We sat down with Sarah Salky to discuss the project she worked on this summer as a Summer Associate and her overall experience as a HBM employee.
CC: Can you share with us the project you worked on this summer and what your general role and responsibilities were?
SS: This summer I was lucky enough to have two really robust projects. The first project was working with portfolio company Mississippi Lime to explore the operational and economic feasibility of a potential new business opportunity. The project involved working closely with people from across the business, including Engineering, Finance, Business Development, and Sales & Marketing. It was a great opportunity to understand how the business works from multiple perspectives – and how the team works together to move projects forward.
The second project was a stroke of luck from a timing perspective. I was closely involved in the deal process for our most recent acquisition, Schafer Industries (announced at the beginning of August). Seeing the deal through from start to finish was a fantastic learning opportunity – and I had the chance to really roll up my sleeves and dive into the due diligence process. I also worked closely with the deal team to build the value creation thesis and navigate the legal process.
CC: During your project work, did you have the opportunity to interact with senior leaders at both HBM and Mississippi Lime?
SS: Yes – I’ve been really impressed by the focus on talent development at every level of the company. On both projects, I had the support and guidance of senior leaders. Getting to see first-hand the questions our leadership team asks on plant visits, their perspectives on market dynamics, or how they frame various operational and strategic issues was hugely valuable.
Beyond our senior leaders, there’s a clear mentorship attitude across the organization. Everyone I worked with this summer took the time to provide the background and context I needed, and to serve as a resource as I navigated my way.
CC: Did you have much interaction with other Associates at HBM this summer and how would you describe the corporate culture at HBM?
SS: The Associates at HBM know our portfolio companies inside-out, and are deeply invested in the work they do. There’s a lot of collaboration among team members – whether it’s tossing ideas around at our desks or working through a challenging project in close partnership. They were a frequent resource when I had questions about my project or the deal process.
Another fun piece of the summer was traveling with the Associates to each of our portfolio companies. As our hosts, they went out of their way to make sure we had meaningful interactions with each of the businesses and their teams.
CC: Were there any aspects of your summer project that you found challenging?
SS: The biggest challenge was probably the level of ambiguity around projects – but that ambiguity is also what made my summer so fun. I learned early on that in order to make progress, I would need to be comfortable with the unknown, take responsibility, and build guardrails around project tasks. I understood the goal of the project, but I needed to think through the right assumptions to make and who to bring around the table in order to keep moving forward.
That same challenge existed on the deal side. Every deal is unique, with its own set of dynamics and the occasional bump in the road. Tackling the unexpected each day as we worked towards deal close was a fantastic learning experience.
CC: Did your Summer Associate role at HBM meet your expectations?
SS: I accepted the Summer Associate role because I felt I would have the opportunity to work on meaningful projects and make an impact. I can honestly say this was true from day one.
A big reason for this is the culture at HBM. The company trusts Associates to do important work, and it’s an environment that encourages action and autonomy.
CC: If I recall correctly, you are originally from the St. Louis area, but lived in New York for several years. You are now back in St. Louis attending Olin Business School. How do you feel about the career prospects St. Louis has to offer someone following your career path?
SS: I loved living in New York, but St. Louis is home – and a city I care deeply about. Attending Olin has opened up some great opportunities, including HBM, and I’m so happy to be back here. This is a great place to live and work.
We are excited to announce that Sarah will be joining our Corporate Development team as an Associate this September. She will be converting to Washington University’s Olin School of Business Professional MBA program to complete her studies.