Jul 07, 2016

Joan Solotar Shares Her Advice for Graduating Seniors

Joan Solotar, Senior Managing Director and Head of Multi-Asset Investing and External Relations at Blackstone, recently spoke at the graduation ceremony of her alma mater, the University of Albany. With 30 years of track record, Joan has gained a lot of experience, but she believes the most important thing she has gained is perspective.

You don’t need to know it all on day one… or in year 30 for that matter
“In my first job as a research assistant at First Boston, I was given a project to develop a merger model for 100 hundred banks. This seemed simple, except that I had never seen a bank income statement or balance sheet. It took me countless hours of research to realize that I should ask for help. Find a working environment where you can learn and make a point to develop new skills at each stage of your career path. It’s true whether you’re an entry level analyst or the CEO – learning is a lifetime journey.”

If you put in the work, opportunities will come
“In many ways, I consider myself the accidental tourist.  I wanted to work in finance but I didn’t know much about what the different roles entailed, or anyone who actually worked in finance. I’m not even sure I fully understood what equity research was when I accepted my first job. I was lucky I landed at a great firm, working with talented people and in an industry that was intellectually stimulating.  No matter what your plans are today, you don’t need to know where your career will take you over the long term – I certainly didn’t. Hustle, work hard, dedicate yourself to the task at hand and be fearless in the face of new challenges.” Joan  offered a quote she hears often from a friend “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

You have the tools to succeed, don’t place limits on yourself
“With the education you received, you have the tools to compete with anyone. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t be intimidated. If you commit to learning, and working hard, the only limit to what you achieve is you – not somebody else from some other school – you.  I strived to be someone that others wanted on their team, willing to run through walls if that's what it took to get the job done, attentive to detail, a team player and carrying a positive attitude. But I initially didn’t ask for the promotion, I assumed it would just come.  It wasn’t until someone more senior than I was said that if I didn’t ask, no one would know it was that important to me.  That was a big 'aha' moment in my career.  While it's not in my inherent nature to ask, I learned that I could and that no one was put off by it, they were glad I was motivated.”

Always remember where you came from, but never doubt how far you can go
“I believe my background – daughter of a holocaust survivor, first in my family to graduate college, a mom who worked full-time – set the early stage for my motivation to succeed and desire to have a great career.  Joining a top investment banking firm with a degree from a state university initially made me somewhat insecure.  I wondered if everyone else around me was more prepared, or smarter, or better educated.  But I learned none of that was true.  That if you are willing to put yourself out there, ask questions, strive for excellence and work like everything you do really matters, you can compete with anyone. The UAlbany mascot is the Great Dane.  Yes, that makes us dogs…but it doesn’t make us underdogs.”