Lessons from ten years at Blackstone
On a personal level, since I started working at Blackstone in 2012, I find I learn something new almost every day.
Despite having spent two years at an investment banking firm prior to joining Blackstone, when interviewing for my first role here I was unclear on what a private equity professional actually did day-to-day. Soon after joining, I picked up that what we do combines the quantitative work of a banker, and the commercial and qualitative thinking of consultants.
Our job requires us to be mentally agile and move from thinking about deep analysis in one moment to decisive execution in another. We think about commercial strategy in the morning, capital structure at lunchtime, talent recruiting in the afternoon and meeting the CEO of a new potential target in the evening. We are not specialists in any one particular function, but in order to grow and be successful in this job, we require strong proficiency across a number of disciplines, including strategy, accounting, tax, leveraged finance, equity capital markets and many others.
If you ask yourself if PE is for you or not, my thoughts are that people who like building something, who like to think about strategy for the long-term, who like working in teams, who relish being challenged as well as debating questions about uncertain outcomes on the basis of data, are likely to enjoy this job. On the other hand, people who consider investment to be quick trading of public markets, people who prefer a computer screen to working with other people, those who want instant reward for their efforts, will be less suited to this industry.
When I get asked for career advice, I personally think that everyone’s situation is so unique that you are the best career advisor to yourselves. Nevertheless, below are the key lessons I think could be valuable to those considering entering the industry, as well as for those who have already started out.
I would encourage everyone, especially early in their career, to be honest to themselves – if the job does not fulfil you then you are probably doing that job for the wrong reasons. Valuable work experience and exposure to the industry comes in a number of forms and can help inform your choices; be proactive in attending placement days and networking events. At Blackstone, we run a variety of insight programmes for students to learn about our business areas along with off-cycle, summer analyst and full-time analyst opportunities. Be willing to put yourself out there.
It is also important to overcommunicate. Respond to people to say you are working on a task, clarify when a particular output is needed or ask what the purpose of an analysis is. Many new joiners worry about annoying senior people by appearing in their inbox too often, but people in our industry are used to constantly receiving and answering emails and messages.
Finally, never be afraid to learn something new and risk looking stupid in the beginning. The most senior people sometimes ask really basic questions, but they are not afraid about how asking that question looks to others, and that is what has made them successful. Many of our senior leaders started their careers at Blackstone, as interns or analysts.
The world is full of opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take them - and never give up.
Saleh Panahi is a Managing Director in the Private Equity Group in London, where he focuses on investments in the Energy Transition, Industrials, Media & Communications industries
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