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Women’s History Month Q&A: Episode Two
Women’s History Month Q&A: Episode Two
In a new episode of our Women’s History Month video series, which honors trailblazing women at Alantra, we feature Patricia Pascual-Ramsay (CEO of Alantra’s New Businesses), Lucille Bonnet (Managing Partner at Alantra’s Klima Energy Transition Fund), Alejandra Gandarias (Vice President of Human Capital), and Michaela Zhang (Analyst at Alantra Investment Banking).
Our trailblazing colleagues share how they are making an impact in their respective fields and the key challenges they are working on.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in Finance?
Patricia Pascual-Ramsay: I was a good student at university, and I liked to study financial topics. I had the opportunity to start my career at one of the global financial top players – Goldman Sachs – which opened my mind to everything that can be done in finance, from advisory, asset or wealth management to investing. I thought it was a fantastic world: dynamic, international, and filled with very talented people – so I decided it was my industry.
Lucille Bonnet: To be very transparent, I almost quit finance after working for a bank for about a year before the end of my studies. Then at university I got to know a world where finance marries entrepreneurship: venture capital. Right after I finished my studies, I was lucky to start working for a cleantech VC fund based in Germany and investing in Europe.
After discovering VC, I became fascinated by the energy sector, and I can call myself lucky that I have loved my job ever since I started in 2009. For me finance is a means to find great new things, push innovations, and today with the Klima fund, support the growth of companies that contribute to accelerating the energy transition.
Alejandra Gandarias: I find finance an exciting, dynamic, and ever-changing industry. There’s always something new to learn and endless growth opportunities and possibilities when it comes to career paths. It is also a challenging and fast-paced environment with smart people from who you can continuously learn.
Michaela Zhang: To be honest, I did not think I would be working in Finance when I was still in college. I think things started to change after I realized that my job as an investment banker gives me opportunities to work with a variety of people and witness industry-wide innovation and development. That excites me.
Q: What key challenge is your team working on?
Patricia Pascual-Ramsay: We are currently working on delivering new capabilities to our corporate, private equity and institutional clients to address their energy efficiency and technology transformation needs. This requires creativity, capability development and a deep understanding of their challenges and strategies.
Lucille Bonnet: Energy transition would be the obvious answer. Klima is a pan-European energy-tech growth fund and our key challenge as a team is to find the best investments in that space and support our portfolio companies in their fast growth.
Alejandra Gandarias: We must become a strategic business partner that adds value to our internal client. In the current market context, our top priorities are attracting & retaining high performers, changing the learning environment to support human capital development, powering human impact with tech and establishing personalized career paths for professionals that demand more meaningful work and flexible workplace models.
Michaela Zhang: I think figuring out the “added-value” of an investment banker is the biggest challenge for everyone. For our team, we are trying to be less transactional, and more thoughtful regarding our relationship with our clients / buyers. We brought on a Senior Advisor with operating background to help us build that thought leadership and spearhead strategic relationship-building.
Q: Who has influenced you most in your career?
Patricia Pascual-Ramsay: I have no doubt about it: Santiago Eguidazu, Alantra’s Executive Chairman and Senior Partner. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him hand in hand for more than 15 years. Together with other partners and colleagues, we have built a fantastic firm. He has taught me everything I know, from how to be leader to how to create a strategy to make things happen and deliver results. I am very grateful to him for this great journey together.
Lucille Bonnet: The many great entrepreneurs I have worked with, who brought to market great innovations, worked on solving meaningful issues and had a great impact on society.
Alejandra Gandarias: The best examples I’ve had in my professional career have always been my parents. They are an example of ambition, perseverance, and continuous sacrifice. I have always turned to them when I have had any doubts or concerns from a professional standpoint.
Michaela Zhang: My father is a successful entrepreneur. Seeing him work with passion really laid the foundation for my own career-building and shaping me into who I am today. Besides that, I would say my team at Alantra has influenced me in every possible way – always adventurous, sometimes aggressive, and genuine at all times.
Q: What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career in Finance?
Patricia Pascual-Ramsay: I would advise them to fight for their aspirations, to follow their intuition, to be determined and to always be true to themselves. You need character for everything in life and our industry is no different. Also, to find the right balance in their lives, which is something achievable in finance as well. Women deserve the opportunity to succeed in this industry without having to sacrifice everything else in their lives.
Lucille Bonnet: I would stress them to go for it! To have more women in leadership positions we need more empowerment, but we also need to have more women putting their foot in the door and taking it from there. That is a necessary condition. Having said that we are currently looking for a professional to join our Klima team so if you know a young bright mind with a financial background and a passion for environmental impact investing, please share them this position.
Alejandra Gandarias: To develop professionally in this sector, I think you must be very self-confident, have clear goals, and be able to take risks. Having a strategic vision and being up to date on industry and sector trends is essential. You will need to be prepared for any scenario or situation and be able to think “out of the box.”
Michaela Zhang: I’d advise them to not feel intimidated of being the “only woman” in the room and never be afraid to ask for help. It is important to recognize that although this is still a male-dominated industry, at the end of the day, people will see that you can perform and deliver quality work just like every other guy.
Q: What would you like to see happen for women in 2024?
Lucille Bonnet: That women lead the way towards more diversity in the finance world for all other minorities out there.
Alejandra Gandarias: I would like to see more opportunities given to women in senior roles, which would bring them greater visibility and exposure in this industry. This change would allow younger women to see growth and development opportunities in finance and, ultimately, encourage them to want to have a career in finance.
Michaela Zhang: I’d like to see more women at work, both colleagues and counterparties. We have come a long way but there is still a long way to go.