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Spotlight on: Pianpian Adelson, T'14

July 10, 2018 | By Sabrina Hao and Cole Zaharris

Pianpian Adelson is an Associate at Ares Management, which is a global alternatives asset manager, in the Credit Group’s Product Management and Investor Relations team. Her team is responsible for managing all fundraising efforts and working with investors for the direct lending strategy.  Prior to that, she was an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs and an associate at EQT Partners. Pianpian graduated from Duke University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics with the Finance Concentration and a minor in Neuroscience. During her time in BOW, she served as the Executive Vice President, and as an alumna, she helped start BOW’s Alumni Ambassadors program.  She currently serves as one of the ambassadors for New York City.

PianpianAdelson

How did your BOW experience and being on the Executive Board influence where you are now?

Joining BOW was one of the best decisions I made at Duke because it gave me such a broad network of friends and mentors. During sophomore year, I was a pre-med student but knew that it wasn’t my passion; I was more interested in finance. Making the transition was a daunting thing to navigate, but my BOW mentors provided every resource and coached me through the process, from course selection to landing an internship. It paved the path for starting my career in finance. In senior year, I wanted to give back to BOW by mentoring other students and served as the EVP. The experience taught me management responsibilities and honed my organizational skills, which are extremely valuable for the corporate world after college. BOW also showed me the strength of women empowering each other. I learned so many practical skills from BOW events specifically catered towards women in the business world.

Why did you originally pick investment banking, and what was the most valuable thing you learned from your banking experience?

I picked investment banking because I wanted to develop a foundation of corporate finance in a dynamic environment by executing transactions for large companies in a team setting. I also thought banking at Goldman would give me the opportunity to learn from a network of professionals in the industry.

The most valuable thing I learned from banking is to embrace my strengths. While I enjoyed many aspects of the job, it wasn’t a long-term fit because it didn’t leverage my key skill of managing relationships. Staying in finance felt like the safer choice, and I was worried about not having the option of returning, but I decided to be open minded and take a leap. I explored opportunities in strategy and investor relations, and it immediately felt like the right fit. I haven’t looked back ever since. It’s important to self-reflect and be honest with yourself, and choose a career that fits you, not one that you think you should have or one that you must change yourself for.

What traits do you think the most successful summer interns possess?

Being proactive and having a good attitude are incredibly important. Most interns don’t have a ton of experience and are there to learn. People want to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, but be thoughtful and always try to figure out/think through them before doing so. Don’t be afraid to voice ideas and opinions if you support them with reasoning – it’s a great way to learn and people will appreciate the effort.

How has mentorship factored into your career path?

Mentorship has always been important for me. Whenever I face big decisions in professional or personal spheres, I have always reached out for support and advice from my mentors and friends. It’s also important to find strong mentors who inspire you and motivate you to become the person who you want to be.

What is your #1 interview tip?

Always be prepared. Do your research on the company and the team so you are well-informed and can clearly articulate why you are the right choice for the opportunity. Don’t ask questions that can be easily found on the website, and don’t be afraid to show your personality.

What is something you’re trying to learn right now?

I’m trying to learn to be more comfortable with taking risks and to second-guess myself less. At Duke and even in banking, everything was very structured with a clear path forward, but I realized in life you can only achieve your goals by taking risks. Every successful person has taken risks and failed – you just need to learn from your mistakes.

What do you like to do in your free time?

One of my favorite things to do is travel, especially to different countries with vastly different cultures and histories. I also like to go to yoga classes (especially hot yoga) a few times a week – it really helps me stay balanced, especially during stressful times. I’ve always loved to read because every book can teach you something and help you see things from a different perspective. Other things I like to do in my free time include cooking, attending ballets/Broadway shows, and simply exploring New York.

What is one piece of advice you would like to pass on to BOW members just starting their careers?

Never underestimate the value in building relationships and strengthening your network. You never know what opportunities may emerge from grabbing a coffee with a coworker, old friend or an acquaintance in the community. When I first joined Goldman, I didn’t think senior bankers would have the time to get coffee with me, but people were very receptive, especially if there is an affinity (e.g. alums of Duke or the women’s network). Don’t be afraid to reach out and put yourself out there – you will be pleasantly surprised how willing people are to sharing insights. At the same time, try to embrace every opportunity to give back or help others in need.