In this inaugural article in the Alumni Interview Series, The Harbus sat down with Pete Lyon (HBS ’95) to discuss his time at Harvard Business School and his career in investment banking.
Today, Pete is a Partner at Goldman Sachs where he leads client coverage strategy in the Executive Office for the Investment Banking Division and is a member of the Investment Banking Services (IBS) Leadership Group. He is also responsible for private equity, family office and corporate client relationship management in the Financial Sponsors Group within IBS.
Pete joined Goldman Sachs in 1990 after earning a BA, summa cum laude, in Classical Literature, Philosophy and Business Finance from the University of Notre Dame.
He assumed responsibility for private equity client relationship management in the Financial Sponsors Group in 2000. In 2008, Pete relocated to Dubai where he was head of client coverage for the MENA region for Investment Banking. In addition to his work at Goldman Sachs, Pete serves on the Board of Directors of Student Sponsor Partners, a New York-based charitable program.
What was the most important thing you learned at Harvard Business School? How have you applied that lesson in your career?
PL: I think one of the most important things I learned at HBS was how to be resourceful and leverage the incredible network the school has to offer its students. As an undergraduate student I think one can live a fairly self-contained existence – academically and socially – but as we develop into our professional careers, regardless of how capable we may be personally, we need relationships and networks to succeed and grow.
I was fortunate to learn very early on that the collective experience set of the amazing group of individuals at HBS is without peer. Therefore, in my two years at HBS I really wanted to take full advantage of the depth and breadth of those resources to learn as much as possible.
I am fortunate in my current job to be working closely with many of my friends from HBS – both as colleagues and clients – and I still marvel at the reach and power of the global HBS network. In my mind, this network makes HBS truly unique among post-graduate educational institutions.
What’s the best career advice you ever received?
PL: The best career advice I ever received was to manage my own career proactively. While we all have a series of mentors and friends along the way to help guide us, you need to take ultimate ownership of your own career.
In the end, we are our own best advocates and one has to step up and manage one’s own career aggressively to get the most out of it. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves.
As we all know, hope is not a strategy and neither is relying on someone else to tell you what you should or may want to achieve in your career. Set a high goal and go after it, using along the way all the resources you can to support your agenda.
How have the relationships you developed at HBS impacted your career (if at all)?
PL: The relationships I developed at HBS are among some of my closest personal and professional relationships today and I expect that to be true for the rest of my life. Of all the terrific things HBS has to offer, it is the incredibly rich and diverse background of the people (students and faculty) that make it one of the most powerful learning environments I have ever seen.
While I certainly learned a lot in the classroom at HBS, most of my learning came outside of the classroom by having the opportunity to interact with and exchange views with students and faculty members who often looked at the world from an entirely different perspective than I might have in the past.
I am very fortunate that many of these people are now good personal friends and/or business partners of mine. I can say they all have positively impacted not only my career but, more importantly, my world view. I am very grateful for the experience I had at HBS.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring investment bankers at HBS?
PL: Like any career, I think you need to look at investment banking as a marathon rather than a sprint. As such, over the course of your career, be prepared to accept change as part of the normal cadence of doing business and developing a career in the industry.
If doing the same thing for a prolonged period of time in the same market is your strong preference, investment banking may not be for you. Most of the action in the business now is centered in the growth markets, such as China, Brazil, India and other rapidly developing economies in need of capital, so I also don’t think it is possible to be successful long-term in our business without significant exposure to such markets.
If you could relive your HBS experience, what one thing would you do differently (more/less of)?
PL: Less case studies and more double cheeseburgers at the Tasty (for those who don’t know, the Tasty was the place for burgers in Cambridge for 80+ years until it sadly closed its doors in 1997).