On his first day of post-undergraduate work as a financial analyst, Dillon Baley (Class of 2024) found out he was accepted to the University of Virginia Darden School of Business as a Future Year Scholar through Darden’s deferred admission program.
Secure in the knowledge that at least one element of his future was charted, Baley focused fully on his interests in finance and energy, taking his degree in business from the University of Texas to a valuation consulting firm for a year before moving to Solomon Partners to pursue his interest in investment banking.
“After building a strong foundation in accounting and finance at the valuation consulting firm, I knew getting exposure to M&A and capital raising processes would enhance my pre-MBA experience, should I choose to exercise my option as part of the deferral program,” said Baley. “I was fortunate to lateral into investment banking where I was able to leverage my knowledge in valuation while adding the transactional experience I was lacking.”
Although he was accepted to Darden before gaining much of his professional work experience, Baley said the ensuing years strengthened his conviction that Charlottesville was the best place to continue his development.
“I wanted to build a network of fellow students both professionally and personally, and that sense of community was something I was looking for,” said Baley. “I have an undergraduate degree in business, so I wanted a program that had a focus on developing skills you can’t necessarily learn from a textbook or attending a lecture.”
Baley cited the camaraderie and cooperation in learning teams as a key part of the sort of education experience he sought and is now experiencing.
Now at Darden with the support of a scholarship offered by the Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management, Baley is interested in eventually moving from an advising role to a decision-making position, ideally in a private equity context involving a mix of investing and operational know-how.
“To have a real sense of ownership in portfolio companies, where you need to not only know the investing side, but also the operations and how to actually put strategic initiatives into place to drive value for all stakeholders, private equity seems like the absolute best career path to take everything I’ve learned in investment banking and everything I’m learning at Darden and put it to the test,” said Baley.
Recruiting in the private equity space can be a less-defined path compared to other tracks, and Baley has leaned on the Darden and University of Texas alumni networks as he sought his next step. As Darden seeks to fortify the pathway to private equity positions, Baley said he hopes to be a connector, playing a part in formalizing prospects for interested students even as he attempts to make the most of his experience through clubs like Darden Capital Management, the student-run investment group that manages roughly $25 million in endowment money.
“I’m trying to be involved in Darden Capital Management because I’ve talked to some Second Years who, even though they may be interested in private markets and Darden Capital Management invests in public equities, talk about the investor mindset that you learn,” said Baley. “Whether you’re in private markets, at a hedge fund, a mutual fund, it doesn’t matter — you need to have that kind of wiring.”
The case method classroom is similarly helping to build on his current foundation of business knowledge to help make more informed decisions, Baley said, citing the example of learning to navigate through ambiguity in a class such as “Decision Analysis.”
“You are literally given a problem or a decision someone has to make, and they just show you the tools that you have at your disposal to make a more informed decision, and rarely is there one single right answer.” said Baley. “Those are tools I hope to use, whether evaluating an investment opportunity or ‘rolling up my sleeves’ to improve the operations of a business.”