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What's your thing?

Samantha Norquist  Follow

I’ve been doing this for some time, yet it still surprises me when someone calls me the go-to for all things OCIO and institutional investors at Prosek. I fell into this niche with a little bit of luck and a lot of mentorship. I embraced it when I realized being “the OCIO person” was going to make me a stronger partner to my clients and colleagues and tremendously impact my career. Not to mention, I happen to truly enjoy the subject matter, which didn’t happen overnight, but instead came as my confidence and knowledge of the space grew over time.

Each Sunday evening in Jen Prosek’s firmwide email, she features new talent joining the firm, and each week, I find myself meeting someone for the first time over a virtual (or now, sometimes in person) coffee. No matter the level or background of each person who joins, each asks what it takes to thrive or be successful at a place like Prosek. And each time, I have the same answer:

“Figure out your ‘thing’ and become ‘that person’”

I began my career in the media war room of a political campaign, and thought I’d end up in public affairs. But then, I stumbled into supporting a private equity transaction and never looked back. I learned about cool industries backed by PE and understood how these firms invested in companies to help them thrive. I eventually joined Cambridge Associates as their in-house PR person on the marketing and business development team, and it was there that I learned about the endowment model, the long-term return potential with private investments, active management, and the critical role of an investment portfolio in supporting an institution’s mission and goals. Maybe it was being within the walls of a firm that lived and breathed institutional investing, but more likely it was my colleagues who were so passionate about driving outcomes for the institutions they served that cemented my interest and intrigue in institutional investment communications. (Case in point.)

Then, when the opportunity arose to join Prosek with some of my favorite colleagues from earlier in my career and spend my first several months in a secondment at a top private equity firm, I knew I had to give it a shot.

I began working with the broader industry of institutional allocators and alternative investment managers, plus nurtured old and cultivated new relationships across colleagues and the media, and eventually found myself leading an OCIO new business pitch at the end of my maternity leave. That single-handedly helped me re-enter the working world with excitement to continue carving my path in this space.

Just over three years in, I have a client portfolio of some of the most impressive institutional allocators and private market firms, and I love what I do. I found my “thing,” and I’ve become “the OCIO person.”

Timing is a funny thing, too. Jen founded Prosek on the notion that investment firms needed to take control of their message and lean into proactive communications and marketing. Now, 20 years later, the institutional investor community is recognizing the opportunity as well, and I am meeting new family office firms, endowments and other institutional firms all the time. My insights and knowledge expand with each introduction and experience, giving me even more confidence and insight to counsel my clients and colleagues.

So, while my “thing” happens to be a niche area where I deeply understand industry trends and the media landscape, and speak my clients’ language, your “thing” can be anything – as long as there is genuine passion, interest, knowledge and perspective that comes with it.

There are four key areas to consider if you are trying to figure out where you can make your mark and carve your path to serving as an asset to your colleagues and clients. In no particular order, they are:

  1. WORK: What part of your job energizes you the most? What types of tasks or engagements do you find most rewarding and exciting?
  2. TOPICS: What subjects are you expert in? What newsletters or articles do you find yourself opening and reading? What are they about? Why are they interesting to you?
  3. STRENGTHS: What are your natural strengths? Bring those to work every day and you’ll show up your best. (True story: I took StrengthsFinder about five years ago and refer to my results on a regular basis – principle being: lean into your top strengths and find others with complementary strengths – that’s where the magic happens.)
  4. PEOPLE: Who are your biggest champions? Who encourages you, who do you learn from? Who do you enjoy working with? Where are your strongest relationships? Where do you want to continue to invest when it comes to industry contacts and your network?

Being sticky to your clients and your organization means being resourceful, present and thoughtful. To own something deeply – a skill, a key relationship, a sector – is to be an asset to your teams and for your clients.

I have found a career that fulfills me and energizes me everyday thanks to mentors recognizing my potential and my experience and providing me with a runway to thrive.   

My family and friends laugh endearingly when they see Capital Allocators on my bookshelf and shake their head in disbelief (but with pride!) when I talk about my work with institutional investors and private equity or venture capital firms. But let’s be clear: I am always here to talk about the Yankees (Bernie Williams is my all-time favorite) and I love a new Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, too.

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