01 Dec 2018
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What I Do: Lindsey Mead (MBA 2000), Vedica Qalbani and Jessica Wu (both MBA 2007)

Managing Partners, Ratio Advisors
by Julia Hanna; illustrations by Peter and Maria Hoey

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The search firm Ratio Advisors was founded last year on a simple but revolutionary concept: Starting a business with people who share your ideals can be as much of a driving factor as what that business does. As they spent time creating a founding document, the firm’s three alumnae managing partners and two other longtime colleagues talked through a list of aspirations and values that bubbled to the surface, like “curiosity,” “collaboration,” “fun,” and “honesty”—general qualities made granular through frank talk and close relationships. This culture, they say, is what separates Ratio from its competitors in the hunt for talent in the high-stakes, trilliondollar finance industry.

Ratio’s focus is on search for private equity and hedge fund firms, and its founders’ strategy for winning in that specialized, competitive market is driven by their similar and thoughtful approaches to client service, candidate evaluation, and the evolving talent market. “No one ever writes their HBS admission essay about wanting to become a headhunter,” says Jessica Wu. Yet the work at Ratio—with locations in Boston, New York, and San Francisco—is much more than putting faceless bodies in jobs, she says. “So many people at HBS, particularly women, asked me how to make the transition to private equity,” notes Vedica Qalbani, who, like her fellow managing partners, started her career in the finance industry. “That’s when I realized how much I love the career advisory piece of this work.”


“The private equity universe is maturing, and in some cases firms are changing how they think about hiring,” says Lindsey Mead. “Every firm has its own set of attributes that it looks for; drilling down to understand the priorities of both sides—through multiple meetings and maybe most of all through true listening—is one of Ratio’s key differentiators. We are finding ways to connect with groups that are of particular interest to our clients, such as women in investing positions.”

 

“The impact of millennials, the #MeToo movement, and an increasing interest in startups are just a few of the factors that can affect the mindset of candidates in terms of what is important to them in their work,” says Qalbani. “That means we have to understand those motivations, be creative, and maneuver quickly to be in front of the best talent.”

 

“Ultimately, in an industry where talent is the most important asset, we want to do more than just find the best and brightest for a client,” says Wu. “We assess candidates who have done well at a particular firm and look for common traits so that we can be true partners to our clients and credible career counselors and mentors to our candidates. Every firm is different, but some recurring attributes are interpersonal presence; a strong intellectual curiosity; determination, grit, and resilience; and a genuine desire to work hard and learn.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2007, Section J
Class of MBA 2007, Section C
Class of MBA 2000, Section G
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