Reshaping Trajectories: A Sloan Journey to Success in Private Equity

Nirina Rajaonary, recent graduate of our Sloan 2023 class, wasted no time in putting his newly acquired skills to work. Remaining focused and determined, he quickly secured a position in his desired professional sector – private equity. From reconnecting with old acquaintances to shifting his interests towards new domains, Nirina’s experience shows that Sloan provides the tools and knowledge which can be applied to any industry or career path. Let’s read his story below:

Why did you think you needed a program like Sloan in your career at this point? What were your motivations when you applied?

Nirina: The decision to apply to the Sloan programme stemmed from a profound desire to reshape my professional trajectory. After successfully establishing the first tissue paper mill in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean between 2009 and 2012, I encountered a pivotal moment during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Realizing that I had reached a glass ceiling with my company and having received an offer from a major Malagasy group to buy out my shares, I saw Sloan as the catalyst for personal reinvention.

The programme offered a crucial break, a moment of reflection after the intense journey of building a company from scratch in the complex economic and political landscape of Madagascar. Beyond career evolution, Sloan became a sanctuary for self-discovery and introspection.

Importantly, the desire to become a global leader, the aspiration for personal growth, and the realization that my entrepreneurial journey had reached its zenith, collectively fueled my motivation to join the Sloan program.

What expectations did you have during the programme? Have these been met or exceeded?

Nirina: Upon applying, I entered with an open mind, devoid of specific expectations, except for the overarching desire to evolve into a better person and leader and to enhance my skill set. Incredibly, the programme has surpassed any anticipations I might have had.

First and foremost, Sloan acted not only as a powerful catalyst in reigniting my self-confidence, providing a transformative experience that I hadn’t foreseen, but it also offered a global perspective, enriched by interactions with the Sloan cohort made up of diverse professionals who are incredible leaders.

The journey fortified my leadership capabilities and widened my strategic vision, equipping me with a profound understanding of business dynamics.

Perhaps the most remarkable outcome has been the unforeseen ability to pivot both function and industry, a feat I initially deemed nearly impossible. This unexpected shift is a testament to the programme’s effectiveness in fostering adaptability and facilitating profound career transformations. Sloan has proven to be a dynamic force, not only meeting, but far exceeding any expectations I might have harboured when embarking on this enriching journey in January 2023.

What were the most essential takeaways from the programme that helped you evolve as a leader as well as secure your next role?

Nirina: Sloan imparted invaluable lessons that significantly contributed to my growth as a leader. Sendil Ethiraj’s “Understanding Top Management” course emphasized the profound impact of understanding our “Luck,” this framework illuminated the intricate connection between leadership and our influence on the environment through our values, frames, processes, and relationships.

Nigel Nicholson’s “V.I.P. Integration” framework highlighted the need for alignment between Vision, Identity, and Passion/Purpose, which has shaped my post-Sloan career approach.

Additionally, Herminia Ibarra’s “Leading People and Organizations” course introduced the concept of ‘dormant ties’ and played a key role in securing my current position.  It was through a serendipitous conversation with a friend I had not spoken to in over 20 years and advised me to think seriously about private equity.

Furthermore, networking emerged as a crucial aspect. I actively participated in club events and attended conferences like the Private Capital Symposium.

Expressing my interest in private equity to those around me led to a connection through a friend of my sister’s, residing in Mauritius. This contact presented an opportunity to join a private equity firm focused on impact investing in the Southeast Africa region, including Madagascar—a testament to the interconnectedness of professional networks and the impactful nature of dormant ties in shaping career paths.

Have you used any of the career services and facilities throughout the programme? If yes, which ones would you recommend the most?

Nirina: In the initial three months of Sloan, I actively utilized LBS’s career services to explore diverse career possibilities post-graduation. While these services offered valuable insights, the pivotal factor in shaping my industry choice came from the conversation with my friend—the dormant tie whose advice proved decisive.

Subsequently, I returned to LBS’s career services to validate my chosen industry and seek guidance on navigating it successfully. I highly recommend leveraging the School’s career services to thoroughly explore potential career paths. However, I emphasize the importance of complementing this with active involvement in clubs and events within or outside LBS.

Developing a robust address book through participation in School events is invaluable, but equally crucial is tapping into one’s network. The combination of LBS resources, personal connections, and advice from seasoned contacts creates a well-rounded approach for securing opportunities after completing the studies.

If only given 3 words, how would you describe your experience within Sloan?

Nirina: Transformative. Invaluable. Empowering.

Can you please tell us how is the ‘professional’ future looking and what your new role as a ‘Principal’ is about?

Nirina: Inside Capital Partners is an independent private equity firm and I was hired to strengthen our presence and develop our portfolio in Madagascar. Inside, in the process of finalizing the first closing of our second fund, is poised for significant growth, with the fund being three times larger than its predecessor. Importantly, our LPs are mainly DFI (Development Financial Institutions) who are making investment choices targeting not just return, but also sustainability, values-alignment, and impact. Our focus on Southeast Africa, an often overlooked region, provides a unique opportunity as demographics present substantial growth potential.

The decision to join Inside aligns with my commitment to contribute to the region’s development and is aligned with LBS’s ethos of having ‘a profound impact on the way the world does business and the way business impacts the world’. I am driven by the purpose of being useful and impactful in our region, especially considering its immense potential for development, a vibrant young population, and resilient entrepreneurs who are catalysts for change.

In the face of challenges, my optimism for the next 20 years stems from the belief that private equity, mainly impact investing, can be a transformative force in driving economic development in the region.

Do you have any final advice for upcoming Sloan candidates?

Nirina: My advice is to approach the programme with an open mind, embracing a growth mindset and a receptiveness to diverse experiences. Actively engage in both classroom and extracurricular life, fostering connections not only with fellow students but also with their families, enriching your network.

Seize every opportunity, not only within LBS but also in the vibrant city of London. Sloan offers a unique privilege for individuals at our stage in life to take a year for self-discovery, to forge new friendships, and to reflect on life choices—all while immersing yourself in a transformative learning experience.

Embrace the diversity of the Sloan community, as it provides insights not only into the people in your class but also into their backgrounds and perspectives.

In essence, the Sloan programme is a precious opportunity for personal and professional rejuvenation. Make the most of this privilege, savoring the chance to learn, grow, and build enduring connections that will undoubtedly shape the next chapter of your life.

Congratulations to Nirina on his success, and to all the Sloan programme alumni who are making their mark in the professional world!

For more experience about the learning experience on the Sloan programme, click here.

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