Launching Leadership: Monica Landry ’90 and Farah Khan ’98

Two Mount Holyoke alums and members of its Board of Trustees met with Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum to discuss finance careers, changing plans and leaps of faith at the latest Launching Leadership conversation on April 11.

In the first conversation held via Zoom since the series began, Dr. Tatum talked with both Monica Landry ’90 and Farah Khan ’98. In January 1994 Landry joined Farallon Capital Management, where she began her career in the accounting department and office management. After two years she transitioned to start the operations group and began trading. In 2001 she was promoted to partner and led the trading and operations department until she retired in December 2019. Prior to joining Farallon, she worked in a variety of finance and office management roles at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Khan is a partner at L Catterton, where she focuses on consumer growth investing in Latin America. Prior to joining L Catterton, she was a vice president at Sandler Capital Management, where she specialized in growth equity, leveraged buyouts and financings of middle-market companies. And prior to that, Khan worked at Apax Partners and in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs.

Landry majored in psycho-biology at Mount Holyoke College and thought she was going into medicine when she came to campus but struggled with Chemistry 150. “My new plan was that I was going into research,” she said. However, she did a senior independent study and realized, “This is really not for me!”

After graduating during a recession, she took jobs to pay the rent and started a career in hospital administration. She moved to San Francisco in 1994, ready to try something new, and took a job as a temp at Farallon Capital Management. Farallon liked Landry and offered her a full-time position.

“It was a little bit of a leap of faith,” Landry said. She was Farallon’s thirteenth employee and stayed for over 25 years.

“Mount Holyoke gave me that feeling that I belonged wherever I happened to be. I knew I had a big community.”

Khan applied to Mount Holyoke College sight unseen because her brother, who was at MIT, knew of Mount Holyoke and thought it would be a great fit for her.

Khan was born in India but grew up around the Middle East. She majored in economics and math at Mount Holyoke but thought she was going to be a pre-med major. She strayed from that path when she took an introduction to economics class.

“The world of economics made sense of how my life had unfolded,” she said.

Khan followed her new interest and completed internships in banking. “They opened my eyes to what my career could be,” she said.

Post graduation she took a job at Goldman Sachs, which was her introduction to corporate finance. “It was a fantastic learning experience for me,” she said. She then moved on to Apex Partners and got her M.B.A.

Tatum noted that both Landry and Khan were guided by mentors.

Landry said, “Having mentors gave me confidence. I wanted to prove them right. I was very eager to learn and raised my hand to do everything.” She added that she believes in paying it forward.

Khan said, “I’ve expanded my definition of mentoring to ‘my personal advisory board.’ One of the great things that Mount Holyoke taught me was intellectual curiosity because the only constant is change. You have to rise above the noise.”

“Mentoring is a two-way street,” she added. “The onus is on us to be our own best advocate.”

As is her tradition in the Launching Leadership talks, Tatum asked both alums about the concept of being “authentically bold.”

Landry said, “I think bold is a series of efforts. My path was nontraditional. Mount Holyoke gave me that feeling that I belonged wherever I happened to be. I knew I had a big community.”

“People make mistakes,” she continued. “That’s a great foundation to learn from. Don’t beat yourself up when it happens — learn from it!”

“This really resonates with me,” Khan said. “Finding your voice is a critical step for success. In order for you to be able to come to the table, to have a point of view, you do have to be authentically bold.”

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