Pursuing a Passion for Impact Investing: Q&A with Tiago Gomes, Winner of the Rustandy Center Impact Investing Award

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Tiago Gomes, a second-year student in Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program, received the first-ever Rustandy Center Impact Investing Award, which provides $6,000 to support one MBA student’s summer internship in impact investing. The funding is part of the Karen Miller Padgett, ’93, Impact Investing Experiential Learning Program at Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, established in 2018 and in partnership with Career Services. Tiago recently sat down with the Rustandy Center to talk about his internship experience and the programs he’s leveraging at Booth to pursue a career in impact investing.

You were involved in social impact at Booth from day one. What initially brought you to Booth?

TG: I have had a bias toward Booth for many years, since two of my most inspiring former bosses are Booth alumni. I started contemplating an MBA degree when I decided to shift my career from mainstream finance to impact investing. Given that this is a budding industry, I thought I would benefit from a rigorous academic program with a multidisciplinary approach (i.e., data analysis could assist me in exploring impact measurement methodologies, economic models could help me understand income inequality from a fresh perspective, etc.).

I started researching the Rustandy Center as I initiated my admission application process. I also spoke with alumni who had been involved with the center. As a result of my interest in impact investing, I have been involved with Rustandy from the beginning, attending various open houses, workshops, and office hours. I work part time on a private equity impact investing fund at Impact Engine, which is based in Chicago and has several connections to the Rustandy Center, including the fact that Impact Engine’s managing partner and chief investment officer Priya Parrish, ’09, is also the Rustandy Center’s impact investor in residence    

What is your career background and what got you interested in impact investing?

TG: I’ve always been interested in impact investing/sustainable finance, even before the term was formally coined. Back then, the industry was very small, so I decided to explore a career in mainstream finance, having worked for private equity firms in Brazil (my home country) and an investment bank in various geographies.

All those years spent in finance were key for me to build technical skills and acquire the discipline of capital allocation, which I strongly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in impact investing. My decision to finally make this career transition is based on a personal alignment of values and interests, and results from the considerable amount of time I spent reasoning on the “whats” and the “whys.” Like, what kinds of interventions are most needed? And why am I involved in developing/financing those interventions? Impact investing has become a practical tool for agents to discuss the “how” of implementing such interventions more efficiently. My passion for this industry lies in the fact that innovative investment structures have enabled interventions to scale quickly, exponentially increasing positive effects in society.  

Where did you intern last summer and what was your favorite part about the experience?

TG: During the summer I interned at VestedWorld, a Chicago-based venture capital firm focused in the African market. The highlight of my summer internship was a trip to Lagos in Nigeria, where I conducted the diligence on a company, in which we eventually invested. It was super interesting to assess the country’s business environment and how the company’s value proposition has impacted the local population.

How has receiving the Rustandy Center Impact Investing Award affected your short- and long-term career goals?

TG: It was an honor to be the first recipient of the Rustandy Center Impact Investing Award. This is a clear sign that the industry is progressively becoming more mainstream, and more students are interested in pursuing a career in the sector.

In the past few months, this award has certainly opened many doors with firms and institutions curious to know more about Booth’s involvement with impact investing. I eventually plan to raise a later-stage impact investing vehicle in my home country (of Brazil), and I believe awards like the one I received will add substantial credibility to those efforts.

Anything else you’d like to add?

TG: I would strongly encourage anyone who desires to pursue a career in impact investing to really be persistent. Despite the uncertainties and what many people might think, there are many opportunities in the sector. I think this is a great moment to make a transition to impact investing, as capital commitments from the world’s leading institutional investors have been increasing year over year.

Tiago Gomes is a second-year student in the Full-Time MBA Program. While at Booth, he has participated in the MBA Impact Investing Networking and Training (MIINT) program and Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge. Tiago has also been involved with Booth student groups Net Impact and PE/VC Club.