By Harvard Business School for HBS Alumni
In this special First Five Years post, four alumni recently named to the Forbes 2019 “30 Under 30” list—Akash Pradhan (MBA 2017), Kiran Gandhi (MBA 2015), Anthony Tucker (MBA 2017), and Anish Pathipati (MBA 2016)—talk careers, HBS, and why you need to “put yourself out there.”
How did you find out you had been named to the 2019 “30 Under 30?”
Akash Pradhan, investor, TPG Capital and TPG Growth: “I woke up to text messages congratulating me from friends on the East Coast.”
Kiran Gandhi, musician, entrepreneur: “I was buying some bananas from a 7/11 in Seoul, South Korea, when the email appeared in my inbox. I was with a dear friend of mine, Elliott Davis, who graduated from HBS in 2016. He gave me a huge hug and hearty congratulations!”
Anthony Tucker, principal, Troy Capital Partners: “The list came out at 9 a.m. on the East Coast. I live in LA and so at 6 a.m. my time I woke up to congratulatory calls and text. This was way better than my usual alarm.”
Anish Pathipati, founding director, North Island: “I woke up, checked my email, and saw a message from the editor of Forbes welcoming me to the “30 Under 30.” I immediately shared the good news with my family and had a great day!”
What does this honor mean to you, personally and also professionally?
Pradhan: “This really is a team award. On the personal side, it is an award that belongs to my wife, my parents, and my broader friends and family, who collectively deserve the credit for getting me to this point in my life and career. Professionally, it is a team award for the various folks I work with at TPG Capital, who make showing up to work every day a great privilege and pleasure.”
Gandhi: “I think when you’re doing things as an entrepreneur and activist, you can often feel solo in your journey or that you are operating on the periphery of mainstream culture. So being recognized with such a prestigious accolade alongside many leaders of the mainstream music industry today made all of the hard work of the past decade deeply worth it.”
Tucker: “I think professionally it provides nice exposure for the work we have been doing here at Troy Capital. I’d like to think it doesn’t only highlight my individual accomplishments, but more so what we have all done as a team. Personally, I hope it serves as an example for others. Any success that I have had has been the product of peers and mentors who have provided support and inspiration for me along the way. So, it’s nice to think that I can be that for others in some small way.”
Pathipati: “It offers a gratifying moment to pause, smell the roses, and reflect on what I’ve accomplished to date. But more importantly, being included among such illustrious company is a source of motivation to keep working hard and accomplish even more in the future.”
Can you tell us about your current work?
Pradhan: “I work as a technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) investor at TPG, a global private equity firm. While I work across the TMT sector, I primarily focus on TPG’s middle market buyout and growth equity investments, which are made out of TPG Growth and The Rise Fund, a double–bottom line impact fund that was launched in 2016.”
Gandhi: “I am a music producer and drummer whose mission is to elevate and celebrate the female voice. I produce music that tackles issues of modern gender equality today, and I travel the world to speak and perform about these issues.”
Tucker: “I’m a principal at Troy, a venture capital firm investing in what we believe are the most transformational technology companies. We do this across the spectrum––from our early-stage seed and Series A fund all the way through our two later-stage vehicles. We are only three years old and so my role is not only to invest but to grow our platform, which is a bit of a startup itself.”
Pathipati: “I am a member of the founding team and lead the investment effort at North Island, an innovative private equity firm established by Glenn Hutchins (MBA 1983) (previously cofounder of Silver Lake and a fellow Harvard alum). Our vision is to improve on traditional private equity by building a more concentrated portfolio and extending the time horizon for our investments.”
How do you use what you learned at HBS in this work?
Pradhan: “My time at HBS gave me a great appreciation for the fact that most businesses are really just made up of hundreds or thousands of human beings working together under various incentive structures and schemes. As a result, incentive and organization design is probably the most important factors in determining whether a business is ultimately successful. And getting that right requires the ability to think about a business from the lens of various stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and most importantly the employees of an organization. Having only worked as an investor professionally, I used to think about a given business simply through that investor lens, but spending time with classmates at HBS who came from all different backgrounds really helped give me a broader perspective on all that it takes for an organization to be effective.”
Gandhi: “I find myself referencing lessons from my time at HBS almost every day, and sharing them with my audiences across the globe. I love the lesson from negotiations about defining value in different ways, or from LEAD about placing a strong emphasis on emotional intelligence as a core value in conducting business. I love the lesson from strategy about defining blue oceans instead of competing in red oceans.”
Tucker: “I was skeptical about how quickly some of the case work we did would resonate. I was so wrong. It isn’t as much about the individual lessons on finance, marketing, etc. It is much more about the interpersonal relationships and team building. I take these learnings into my every day. You can put together a strategy for anything pretty easily. The hard part is bringing everyone else along, having them contribute to make the strategy stronger, and then having the buy-in that leads to execution.”
Pathipati: “I constantly use takeaways from HBS. The investing, finance, and strategy classes helped me develop the pattern recognition to identify opportunities and risks when evaluating investments. The technology classes gave me some subject matter expertise on the industries in which North Island invests. The general management and negotiations classes gave me a toolkit to manage people and processes while executing deals and implementing value creation plans.”
What is your favorite HBS case and why?
Pradhan: “I don’t know if it is my favorite, but a case that comes to mind that I really enjoyed was “Europe, Russia and the Age of Gas Revolution.” I’d always thought about natural gas prices largely on economic terms. The shale revolution and advancements in LNG, as I saw it, had consequences that could largely be understood in terms of dollars and cents. This case showed me that perspective was wrong, and that the technological innovation that enabled fracking in the US has had significant geopolitical consequences in Europe and in Russia.”
Tucker: “We had a case on Disney and Alan Horn (MBA 1971) in SMICI (which is now called BEMS, I think). Alan Horn came to class and gave one of the most open and honest guest appearances I had at HBS. It was invaluable to hear from a leader who has been so successful in his career. He didn’t only share his ‘how,’ but he also shared his ‘why’ when it came to many of the key decision he has made in his career.”
Pathipati: “In my second year at HBS, I coauthored a case on The Priceline Group (now known as Booking Holdings) with Professor Len Schlesinger. We conducted thorough research using public sources and also spoke with several members of the company’s senior leadership team. I really enjoyed the case-writing process; it’s one of the best ways to learn about a business.”
What did enjoy doing at HBS when you weren’t studying?
Pradhan: “The most fun part of the HBS experience was participating in skydeck and professor roasts. I have to admit I probably spent way more time preparing for the roast of a HBS professor than I did for any individual case.”
Gandhi: “Touring the world playing the drums for artist M.I.A.!”
Tucker: “Traveling. It brought me closer to sectionmates and friends. It allowed me to add a more global context to the things we were learning at campus. Also, it’s not something I get to do as often for leisure now that I am no longer a student.”
Pathipati: I really enjoyed our section activities and events. Class of 2016 Section G is the best!”
What advice do you have for current HBS students interested in pursuing a career in your field?
Pradhan: “Force yourself to be an outbound person and spend time researching and getting to know people at various private equity or investment firms. The downside of recruiting for private equity jobs out of HBS is that it all happens during a ‘recruiting cycle’ that takes place early in the fall for ECs. But those cycles don’t necessarily line up with the times when private equity firms decide they need to hire. So, putting yourself out there, whether it’s through informational interviews or coffee meetings, can really help ‘put a face to a name’ when the job opportunity does come up.”
Gandhi: “The rules of the music industry today change every few months. The best way to learn about the industry is to get active in music in whatever capacity you are able to! A scrappy and entrepreneurial attitude is a must in order to succeed and thrive these days.”
Tucker: “Venture capital as a career is highly dependent on so many factors. What stage do you invest? What geography? What industry? And most importantly, with whom? Take the time to really figure out why you want to be an investor and what excites you most. Then be as diligent about interviewing your potential firms as they are about interviewing you.
Pathipati: “Remember that investing isn’t just about finance. As an investor, you’ll find that all of your HBS courses come in handy in one way or another.”
Can you finish this statement? “My HBS experience was…”
Pradhan: “All about the people I met and the time I spent with them.”
Gandhi: “Challenging, energizing, empowering, and rigorous.”
Tucker: “All about adding perspective. I think your judgment improves as you gain experiences. However, you only have so many hours in a day to experience things. Looking back, HBS was an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. I met some really great people with such different perspectives and approaches.”
Pathipati: “Among the best two years of my life. I learned a tremendous amount and developed lifelong friendships. A big thank you to HBS!”