Alexandre Chenesseau: “It is up to us to contribute something in this world”
Alexandre Chenesseau is a Managing Director at Evercore in New York, working in global mergers and acquisitions advisory, and a graduate of Sciences Po’s Master in Finance and Strategy. He describes having always wanting to pursue diverse fields early on in his life, including foreign affairs, diplomacy, and even journalism, for which he thought “Sciences Po was a pretty obvious choice.”
After completing a prépa in literature and philosophy, Chenesseau decided to transition towards a more business-oriented trajectory. “I really wanted to go to a school where we thought a lot about the intersection of economics, business and policy, and a school that opened doors to the private sector,” he remembers, “but I still had a big focus on international affairs, diplomacy, and all these things that I initially wanted to do in my career.” At Sciences Po, he ended up pursuing finance and strategy, drawn by the courses that were “very practical, with people who already worked in the private sector for banks and other organizations.” Chenesseau especially appreciated the opportunity to take diverse elective courses. One in particular that he remembers was a course on the political regimes in Southeast Asia. “I grew up in Singapore for seven years in the late 90s, when there was a lot of tension in Southeast Asia politically, so I was able to spend some time analyzing the political readings around that time period, and notably the ramifications of the Asian financial crisis, which was really interesting to me,” he recalls.
Outside of the classroom, Chenesseau was involved with Sciences Po’s Junior Enterprise association – a group of students who run a small consulting company, acquire clients, and direct projects – where he also “made some of [his] best friends.” Though already familiar with Paris, he continued to enjoy its beauty: museums, theater, and culture. Chenesseau remembers a time when, “with a group of friends, we would go see a play every weekend. That is something I really miss since leaving Paris ten years ago,” he adds.
Chenesseau completed an internship with financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard in Paris at the end of his degree. Dreaming of working in the United States, where his Cuban-American mother is from, he spent time traveling through America before accepting a full-time role with Lazard in Paris. Then “after a couple of years in Paris,” he remembers, “I was eager to do something a bit more international.” Having previously spent a lot of time in Asia, including a gap year in Shanghai, Chenesseau had always been interested in returning to China. Coincidentally, Lazard decided to expand its presence China, so he moved to Beijing and spent nearly five years working on cross-border mergers and acquisitions between Chinese companies and companies from around the world. Though he had previously considered pursuing an MBA in the United States, “living in China was a business school in itself.” Eventually, Chenesseau did achieve his dreams of returning to the U.S. by attending the Program for Leadership Development at Harvard Business School before moving permanently to New York, all while continuing to work for Lazard.
In 2018, Chenesseau joined his current firm, Evercore. In his role today, he focuses on the Asian markets, “advising clients who want to make acquisitions and invest in Asia and also advising Asian investors who want to invest in Europe and North America.” Since the very beginning he has found the exposure to many different business ideas highly rewarding. “You are constantly advising clients on very important decisions they need to make,” he says, “so you are exposed very early on to these strategic decisions about investing, about growth, and about partnerships.” He also appreciates the strategic thinking and client trust that are essential to the role. “There is always a learning aspect,” he says, “there is so much to learn all the time, and also in a very global perspective, because our industry is by nature very global.” The challenge of the job, according to Chenesseau, is always prioritizing, both professionally and personally, by “making time for people, making time for your family, friends and yourself, creating balance in life, and making sure that you have a general sense of where you want to take your life.”
Chenesseau shares advice for Sciences Po students and young graduates that he himself tries to remember on a daily basis. First, he says, stimulate and nourish your curiosity. “People who go to Sciences Po,” he believes, “are intellectually curious and like to challenge themselves. I think it is important to maintain that once you go into the professional world.” Even those who become specialized within a certain field should strive to “maintain that curiosity about the world and about key issues” and should “try to tie your job to these issues that we all dream of fixing when we are students at school.” Second, he advises professionals to continue pursuing involvement outside of work. “I think it is really important to be not just a good student and to be not just good at your job, you need to expand your horizons,” he says. Chenesseau also advises young professionals to avoid being too comfortable. “In your twenties, challenge yourself and take all of the risks, go to different countries, and travel internationally – you have your whole life in front of you,” he recommends. “At Sciences Po, we are exposed to that international mindset, and now we increasingly have the possibility to try out living in different places and exposing ourselves to different cultures and ways of thinking.”
Chenesseau credits his time at Sciences Po with teaching him to think critically, to “go through a lot of information, absorb the key concepts, and summarize key points efficiently.” His education prepared him to challenge people, challenge himself, and adjust his opinion when learning new information. The social aspect of Sciences Po also helped Chenesseau in his role today. “I made friends from all over the world, friends who sometimes then go back and do super interesting things in their home countries,” he says. Sciences Po “prepares you for what life is: creating and navigating social networks, maintaining relationships, and tapping into your network to advance ideas and projects. Sciences Po is a great place for that,” he affirms, “because we have the diversity of subjects and fields of content that you do not necessarily see in other schools. I strongly believe that more than ever, it is important to understand the intersection between business, politics and the major economic and social issues of our time, while having a good understanding of how history has shaped the world we live in.”
Within the Sciences Po community, but also beyond it, Chenesseau reminds students and graduates to invest time in others. “You learn a lot and sometimes build some of the most long-lasting relationships and friendships with people by making time for others outside of your usual course of studies and work.” “When I was looking for my first job,” he also recalls, “a lot of people took the time to have coffee or to answer my email, and I have always remembered that.” Finally, he encourages students and graduates to have a long-term vision for what they want to do with their lives. “Do not stay in a job, even if it is a fancy job, if it does not make you happy,” he warns. “Continue working to find a job that makes you happy and where you feel that you can be useful to solving something bigger than just getting a paycheck.” It is essential, Chenesseau believes, “to tie your work and what you want to do with bigger priorities that you have in your life, and more important issues. The world today has a lot of issues that need attention,” he adds. “It is up to us to contribute something in this world.”