience modeling different structures, and drive - my roles have always had sourcing, underwriting, and portfolio management components. Do you have the ability to balance those?

apologize if this last piece isn’t that helpful, but I was not in a traditional growth equity role, but if you’re an analyst or associate, I don’t think you need to stay locked into a market if you have the analytical skill set.

re: MBA, my teams have always been mixed bag. some firms require it to get to VP level, but I didn’t want one given business undergrad (and never applied to any institutions that required). I think of MBA as helpful only if pivoting massively... or if you want to take an expensive break.

Not in this situation but would love to hear your response - you're on track to receive carry from multiple funds for the next 5-7 years as a VP but you start to notice a lot more insensitivity towards women at work and strong male representation in senior-level making it further difficult to climb up the ladder and lead change. Would you sacrifice your future million dollar earnings to lateral and settle for something smaller (if you are fortunate to have an offer from a less attractive and low-performing fund) where you would have more respect/better work culture or would you go on so as to not compromise on future earnings and use the help of HR/Legal teams to pave your way to a senior-level position to drive change?

I can give you my personal opinion. obviously given industry, money is important to all of us. I have a very low tolerance for BS though, and I would always rather have a better culture and lower pay. that’s why I’m not one of the people on here who did BB -> large buyout -> whatever.

you can try to make a difference, but HR and mentors cannot fix systemic issues (at least not within your employment/life). ultimately, if you want to have a family or a life or basic respect and your institution isn’t making that possible, you can try fighting or you can give up a little $ for happiness. Your choice if you have the will to fight. not everyone does.

that’s just the compromise women have to make.

One more - thank you again for your time! Can you talk a bit about your transition from a mezz fund to growth equity? Eg. once you went to a mezz fund and decided you wanted to work in a different product, wasn't the credit background "sticky"? Would imagine the growth equity role has more of an operational component / different risk profile, so would love to hear about the transition, how hard it was, how you framed during interviews, etc.

again my role was different as it was late stage / structured preferred rather than clean 1x series b deals. BUT. my mezz background gave me a leg up structure wise - I knew docs and minority rights and weird ways to structure deals better than others joining my team. preferred equity is still a hybrid security and so you do need a component of credit thinking to understand how to underwrite and value that risk and also how to think about waterfalls in an exit.

I'm working at a LMM tech buyout shop that invests in profitable, typically bootstrapped tech companies but we are doing more minority deals now due to COVID.

What is the biggest difference in staying at my current role vs. going to a GE firm? Do you ever do buyouts and is it typically minoritiy investments and more dealing with cap tables/structure and growth to get the returns? More sourcing I imagine too at the associate level?

Any insight would be helpful as I am trying to figure if this stage of investment is something I want to stay at in the future.

I did minority deals only, both in my former junior cap role and in GE. I just was never a buyouts gal.

i would expect minority deals as the norm, lots of unique structuring discussions as you get into later stage businesses, and yes, more sourcing at the associate level. you’ll most likely have an ever growing cold call list and meeting setup quotas.

I ended up looking at techier, more recurring rev businesses vs prior role, and I spent less time with cash flow modeling and more time on unit economics, valuation, and steady state

What doors do Associate and VP level positions at Growth Equity firms open? Not looking to enter Growth Equity for the exit opps per se just more curious what my options would be if I decide to leave the industry or what cool things peers have gone on to. Thanks in advance!

people I know who have left the industry usually go on to startups / growth stage businesses for financial suite or biz dev roles. I know a lot of people who just stay and move between funds.

can’t speak for other firms, but both of my buyside employers hired exclusively folks with IB backgrounds for associate roles.

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