Featuring Fernando Carranza
The ICM Mosaic Fellowship and internship with Achieve Partners was one of the most formative experiential learning experiences I’ve had during my MBA. Not only did it give me a no-frills and honest perspective on how top socially focused funds are achieving true market rate impact, but it also gave me hands-on experience as a Private Equity Associate. Achieve Partners is a private equity firm focused on investing in human capital development (postsecondary education, training, workforce development) with a very distinct goal of creating 100,000 good first jobs to help alleviate the millions of unfilled jobs in the U.S. today. These impact goals drive the economics and sourcing of better deals for the fund that fit the mission they are trying to accomplish.
My experiences this summer were rooted within the social impact sector of human capital development and spanned across traditional private equity, vetting of potential investment targets, leading portfolio company projects, mapping of new market segments, and live deal execution. I was able to build meaningful working relationships both internally with the team and externally with portfolio companies. These diverse and expansive learning experiences fostered deep impact investing industry exposure, investor skill development and high levels of responsibility that have been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. As I grew into my private equity associate position, my role shifted from one of just execution, to becoming as autonomous as possible and arming the partners’ and VPs’ with as much critical information so they could make the most effective decisions.
The Achieve Partners team did an exceptional job ensuring that the remote aspect of the internship did not deter from my learning and relationship building. Our primary mode of communication was a combination of text threads, WhatsApp messages and Zoom calls. Like most of my classmates at the Kellogg School of Management, I worked from my apartment in Evanston, IL, rather than the fund headquarters in New York City. No day was the same and involved a mix of daily rituals and quick pivots as the day progressed.
My mornings generally started with my alarm going off at 6:30am to wake me up for my morning workout. After working out, I spent the early morning eating my breakfast and browsing online news feeds, blogs, newsletters, portfolio company updates. Some of my favorite information sources from this summer were the Gap Letter, Impact Alpha, Bloomberg’s Good Business Brief, Morning Brew and of course — Kellogg Daybreak. By 9:00am I had already started going through my emails that had come through during the evening. These varied from portfolio companies and entrepreneurs to those from my team. I also devoted this time to to-do list review and goal setting for the day — Todoist was a great tool I discovered that helped me stay organized and on track.
For the first two weeks, mid-morning was reserved for associate training conducted by the VP’s where they shared case studies, best practices, and developments of the fund. Training workshop topics consisted of the market mapping process, evaluating potential targets, the diligence process, valuation modeling and cap table analysis.
As the internship progressed and depending on the day, this time was also filled with 1-on-1 meetings with team members to update on research and calls with subject matter experts. Over the summer, one of my long-term projects was to conduct a market mapping of the allied health space and identify the most actionable occupation pathways in the sector that our fund should focus its investment strategy on. This required extensive research across a variety of resources including Burning Glass, PitchBook, IBIS World, BLS and conducting calls with healthcare professionals.
Before lunch, I also tried to get a head start on running the initial due diligence for potential investment opportunities and begin creating an Investment Opportunity Summary that would eventually be presented to the investment committee. Though I was not directly involved in sourcing these targets, I was asked to participate and eventually lead the vetting process. This consisted of digging through financials the company sent over, researching the current state of the market, speaking with founders on strategy, and identifying opportunities for synergies if our fund was to acquire. The targets I worked on varied across a variety of sectors including workforce development, virtual learning, and telehealth. Conducting this process with the level of access that I was exposed to helped me gain relevant investor experience and strengthened my confidence and curiosity on our sectors of focus. This was likely one of the most rewarding aspects of the job as it helped me develop personal opinions and thought leadership within a sector.
Once lunchtime rolled in, I always tried to get outside to enjoy some of the good weather — which as you may know, doesn’t last very long in the Chicago area. During this time, I also looked forward to lunch-and-learns conducted by ICM member firms where they would cover topics like Impact Investing 101, Impact Measurement and Management, or Career Pathing. These sessions were useful in not only learning about impact investing, but also building relationships with impact investing leaders and provided an opportunity to ask candid questions. Throughout the Mosaic Fellowship, each of the Fellows were also paired with a mentor from another ICM member firm. I had four meetings with my mentor throughout the summer to plan for mid-summer reviews, recruiting advice and internship guidance. These meetings were very helpful as they provided an outside perspective on my career development.
After lunch I would shift gears from screening prospective investments, to working on projects for existing portfolio companies. This consisted of checking-in with company directors and conducting research across e-learning and experiential education platforms to identify new market opportunities, competitive landscape, and key partnership expansion. During information calls with industry-leading executives I developed a stronger understanding of industry dynamics, key industry players, and which relationships played an integral part across the market landscape.
If portfolio company work was not a priority for the day, I would likely shift to more urgent responsibilities. At the beginning of the internship I was fortunate to have been staffed on the final five weeks of a live deal. My priorities shifted during this period and I focused on supporting the deal team in different capacities. My responsibilities varied from creating strategy presentations for the management team and interviewing customers / subject matter experts to reviewing legal documents, conducting pro forma assumption models, and identifying future add-on targets.
Monday’s at 5:00pm was reserved for the Weekly Meeting and Investment Committee where everyone on the team gave an update on what they have been working on and an opportunity for team members to present potential investment targets to the team. This was another one of my favorite activities during the week as it gave me a chance to see what other teams were working on and direct access to the thought process behind what the leading partners saw as important when weighing an investment opportunity.
If deal flow was high and projects still had outstanding items, work could continue on until later in the evening. On slower days, I’d be done with work and eating dinner by 8:00pm. Virtual happy hours were also something to look forward to on Thursdays after work which were primarily attended by the junior staff, with some occasional celebrity appearances by our senior partners.
My experiences at Achieve Partners coupled with the programming provided by ICM solidified my desire to pursue a career as a mission-driven investor. It was an incredible opportunity to see firsthand how impact can truly scale with the assistance of sophisticated partners looking to create lasting value.