VP role for PE - is it worth pursuing an MBA outside of H/S/W?

Senior Associate working at $5B+ fund. I was not accepted to H/S/W - but did get into some other M7 schools. Looking to eventually secure a VP role at a MM PE shop. Would appreciate people's thoughts on whether its worth pursuing an MBA outside of H/S/W vs. looking for other opportunities (i.e. lateraling, looking for "career track" roles that will promote without MBA). To me, both routes present challenges:
i) In talking with recruiters and other post-MBA VPs, there does seem to be a drop-off in terms of recruiting opportunities for VP roles at MBA programs outside of H/S/W (and if you look on team pages, most of the senior people have MBAs from H/S/W - although normally a few at each firm outside those 3). Worried about getting the opportunity to interview for VP roles if most firms are only recruiting out of H/S/W
ii) in talking with recruiting firms I worked with during pre-MBA PE recruiting, and looking through the barrage of emails from a bunch of other random recruiting firms, there are definitely lateral opportunities - but most of these seem like a step down. Also concerned that I could end up bouncing around from place to place, linger for additional years in Associate roles, and never break through to VP (seen this happen to a few older friends).

While this is obviously an unanswerable question (none of us have a crystal ball and depends on a myriad of other factors) would love to hear perspectives how others have approached this situation.

Comments (10)

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Jan 9, 2020 - 11:03pm

I'm sure you've thought about this a lot already (and not sure if you want to share), but any thoughts on why you didn't get into H / S / W? I would assume working as a Senior Associate at $5Bn+ fund is highly respectable, and maybe not getting into H / S since they are highly competitive and look for interesting things, but W seems a bit easier (at least based on some peers that applied after 2nd year of consulting). Obviously, this is not meant to put you down, but more curious as a learning opportunity for me

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Jan 9, 2020 - 11:05pm

^and yes, I know that is not helpful in answering your question. only thing I can add is I know of one person who worked 3 years in consulting, 2 years as an Associate + 1 year as a Senior Associate (all at a ~$5bn fund) and jumped directly to a VP role at $1-2bn fund if that helps at all

Jan 10, 2020 - 10:44am

I couldn't tell you. I chalk it up to the competitiveness of the applicant pool for my background. My scores (720) were a little light (particularly for my peer group) - but there are all sorts of examples that demonstrate that there is no perfect reason / correlation for why accepted vs. not. I have a friend that got into Stanford, but rejected from Kellogg / CBS. A few folks I work with didn't get to the interview round at lower level M7 schools, but got into HBS / Wharton. The simple truth is that these schools get thousands of applications from qualified people. For a lot of the applicants they reject - the admissions teams know they could succeed. But the hard fact is that they only have so many slots. Tough choices have to be made.

Jan 10, 2020 - 2:06am

Disclaimer - not in PE nor went to H/S/W however interact a lot with the buy side. >10 years experience on the sell side.

Recommendation is unless you want to risk VP recruiting and that isn't common by itself (agree if you were at H/S/W, odds would be better), target internal promotion first and lateral second - title and comp increase should be commensurate with trade downs. Do not only move for either title or comp increase.

I have seen cases where people lateral as VP / more senior at lower tier shops and then move back to higher tier shops as VP / more senior. However they would have given up a year or two of potential carry.

Jan 10, 2020 - 10:22am

Thanks @emergingmkts - helpful context. Unfortunately, my firm has a hard line on business school (all VPs and up are required to have MBA, no direct promote available). There is an opportunity for them to sponsor my business school and come back as a VP (which I am open to, and would likely sign up for) - but I am posing this question around value of non H/S/W MBA in the event that I don't have the opportunity to come back and must recruit in the broader pool of MBAs.

Most Helpful
Jan 10, 2020 - 2:51pm

I went to an M7 non H/S/W 2018 grad. I ended up interviewing with ~10-12 firms total, got all the way to finals with 80% of them and ultimately converted one offer. I will say you aren't going to get looks at similar sized funds. I came from a $2bl+ fund and stepped down to ~$750M.

In hindsight, I wish I had asked more questions (like you are doing now, so kudos) and hadn't gone. Primarily because the overall industry is changing, and the value of the MBA is declining. Especially if you are a white or Asian male, you are very likely to get stuck with the full sticker price which is incredibly frustrating now that the all in runs about $200k plus the opp cost of losing $300k+ each of those years, so about a million in pre-tax when combining the cost and opp cost. I had a 750 GMAT, didn't even get interviews at H/S/W which was kind of a punch in the gut, and then didn't get any scholarship dollars whatsoever at my program.

Jan 10, 2020 - 4:15pm

This is really helpful, thank you for your insight. While I'm sorry to hear that you were ultimately unhappy with your decision, I was encouraged by how many interviews you were able to progress to final rounds with. Of the 10-12 funds you interviewed with, were all a step down in terms of fund size?

I am fully aware that recruiting outside of H/S/W will likely result in fewer to zero opportunities at the largest funds, which I'm comfortable with. But I'm concerned that if I try to lateral I'll spend additional years in limbo as an Associate, and may never be able to break through. While the value of an MBA is decreasing (on a relative basis it has to be as prices have grown astronomically) - it does feel like the vast majority of senior PE professionals have an MBA. So part of me feels like - while it's clearly a shittier ROI - it still may be necessary to break through to VP

Impossible to predict how it will all play out - but thank you for sharing your experience

Jan 14, 2020 - 3:14pm

All very true. Look, I am not fully disappointed in the decision, two years was just too long for me. Plus, I went to an undergraduate business program as my profile suggests (UVA), so many of my classes felt fairly repetitive, but obviously with the benefit of people there actually having experience. I also walked away with some great new friends and a network outside of NYC, which is good.

They were not all step-downs, but about 75% were. None of them were

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