Vincent Harris – 2010 Fellow

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?

I am an Associate with Prudential Capital Group here in NY.  Our firm does principal investing for Prudential Insurance Company. We have about $50 billion in assets under management and invest both senior debt as well as mezzanine debt and equity.  As for how I came to work in this role, I had been a financial advisor prior to going to business school (first with Morgan Stanley, then with Banc of America) so I enjoyed following the market, but I wanted to be closer to the action.  Specifically, I wanted to be on the buy side.  Giving people advice on where to invest their money is very different from actually taking the risk and putting capital to work yourself.   So when I began looking for opportunities after graduating from business school last year, I had two criteria. 1) I wanted a role that would allow me to become an investor myself and 2) I wanted to be able to work with smaller companies where the capital we provided was going to have a significant impact on the business.  PCG fit the bill nicely.

What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?

My strongest characteristic is my ability to make difficult decisions.  I'm not sure I'd call that a talent, but it's something I'm proud of because I think there are some decisions that you just have to get right. Most of them have to do with how you're going to spend your time and who you're going to let into your life.  (That applies to your personal and professional life.)  I think I've done a good job getting those calls right.  Now, choosing what tie to wear in the morning is a different matter entirely!  In all seriousness, it's helped in my career because that ability to make the scary decision has allowed me to deal with short term discomfort in pursuit of long term growth, even when it means starting over.

Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?

1) Be your own biggest advocate. Mentors are important but no one will ever be as interested in your success as you are.

2) "I don't know" is an acceptable answer. It actually builds your credibility if you're willing to be honest about the things you don't know.

3) If you want someone to help you make it easy.  We've all dealt with people that wanted our help, but weren't very pleasant about making the request or they have a sense of entitlement about the whole thing. No one likes to be on the other side of that kind of request. Don't be that person.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

My biggest accomplishments really don't have anything to do with work. They're more related to my family. My wife and I have built a family that I am very proud of, and I'm nearly certain that we are raising a candidate for the 2052 presidential election. Stay tuned.

What have you learned about politics and civic life through the fellows program?

This is my first time having ongoing interaction with elected officials and others who aspire to hold office. My biggest takeaway would be that cynicism is probably the least productive lens through which to view the political process. By and large, folks who pursue elected office (even the ones I disagree with) are earnest in wanting to affect positive change. I've been blown away by the passion of the officials and candidates that we've met. I think the national dialogue around government/politics would be much more civil if we took people at the word vis a vis their intentions.

What advice would you give someone running for office for the first time?

Public service is so often such a thankless job that I would just encourage them to make absolutely certain that they have the passion and the endurance to see the process through.

What do you do in your free time?

I'm a huge movie buff so when I do have free time, I'm usually spending it watching one of my favorites. There are films that I've watched a couple dozen times. The good ones just keep getting better.