What is your current profession/job? What did you study at Yale? When did you graduate?
I currently work on a range of initiatives related to impact finance, including recommendations to restructure public finance for reforestation and sustainable land use, broadening the early stage private equity investing landscape to include more diverse audiences, and finding funding for critical SDGs that are less “investable” currently (for example supporting democracy and strong institutions). I also manage a portfolio of c.20 angel investments in tech for good companies and serve as assessor for UK innovation funds and a range of early stage funds and accelerators, primarily in impact and in emerging markets.
I studied Pre-Columbian Art History at Yale. When I left college in 1991, jobs were few and far between and I had no idea what to do. I went into grad school but realized after a couple of years that I was not well suited to the focused and structured academic world, left to work in New York in international advertising, and years later did a Master’s at the London School of Economics.
What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/ or rewarding?
The field is early and very global in nature, and I get to work with extremely smart people on very challenging, systemic issues. The centres of impact finance are London, San Francisco, and to a lesser extent Amsterdam and some parts of Asia and Africa, so unfortunately based in Berlin there isn’t a community locally or full-time positions. I enjoy the variety but that does come at the expense of stability and camaraderie, and hope to work full time with a team again at some point soon.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
I enjoyed the range of experiences and disciplines that I came into contact with: some of my closest friends worked in computer science at the very advent of the Internet, or on legal issues at the Law School. One of the pioneers in sustainable forestry graduated from SOM, which has a unique and very global, impact aligned view of business among the US business schools.
What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?
In general, the quality of a Yale education helps with clear writing, lines of argument, and research and fact based arguments. The ability to work internationally, to ask critical questions, and to work independently are all very helpful aspects of doing graduate work that serves anyone well in later life.
Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school (either through part-time work, volunteering, networking, or other forms of training)?
Not really (although working as a waitress part-time and being a student teacher were very helpful life experiences!).
What is the biggest challenge that you face in transitioning to different working places / cultures? What do you suggest current students do to prepare for those challenges?
Disciplinary relevance: the humanities is neither well understood nor well respected in the finance and investing world overall, despite the fact that some of the most successful and original investors have been historians or philosophers. I suggest that students make sure they understand the skills that are valued and in the first instance, reach out to those who share a similar background to help network your way into a new industry!