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Hedge fund founder's gifted PA identifies his innate unhappiness

If you haven't heard of Carrie Sun, you probably haven't been paying attention. Like Gary Stevenson, Sun has a book out about her time in finance. Like Stevenson, she is suddenly ubiquitous. But while Stevenson was a macro trader who made a fortune trading rates at Citi, MIT graduate Sun was by choice mostly a mere personal assistant (PA) to the founder of a "cross-over fund." Part hedge fund, part private equity fund, part venture capital fund, it did a bit of everything. In the process, it made its founder very rich. But as Sun astutely observes, he was also stereotypically strangely unhappy.

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Sun's book* is another semi-fictionalised memoir in which the events are purportedly true, but the names of both people and companies have been changed. Sun's career history offers a few indications of how she might have based her recollections on, though: The New York Times reports that she worked for Fidelity, Two Sigma and Tiger Global and that at Tiger Global she worked as PA to founder Chase Coleman. Tiger Global didn't respond to a request to comment for this article.

In Sun's fictionalized account, the founder she works for is called "Boone." He's described as "a billionaire of relatively low ego." Boone says things like, "How are you about positive feedback? Because I don't give it." He swears that no one has ever left the firm of their own volition.  

Sun begins working as Boone's PA aged 29 after leaving her previous job, splitting with her fiancé and deciding she wants to be the social "grease" instead of the investment "wheels" at a fund management firm. Becoming the founder's PA isn't easy: there are multiple interviews and an assessment with a PhD in clinical psychology who asks about her dreams and probes her "full commitment."

Despite this, Sun seems somehow imagine that being a PA will give her time for the thing she's really interested in: writing. Instead, being at Boone's beck and call comes to dominate her life, rekindling her bulimia and eliminating her individuality. When she arrives at the office, she observes that all the women were already subject to a "dimensionality reduction:""They all seemed super competitive, highly extroverted, fiercely energetic – and nice.” She, too, is put through the blander: "Don't be weird," Boone instructs.

Sun's most pertinent observations, though, concern Boone's personality and the way he runs the fund. Although the fund is making billions, Sun notes that it's run on a shoestring with a "scarcity mindset" and that everyone is doing multiple jobs and therefore overworked (except, possibility, the woman whose sole job is clearing 'solid matter' from the toilets). And although Boone's ethos is all about "efficiency," Sun observes that he never has enough time to relax. "Come to the [office] kitchen?", she asks him one Thursday evening when the rest of the office are relaxing. "I can't he says," sitting, staring at two black screens and a stack of reading material. "I have so much work. I don't have time."

*Private Equity: 'A vivid account of a world of excess, power, admiration and status'

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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