Matt Stern: Private Equity Investor
What kind of work do you do now?
I am a private equity investor focused on global industrials businesses. I spend my time researching businesses that provide basic products and services that are generally taken for granted — e.g. the chemical company that supplied the ingredients to make your coffee cup, or the technology company that made the machine that treats your drinking water. The objective of my work is to find a promising company that we believe we can improve. After a rigorous vetting process, we buy this company and improve it.
What are the steps that led you to this career? What other jobs have you had along the way?
In college, I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about the pros and cons of the capitalist system. And I ultimately decided that while imperfect in many ways, capitalism does a great job providing basic products and services. So I sought jobs that put me in a position to learn as much as possible about how businesses operate so that I could maximize my contribution. I worked as a management consultant and then at a water efficiency technology startup before becoming a private equity investor.
What are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you resolve them?
I’ve always had a broad set of interests, and have therefore found it difficult to narrow my search and focus on a single career path. At different times I’ve dreamed of becoming an architect, an urban planner, a teacher, a civil or environmental engineer, a doctor, and a businessman. Thus far, I still haven’t settled on a single path. But I’m OK with that. I’ve come to accept that while it would be nice to know “want I want to be when I grow up”, it’s OK not to know. I’ve grown comfortable looking two to three years ahead, not 20 to 30. Along my path, I have evaluated my career decisions by asking the following questions: How much will I learn in this job? What will I be able to contribute? Do the people I’d be working with believe in me? Why types of jobs will this job prepare me for if I decide that I need a change?
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
There are one or two people at each of the jobs I’ve had that I keep in touch with, that inspire me. Each one has found a unique way to find fulfillment. I hope to create my own unique version.
What are your career goals?
My career goal is to do something that adds tangible value to society, gives me more energy than it takes away, allows me to be myself while doing it, and provides comfort and flexibility for my future family. #