Penn Perspectives: A Q&A With Katie Stitch

Stitch, C’04, W’04, is a Managing Director at W Capital Partners and a member of the Penn Arts and Sciences Professional Women’s Alliance (PWA). She is a graduate of Penn’s Huntsman Program with a B.A. in international studies and a B.S. in economics.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

By Erinn Carey

Katie Stitch, C’04, W’04

Share a brief overview of your career path, and tell us about what you do in your current role.

After graduating from Penn, I started my career in investment banking. It lived up to its reputation not only of being incredibly demanding but also offering an accelerated learning curve. After two years as an analyst, I joined a private equity firm that was then investing its first committed capital fund. It was a bit of a risk to join such a young organization but I really liked the team and believed in the opportunity. I've been fortunate enough to grow with the firm and we're now investing our third fund, having secured approximately $2 billion in capital commitments since inception.

I'm responsible for helping source and identify new opportunities, execute new transactions and manage our portfolio companies. We invest across a range of sectors and I love digging into new businesses and understanding what makes them tick. My world view is regularly altered by new concepts and types of businesses that I hadn't previously appreciated the need for. Working with management teams to drive value is exciting and rewardingand I love contributing at the board level to refine a strategy and then getting to watch that strategy unfold.

How has your liberal arts education been influential throughout your career?

My liberal arts education has influenced my career in countless ways. As a finance professional investing in businesses across a range of sectors and geography, the global knowledge base of my International Studies coursework has been a huge gift. I sat on the board of directors of a housewares company for a number of years that did substantial business in China. In refining my strategic thinking, I was able to draw on my studies and study abroad experiences for heightened historical context. Traveling to Beijing and Shanghai with the board, I was able to utilize an asset many of my peers didn't know I possessed with my Chinese language skills and regional perspective.

Even in a quantitative field, being a strong writer is of paramount importance. It's not something that's easily taught in a professional setting and will keep you from future opportunities. The opportunity to hone one's reading comprehension and writing skills in a liberal arts setting is a true gift that you will always be thankful for.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Be nice to everyone! Not only is it a better way to live, but also you never know the twists and turns your career may take. People want to work with likable people, and being a constructive team member and parting ways on good terms will have future benefits that you can only imagine. As tempting as it may be to burn a bridge in the moment, the world is small and increasingly interconnected and such behavior is shortsighted and detrimental to your longer term goals.

In addition, as Oscar Wilde is said to have said, "be yourself because everyone else is already taken." In a male dominated industry, I started out trying to replicate stylistically the models I saw before me. There are ways a seasoned male professional will communicate that won't work for a younger female professional - and vice versa. In areas where the path to success is more subjective (communication, negotiations, etc.), don't try too hard to fit yourself into a mold you've seen others create: Borrow what you can and focus on what makes you special. Try to see the positives of being different. For example, in my industry, there are a lot more men walking around conferences in blue shirts and khaki pants: It's easier to recall the person that stood out for follow-up and future opportunities.

How have mentors and your professional network played a role in your career, and why were you inspired to become involved as a member of the Penn Arts and Sciences Professional Women's Alliance (PWA)?

I have worked at my current organization for over 11 years. While I'm blessed with numerous mentors internally, trusted advisors and peers outside of my organization have been extremely helpful to meboth personally and to our firm as we continue to evolve our best practices. While I'm eager to repay the generosity of others expressed in time and countless other ways, I'm always surprised when people ask me to take on a mentoring role in their careers when I still actively seek mentorship myself.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my time as a member of PWA. Penn boasts a tremendous number of alumni in New York City but that can be daunting. PWA is a wonderful opportunity to make the community smaller. PWA's events are more intimate than broader-based alumni functions, affording attendees the opportunity to forge deeper, lasting connections with talented women across a range of fields naturally.