Emma Pratt ‘16 Exploring New Frontiers


Two months ago, I stood at the foot of 525 North Tryon, gazing up at the pristine office building with an eager smile across my face and a few butterflies in my stomach. Once I took that elevator to the nineteenth floor, I would begin a summer full of learning and professional development, accompanied by building new relationships, exploring the city of Charlotte, and cultivating a greater sense of independence. I am endlessly grateful to the Middlesex Alumni Association for allowing me to pursue an unpaid internship away from home. Though I can only begin to describe what I’ve gained and the ways in which this summer has allowed me to grow, I will attempt to provide my highlights in the following.

This summer, I had the pleasure and honor of interning for Frontier Capital, a middle-market private equity firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. Frontier focuses exclusively on software and technology-enabled business services companies, and the firm utilizes a unique value creation process to accelerate growth, fund acquisitions, and generate shareholder liquidity. In 1999, two founding partners launched Frontier with a modest $45 million fund. Their focus was to provide growth capital to software and services companies as an alternative to traditional private equity firms, focused on leveraging buyouts, and venture capitalists, caught up in the dot-com bubble. They built a workplace culture and investment strategy around the concept of prioritizing people over profits. Almost twenty years later, Frontier has maintained its strong trajectory, its current team composed of about 25 talented professionals and its recently closed fifth fund reaching $700 million. Now nationally recognized as a leader in growth capital for technology, Frontier has remained centered around core values that emphasize “performance with humility.”

From June 1stto July 27th, I took on a role with the portfolio team, responsible for growing the companies currently in our portfolio through determining how to facilitate their growth. My responsibilities consisted of researching technology tools for our portfolio companies, composing slides on best practices for our Growth Partners, screening recent transactions involving Frontier competitors, recommending compensation terms for management teams, and more. I particularly enjoyed two projects: reviewing and screening transactions to research potential operating partners or management team candidates, and conducting and analyzing surveys to curate a list of recommended technology tools for portfolio companies. What I produced this summer varied from presentations to Growth Partners and spreadsheets on portfolio companies’ performances to in-depth research on executive candidates and reports on software and technology tools.

Though my role lay within the portfolio team, I also engaged with the investment team, responsible for researching in-market companies, analyzing opportunities, and executing investments, and the investor relations team, in charge of Limited Partner communications, reporting, and fundraising efforts. With the investment team, I participated in new investment evaluations through reviewing teasers and CIMs, participating in banker and management calls, and drafting detailed opportunity notes. With the investor relations team, I worked within Salesforce, a customer relationship management software, to update Frontier’s contact list. I also documented Frontier’s publications to help the team to prepare for an audit by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that will occur this fall. Becoming familiar with the work of these two teams while fulfilling my role with the portfolio team helped to maximize my exposure to the different functions within private equity.

Through executing these projects over the course of my internship, I have broadened my understanding of the world of mergers and acquisitions and gained skills that will doubtlessly help me as I pursue a career in this space. I’ve learned about the inner workings of private equity. I’ve learned about deal sourcing, value creation, and generating returns to Limited Partners upon exiting. I’ve learned about the benchmarks by which to judge a company’s performance and the most productive timeline in making changes to a company. I’ve learned about the respective roles of the business development team, investment team, portfolio team, and investor relations team, and how their work intertwines to produce a high functioning firm. This comprehensive understanding will allow me to envision where I might fit best within a firm in the future. Meanwhile, as I’ve researched SaaS companies for management team candidates, evaluated opportunities, and recommended software and technology tools for portfolio companies, I’ve improved my grasp on the ever-evolving technology landscape. As I’ve grown up alongside major technological advancements, I appreciated learning about recent advancements and how companies have found unique solutions to problems through technology.

Besides gaining knowledge about private equity and the technology industry, I’ve also gained an invaluable new skillset, one made up of both schooled and unschooled knowledge. In terms of schooled skills, or formal skills, I’ve become significantly more adept at Excel and PowerPoint, two Microsoft Office applications that will certainly be essential to my junior year internship and beyond. Equally as important are the informal skills I acquired. I learned how to conduct myself in a workplace environment, maintaining standards of professionalism in my dress code and conversational language. I became accustomed to reporting to my superiors, prioritizing my tasks, and carrying out everything I did with a sense of direction. In addition, I became adjusted to a 40-hour work week, a type of lifestyle that favors early nights and early mornings and rewards endurance. Finally, I developed skills pertaining to diligence and passion in the work place; for two months, I’ve been surrounded by role models who embody the epitome of these values.

This experience has also helped to elucidate my career goals. Hearing about young associates’ post-graduate years spent as investment bankers solidified my impression that investment banking provides a solid foundation to pursue a career in private equity. Though the role requires grueling hours and sleepless nights, they reported that they wouldn’t exchange their experience for any other career path. Furthermore, I’ve become familiar with how investment banking offers a steep learning curve, meaning that each new day will be a challenge and an opportunity to grow. The fast-paced, rigorous environment also excites me, and such settings are where I tend to thrive. I hope that I may be able to follow this path and am eager to see where it takes me.

Ultimately, nothing I learn in the classroom will ever parallel my experience at Frontier Capital. From Excel and time management skills to perseverance and professionalism, I learned an abundance of skills that cannot be taught, but that I couldn’t imagine my future without. What’s more, as I worked from my cozy desk space each morning, I couldn’t have been luckier as to the people I’ve been surrounded with. The culture at Frontier is a unique combination of passion, talent, camaraderie, diligence, and grit. Each employee I met was another I will strive to emulate in my future career. My first day, they immediately welcomed me as a part of their team. With bowls overflowing with tortilla chips and guacamole from Salsarita’s, the tasty Mexican chain that was catered that Friday, between us, they expressed a whole-hearted interest in getting to know me and helping me to feel at home. The following week, I had several meetings with key players at the firm, who described their respective roles and displayed patience and willingness to answer each of my questions that would better help me understand the inner workings of private equity. As the weeks went on, it became evident that they were truly invested in my growth. They went above and beyond to make sure I was learning as much as I could, inviting me to participate in calls, meetings, and workshops. One associate even helped me to develop my career goals and transform my resume. I am indebted to every individual at the firm for the kindness and openness they showed me throughout the summer.

This summer has served as an incredible opportunity for growth and independence. Diving head first into a new city and a challenging position at a reputable firm was a risk I couldn’t be more pleased that I took. Moreover, I am extremely grateful to Frontier Capital for providing me with this opportunity, and the Middlesex Alumni Association for giving me the means to pursue an unpaid internship away from home. Thank you, Mr. Morrissey and the Alumni Association Board, for making this summer possible.