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Colleen Parra, Associate, Lazard - Private Capital Advisory

The Basics:

Name: Colleen Parra

Age: 31
City: New York, NY
Company: Lazard
Role: Associate
Industry: Private Capital Advisory
Education: MBA, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School; BBA, Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business
College Major: Finance

What drew you to working in finance?

I had enrolled in a few business electives and grew passionate as I learned more about the global markets and major market-moving issues of the day. These were real events transforming and shaping our economic landscape and I wanted to be a part of it. After a few internships, I was fortunate to start my career at Goldman Sachs, where I was granted a professional and personal skill set that I couldn’t get anywhere else, and would prove to be relevant for alternate careers down the road.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were entering the workforce?

As I reminisce to when I first entered the workforce a decade ago, the first thing that comes to mind is to make time to find mentors. As a young woman working in finance, it is critical to establish connections with folks throughout the firm out and ultimately select a few mentors where there is a mutual connection. Cultivating these deep relationships early on go a long way as they provide valuable guidance on important life decisions or could advocate for your career advancement. It was actually one of my mentors that truly encouraged me to go back to business school after I debated the decision for a while.

What skills are most important in Private Capital Advisory? What do you look for in employees?

Private Capital Advisory falls within the umbrella of Investment Banking where we focus on secondary transactions for private funds interests to leading institutional investors, Fund sponsors and complements the capital raising advisory for primaries as well. 

In my current role and prior role, we truly value high attention to detail, effective communication and strong finance and accounting knowledge. However, while the technical aspect of the role is important, there is a great emphasis placed on teamwork and a positive attitude as the bullpen embraces a collegial and collaborative culture. Given our longer hours, working with the right people truly makes all the difference! 

What do you love most about your job in Private Capital Advisory?

I recently joined the Private Capital Advisory at Lazard after working as a generalist in the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Group at Wells Fargo. What I love about my current job is the bespoke type of transactions and solutions we offer our clients to find liquidity solutions, and the aspect of a growing market as private equity has historically been viewed as a relatively illiquid asset class. 

In M&A, I loved the ability to work on landmark deals across all industries and execute strategies that are transformative to the client and society. More closely, I really appreciated the level of responsibility given to junior bankers as it created an opportunity to learn quickly under pressure.

What was the best piece of career advice you ever received?

There are two things you can control: your effort and your attitude. So be authentic and know how you can add value.

What did you wear to your Investment Banking interview?

I wore a tailored mohair wool navy suit. All time favorite power suit. 

What do you wear on a daily basis to the office? 

I find myself reaching again and again for a classic color dress or slim trousers, matching blazer, and a silk blouse. I keep a capsule closet of all my work pieces, so it’s easier to ensemble and practical to mix and match designer and classic items. Finally, I pair all of my outfits with a leather heel or neutral suede pump (can’t do flats because I’m only 5’2!)

What’s your go-to power outfit? (i.e., what do you wear when you want to feel confident and powerful at work?)

I do like expressing personal style at the office without taking the focus off my work. Blazers are my one way to show my personal style – whether it’s structured black or a classic tweed.

For important meetings or events, a tailored suit paired with comfortable pumps is perfectly polished. 

What is the biggest clothing faux pas you’ve seen a candidate wear during an interview? 

One of the biggest faux pas I frequently see is wrinkled business attire, whether it’s a dress or a trouser. It happens a lot as candidates are traveling and may be difficult to keep a wrinkle-free ensemble during transit. However, it can look very messy and be distracting to an interviewer. Candidates who look polished give employers assurance about what they are seeking, such as making a favorable impression with colleagues and clients.

Parting Wisdom:

What was your first job? Analyst, Goldman Sachs

Who is one woman you look up to? Besides my amazing mother, I’d have to say Amal Clooney

What’s the best book you read recently? Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

What one item should every young professional have in her closet? A staple black dress. The more simple it is, the more versatile it will be