Olivia Sabine '97 Assembly on Entrepreneurship 8

View photos of Olivia’s visit to CA.
When Olivia Sabine ’97 was a student at Concord Academy, she felt like she had a choice. “I could pursue my passion — which was really dance and continues to be dance to this day — I could focus on building positive social change, or I could do something else, and probably that thing was business, and it sounded sort of evil, and certainly not fun.”

In returning to campus last week to address the CA community during an entrepreneurship assembly, her message was quite different. “[In high school] I thought of all of these things as really opposing,” Sabine said. “If you leave with anything today, I want you to open your mind a tiny bit and think about how you can blend all those things together. Achieving positive impact in people’s lives can come in tons of forms. It can come through being a community organizer, it can come from marching in the streets … and it can come from building and running great companies.”

Sabine has done just that. A dancer to this day, Olivia has built a career in private equity. She is currently Executive Vice President at Bain Capital. In her role she works with multiple companies in the Bain Capital Portfolio, including iHeartMedia, the number-one media company in the U.S. with reach larger than Facebook or Google. Prior to Bain, Sabine worked McKinsey and Company. She received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Columbia College.

During her talk, Sabine encouraged students not to simply accept firmly held beliefs about the finance industry. She noted that, at CA, students are encouraged to question these beliefs. For instance, Sabine noted that people often believe you have to be good at math to succeed in finance. “My daughter is a third grader, and in about nine months she’ll have enough math to work at my company,” she said. Instead, she suggested it was about problem solving, collaborating, and seeking mastery — things you can learn in history, anthropology, or science, she said. “All of that is critically important and has nothing to do with math.”

She also pointed to how this disproportionately and unfairly affects girls. “We know — this is all proven research — that girls at a seventh-grade level who have the exact same capabilities as boys, in terms of mastery of math, believe they are worse than their boy peers.” She asked, “Why is that true? Is that about protecting the status quo?” She suggested students not accept inherited beliefs at face value. “I encourage you — when you hear these things, when you are told these things even from adults, question them.”

In the end, Sabine encouraged students to seek a seat at the table. “There are lots of ways to have a huge impact on people’s lives, including in business.” She pointed to the tremendous power and influence of large companies. “If you were Rex Tillerson, what would you be doing? How different would our world be if you had that spot? He has had an enormous platform. I want to see you guys in those seats. I want to see myself in those seats. Because I know that when I am at the table I bring my whole self. There is a way to change the system by leading the system.”

 


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