One of the most senior women on Wall Street shares her best advice for 20-somethings

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Sandra Horbach, the cohead of Carlyle Group’s US buyouts unit, is one of the industry’s most senior women.

She and has been described as a trailblazer, having gotten her start in the fledgling industry in the 1980s.

Horbach’s industry typically involves buying up companies, often with borrowed money, and changing the companies to increase their value at a future point of sale.

In a wide-ranging interview, we asked Horbach how she would advise her 25-year-old self. Horbach was studying in business school at the time.

Here’s what she said (emphasis added):

“I would advise myself to follow my passion and pursue areas I really loved as opposed to what I thought I should do or where I thought I was going to make a lot of money. I see a lot of young people going into private equity and I don’t see the passion. They think it’s the right thing to do because they look ahead and see people who have been successful. But those of us who started in the industry had no idea it was going to turn into the industry it’s turned into.

When I joined Forstmann Little in 1987, right out of business school, it wasn’t even an industry. We didn’t call it private equity — it was leveraged buyouts. It was all about the love of finding great companies to work with and invest and help build. It wasn’t about creating this mega industry that has since been created. It starts with the passion, and it’s a lot of hard work, dedicating yourself to being the best you can be, and having a thick skin and not taking things personally, especially when you’re young.

You know you’re going in, you’re the junior person and you have to prove yourself and you have to make yourself indispensable. You have to have a positive attitude and say to yourself, How can I make my boss’ life better? What can I do to proactively and preemptively create value here in my organization? I think if you do all those things, more opportunities will be presented and you’ll continue to grow and progress within the organization.”

You can read the full interview with Horbach here.

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