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A summer of private equity: reflections on an MBA internship

Can an engineer make the cut in the world of private equity? Alex Redman, Full-time Class of 2018, reports on his internship at Palatine Private Equity.

Alex Redman

“…working to diversify into administering a portfolio of investment and property management, innovation incubation and disruptive business units.”

The above quotation features both at the top of my CV and my LinkedIn profile. It is a handy reminder of my end goal. Having the end in mind, both at the start and throughout your MBA, is a point the Postgraduate Careers Service (PCS) 'bangs the drum' on under the stewardship of Chris Garnett.

This brings me to the summer internship opportunity at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS). The internship is a key part of tailoring the MBA toward your specific wants and needs in an applied way (…enter 'The Manchester Method'!) I wanted to use the three months to contribute to a field that aligned with the 'end' I had in mind and to develop areas of perceived weakness within my skillset.

As a plucky engineering manager at Bentley Motors Ltd, it had been noted that whilst feeling at home technically and working cross-functionally, perhaps by comparison my business financial skills could be developed further. Moreover, I’d started privately investing in equities a good few years earlier and enjoyed developing and deploying an investment hypothesis and buying into target companies, almost all of which I still happily own to this day.

Enter Palatine Private Equity…

I was fortunate enough to secure a position within the business development team. It had been over eight years (!) since I'd had a job interview at a new company, let alone one in the completely different field of private equity, and so I felt a little like a fraud going for an Investment Research Analyst Intern role. That said, 'if you don’t try you don’t get'.

My strategy for applying for internships was fairly comprehensive. I’d networked myself to 'kingdom come' with an enormous tracking spreadsheet to boot (…ever the engineer!), but unlike others (who I’d heard had applied to numerous opportunities), I would only apply to those I really wanted, with considerable effort spent on my offer and value proposition.

However, all of this networking was usurped by Palatine’s opportunity, which came through Chris’ team in PCS. I still feel that Charlotte Ashton, Palatine’s Business Development Director, was giving me a punt. I’d tried to prepare well and worn my shiniest suit (!), but was sure she was giving me 'a break' to see what the plucky engineer could do. If it worked, then she’d get an informed view with domain knowledge in automotive, engineering and industrials. Would I fit in around all the accounting degrees and corporate financiers…?

The project was a 'meaty one': to shine a light on the sector focus derivation strategies that Palatine was taking and to propose additional sector opportunities with the end goal of populating a suitable list of target companies for Palatine to approach. A great challenge; a wonderful opportunity. Would Charlotte’s punt pay off? Only time would tell…

But what of the horror stories you hear (as an engineer) of private equity-backed asset stripping; machines and tools being moved overnight and factories shutting? I’m pleased to say I’ve seen none of this; only very responsible, diligent, clever investing and management that truly adds value.

As for key takeaways with regards to my internship and the MBA programme; I can safely say the consultancy projects on the MBA are highly valuable. The three projects give you a structured way to approach any kind of project that you have not previously had experience of. The last part of the sentence there is crucial; 'that you have not previously had experience of'. With time and tenacity, most people can get 'good' at something. AMBS and the Full-Time MBA give you the tools to get 'good' markedly quicker and to robustly contribute from the get-go. Had it not been for such projects, I may well have really struggled on my internship and would most certainly not have secured it in the first place!

I still feel like a fraud though…

To find out more about the Full-time MBA click here >>