Chae Initiative Visits New York Private Sector Leaders

photo Michael Chae ’97 speaking to students in a conference room
Michael Chae ’97 (right), Chief Financial Officer of Blackstone, spoke to Law School students in New York City in January as part of the Chae Initiative in Private Sector Leadership's student trip to facilitate exploration of finance careers.

The Chae Initiative in Private Sector Leadership, part of The Tsai Leadership Program at Yale Law School, held its inaugural student trip to New York City in January to facilitate student exploration of careers in finance.

During the trip, students visited several financial firms, ranging from investment banks to hedge funds, connected with Yale Law School alumni, and engaged with some of the private sector’s most prominent leaders. The trip was intended to provide an immersive experience for the group of 21 students, which included Chae Fellows and several 3L students with an interest in careers in finance.

“The New York City trip combined the three pillars of the Chae Initiative: mentorship, instruction, and fellowship,” Professor of Law John Morley ’06, the Faculty Director of the Chae Initiative, said. “It connected students to each other and to alumni mentors who taught them from real-world experience.”

The trip began with a visit to Blackstone Inc., one of the world’s largest alternative investment firms. Hosted by Michael Chae ’97, Blackstone’s Chief Financial Officer, the morning included time spent with senior Blackstone representatives including Chae and Blackstone’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Co-Founder Stephen Schwarzman, who provided signed copies of his book on leadership, What It Takes.

Schwarzman shared advice with students on how to explore the world of private equity and the importance of connecting with Law School alumni about their experiences in investing. He advised the students to surround themselves with intelligent people and boil problems down to the few key variables that control outcomes.

Other senior practitioner leaders from Blackstone who met with students included Vik Sawhney, Chief Administrative Officer and Global Head of Institutional Client Solutions; Chris James, COO of the Tactical Opportunities Group; John Samuels, Head of Global Tax; Kathleen McCarthy, Global Co-Head of Blackstone Real Estate; and three Yale Law School alumni: David Kaden ’10, Mike Hogan ’16, and Michael Shapiro ’16.

That afternoon, the group traveled to Rockefeller Center to meet with Greg Fleming ’88, CEO of Rockefeller Capital Management. Fleming discussed careers in asset management and his experience building the firm with students and emphasized the need to create an “enterprise-wide mindset” within organizations, as well as the importance of humility in management.

Fleming touched on a theme that arose throughout the multiday trip: the importance of identifying one’s fit with a company’s organizational culture, underscoring to students that culture should be a large part of career decisions.

At the end of the first day, the Chae Initiative hosted a dinner at the Yale Club, providing an opportunity for students to network with alumni working in fields such as private equity, renewable energy, and journalism.

“I felt in awe of the alumni who carved their own paths at a time when many of their peers chose more traditional legal pathways,” said Jenna Cook ’24, a Chae Fellow.

Alumni in attendance included Paul Breloff ’06, Rhonda Joy McLean ’83, Gary Stewart ’99, Mark McCall ’95, Gretchen Rubin ’94, James Rubin ’93, and Jonathan Knee ’88, among others.

A group of five people stand in a restaurant watching two of them shake hands
Part of the trip included a dinner that provided an opportunity for students to network with Law School alumni working in fields such as private equity, renewable energy, and journalism

On the second day, students visited Goldman Sachs and met Peter Gross ’92, Vice-Chairman of Investment Banking, and Diameter Capital Partners, a hedge fund founded by Jonathan Lewinsohn ’06 and Scott Goodwin. The two institutions not only provided a contrast in terms of atmosphere, with Diameter Capital operating like a Silicon Valley startup, but also illuminated a difference already on many students’ minds: choosing a career at an established institution like Goldman Sachs versus founding a new one like Diameter Capital.

The trip concluded that evening with an event held by Joe Tsai ’90, Executive Vice Chairman of the Alibaba Group and owner of the Brooklyn Nets, who hosted the students at Barclays Center to watch the Nets play the Celtics. Rich Tao ’15, Managing Director of Blue Pool Capital also joined the event.

While the Nets ultimately lost the close game, the outcome provided a point of reflection for the students. Tsai and Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn spoke to the group, saying that while it is difficult to lose, leadership shows its vibrancy in the opportunity to reflect on areas to improve. Vaughn also discussed the importance of establishing credibility with the team, and Tsai reminded the Chae Fellows that there is no single “right” way to be a leader. Tsai also emphasized the power of teamwork, remarking that a talented individual can accomplish a finite amount, but a team of talent can experience exponential success.

A chief objective of the New York trip was to foster a sense of community among the Chae Fellows and other student participants, according to Mary Herrington, Executive Director of the Chae Initiative.

“We wanted to highlight pathways in the finance sector,” Herrington said, “but perhaps equally as important was our goal to bond the students and foster a ‘Chae community’ among student participants and alumni. It is a remarkable community that will continue to flourish.”

Tim Lee ’24, a Chae Fellow who went on the trip, said that the trip served that purpose for him.

“Learning about the many alternative careers made me realize the breadth of opportunities open to us and pushed me to think about the kind of life I wanted to lead in the long run,” Lee said. “I appreciated the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with other Chae Fellows, who are all uniquely inspiring.”