Park Fellows alumni spotlight: Solomon Tesfaye MBA ’15
Solomon Tesfaye leads business development and capital markets at tZERO, a leading private secondary market trading platform that can digitize private equity and enable it to trade in a continuous regulated manner.
Previously, he was an investment banker at Citi where he focused on M&A, IPOs and private placements within Diversified Industrial coverage. He has significant experience focused on industrial technology [i.e. Internet of Things (IoT), Machine to Machine (M2M), and Telematics].
Q1 – The Park Program focuses on increasing our capabilities as leaders to make a broader impact. Tell us about your journey after Johnson, what you are doing now, and how you are seeking to drive impact.
Solomon: I spent the first four years after Johnson working as an Investment Banker at Citi within the Industrials Coverage Group, and primarily focused on diversified industrial’s intersection with technology – such as Internet of Things, Machine-to-Machine Technology, and Telematics. In parallel to gaining M&A, IPO and private placement experience, I was involved in a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across the firm. I focused much of my attention on both Citi’s campus graduate and undergraduate recruiting expanding the breadth of hiring channels that served as onramps for high potential diverse talent. Additionally, I actively contributed to the retention strategy programs related to this human capital to ensure lasting organizational change.
I was recruited to transition to tZERO Group, a leading private secondary market trading platform that can digitize private equity and enable it to trade in a continuous regulated manner. As the Head of Business Development and Capital Markets, I lead establishing strategic partnerships and identifying primarily private companies that are appropriate to leverage our capital formation and our secondary trading solutions. Aside from the market leading technology, I was attracted to this role due to the firm’s focus on democratizing access to private investments to a broader demographic of people who might traditionally be excluded.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to have a key role in our strategic capital raise process as the Intercontinental Exchange / New York Stock Exchange led our round.
Q2 – What experiences from the Park Program do you remember that have increased your effectiveness and ability as a leader?
Solomon: I viewed my time within the Park Program as a leadership incubator receiving both personal and professional development coaching. It is rare to have the opportunity to pause your career and recalibrate. The Park Program enabled me to take a thoughtful assessment of my values, priorities and the type of leader I was seeking to become while being surrounded by supportive faculty and peers. It was a collection of Park Program experiences that holistically contributed to accelerating my leadership development.
Through this guided personal exploration, I became more conscious of my unique points of differentiation, had the opportunity to travel to 25+ countries during Johnson to gain a more global perspective and managed to position myself to receive real-time feedback while being coached, leading and volunteering in a variety of roles on and off campus roles. The Park Program equipped me with a greater sense of self-awareness that has helped me become more deliberate about the type of leader I want to be, and how I can channel that into how I lead others.
Q3 – What advice would you share with other Park Fellows based on your evolution as a leader to help them continue to evolve and expand their influence?
Solomon: There are a few points that have served me well as I continue my evolution as a leader:
First, adopting a mindset of constant growth – regardless of how far along you are on your journey. I believe it is important to remain intellectually curious and proactively pursue growth opportunities. This can range from simply being more adventurous with your travel plans, challenging yourself to learn a new skillset or pursuing “stretch” leadership roles (professionally or otherwise) that are outside your comfort zone. I believe the pursuit of consistent growth is an important leadership trait, because greater exposure to a wide range of variables and experiences will further refine someone’s ability to relate and lead others in a variety of scenarios.
Second, be humble. One thing that has helped guide me is the mindset that everybody you interact with is better than you at at least one thing – if not more. Welcome interactions with individuals with diverse backgrounds rather than forfeiting the growth opportunity. Regardless of whether I was in a leadership role interacting with a team member or the recipient of mentorship, I have always found myself gaining additional insight from the conversation. As Park Fellows, we were fortunate to have had significant resources focused on our personal growth, and I welcome the opportunity to pay it forward.
Third, hone a natural area of strength that can be a point of differentiation and build a personal brand. I have found that taking a thoughtful proactive approach towards establishing depth within particular skillsets often positions individuals to become subject matter experts earlier in their careers and well-positioned to take on leadership roles. Of course, a balance must be established where you continue to develop adjacent complimentary qualities in parallel to this core competency. Once you identify an area of focus it is important to find your voice in whichever role or industry you would like to pursue. Competency without the appropriate degree of visibility may go unnoticed, so seek opportunities to build a community within and outside of your organization through sharing relevant informative content, attending conferences and speaking at events to establish a personal brand.