How a 'complete science nerd' broke into Wall Street -- and then landed a job in private equity

National science bowlDennis Brack/ National Science BowlShaun Mehra (right) competing in the academic competition of the DOE National Science Bowl in Washington, DC on May 2, 2010.

Shaun Mehra calls himself a “complete science nerd.”

He competed in the National Science Bowl two years running while in high school, and went on to
study bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Wharton.

The Los Angeles-native landed at Goldman Sachs as an investment banking summer analyst in 2013, where he met Alan Li, a former Goldman junior banker who created the podcast
The Vampire Squid.”

Shortly after the summer program was over, Mehra locked in a full time analyst position at Silver Lake Partners, a private equity fund focused on technology. This summer, he is set to join

the medical device investment team at healthcare venture growth firm Longitude Capital.

Li and Mehra recently caught up on Li’s podcast, and discussed the similarities and differences between private equity and investment banking. According to Mehra, the biggest
difference lies in developing an investment thesis.

“I’d say that the approach is pretty scientific in general,” he said. “As a firm you’re hopefully trying to come up as close as possible to the correct answer. You want to be well informed before making an investment decision.”

For those who are interested in breaking into private equity, here’s Mehra’s advice:

“It’s important to be able to demonstrate understanding of developing your own investment thesis, the basics of leveraged buyouts and also all of the standard investment banking skill set before looking at private equity interviews. Obviously the standard route is to complete two years of banking and then transitioning into a PE associate role. But thinking from an analyst’s perspective, for PE firms that have small programs, it’s important to get in contact with people at the firms that you’re interested in early and ask questions, do an informational interview, attend any informational sessions that may be happening in San Francisco or New York or elsewhere.

It’s tough in that most of these private equity firms don’t have more than two spots a year, so certainly don’t be discouraged if PEs encourage you to apply again after one year or two years of banking, because there are certainly more associate positions.”

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