The interview below is part of an ongoing effort by McGuireWoods to profile up-and-coming women leaders in private equity (PE). To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a rising star for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or Penny Zacharias at email@example.com.
About Pavithra Mahesh
Pavithra Mahesh is a principal on the healthcare team at Apax. She joined Apax in 2018 and is currently based in New York.
Prior to joining Apax, Mahesh was a member of Goldman Sachs' principal investing area, where she focused on buyouts and growth equity investments in healthcare services and information technology. She started her career on Goldman Sachs' healthcare investment banking team.
Mahesh holds a BA in behavioral economics, magna cum laude, from Duke University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She serves on the board of Eating Recovery Center and InnovAge and previously served on the board of Kepro.
Q: What attracted you to PE but potentially concerned you about this chosen career path?
Pavithra Mahesh: I had a pretty traditional career path. I was an analyst in investment banking right out of college. As I thought about what I wanted to do next, PE was the most attractive option.
There were a few things that drew me into PE. It's an industry that gives you unique exposure to the investment world but also a lens into how companies operate day to day. It was clear that it was an environment where I was going to be challenged and constantly learning.
In banking, I only worked with companies for a brief period when they wanted to execute a transaction. I was much more interested in understanding what made a company a good business and how to make a good business a great one over time. Investing in companies while they are at an inflection point and accelerating their growth continues to be one of the things I enjoy most about my job in PE.
The thing that concerned me the most about the industry at the start was, when I looked around, there weren't many women in the senior- or mid-level ranks. That's certainly improved over time even though there is a long way to go.
Q: How do you believe women of your generation will be able to influence the PE industry, particularly as the career path continues to evolve?
PM: I am hopeful that my cohort will create a larger community and critical mass of women in PE versus being on individual islands at different firms. To me, having critical mass is essential to creating an environment in which younger women do not question their ability to succeed or their right to sit at the table.
Q: Why does the PE industry care about diversity?
PM: PE is fundamentally a people business. The assets of a PE firm are the people who walk in and out of the door every day. To be a strong firm and make sound investment decisions, you need to attract independent thinkers. Bringing diverse perspectives together around the table — and by diverse, I don't just mean women, but diversity of all flavors — should result in better collective decision making.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue careers in PE?
PM: Everyone should pursue careers in whatever interests them most. That's what's most important. My philosophy is that if you're genuinely interested in a career path, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot because, as the saying goes, you fail at 100% of the things you don't try. If PE is of interest, I would encourage women to not be dissuaded. Just go for it.
Q: Considering your experience in PE, why might you encourage someone to take a closer look at a career in the sector?
PM: The personal rewards of a career in PE are often underappreciated. Taking a step back, there have been three reasons why it has been a fulfilling path for me.
The first element is the people at Apax. I am lucky enough to work with fantastic colleagues who make this job fun and challenging, and I greatly value those relationships.
The second piece would be working with companies that are at some inflection point in their growth trajectory. It's very rewarding to be able to help them get to the next level and see companies transform over time.
Finally, I've spent my entire career focused on the healthcare industry. Investing in companies that "do well by doing good" and have a real positive impact on people's lives has always given me an extra dose of meaning and motivation.
Q: What are the top qualities required for success in PE?
PM: Tenacity, being a team player and being intellectually honest.
To contact Pavithra Mahesh, email firstname.lastname@example.org.