Leaving Goldman Sachs Banking for Philanthropy and Arts Job
In Chapter 2 of 13, Phil McKenzie departs his Goldman Sachs trading role to join a Brooklyn non-profit. There, he builds start-up publishing company Free Magazine, catered to modern professionals - Renaissance men - in arts, philanthropy, music, film, and current affairs. Phil joined Goldman Sachs after graduating from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business with his MBA.
Capture Your Flag Erik Michielsen: A couple of years ago, you made a decision to leave Goldman Sachs and pursue a path in the Media Entertain and Publishing business, what made you make that choice? Phil McKenzie: Basically when I was at Goldman, I was having a great run there, I was really enjoying what I was doing but I did realize that, I was never going to be that guy that was going to be the 15th and 20 year Goldman or Wall Street guy. I always had aspirations to do other things, my interest is very politic, it’s real estater, bunch of different things that I was interested in, one of those things was the arts and it really just became a natural transition because I was involved with the organization called Parks-Hall which was a non-profit and I was on their board. And that kind of led me slowly but surely into the philanthropy and then art work. Erik Michielsen: After making that transition, did the reality meet the expectations? Phil McKenzie: It didn’t end in a lot of ways, but it took a little bit of time for that to happen. The path was a little less linear than I would have wanted. I knew I want to see new challenges and Parks-Hall at the time had a magazine called Free Magazine, it was one of our programs. And as a board member, there was general oversight as to many the things that Parks-Hall did, Free Magazine being the one of them. But it wasn’t like I left Goldman and say, “Okay, I’m going to go work on Free”, it would really was a, I’m going to you know take some time off, explore many options and by doing so, I was spending more time on Parks-Hall and then eventually started to spend more time on Free Magazine. Erik Michielsen: And so at what point did Free Magazine break apart from Parks-Hall. Phil McKenzie: Actually about maybe year in. We really started off the very kind of intellectual bohemian type of magazine, very small, no ads. Our writer’s really provided all of the content so it was really more their vision than it was ours. But with myself and my partner Todd, we kind of said, “This magazine is to take on more of our personality”. And so it became a different bee so to speak and that’s when it became kind of a full time job. We started shifting it away from like I said that strictly intellectual bohemian, very deep French arts and culture world and started making it into a more reflective of a men’s magazine. What I realized when I was at Goldman was that contrary to popular belief, many people that I knew that worked on Wall Street both at the firm and at other firms, clients of our hedge funds what have you, they weren’t kind of the stereotypical douche bag traders that you know, you kind of heard about. And particularly nowadays, they have become more popular, more popularize as a image. I knew many thoughtful people both in and around the business. Young guys like myself that were interested in many other things, not just going out popping bottles and going out to the Hampton every weekend. But they were interested in philanthropy, they were interested in the arts, they’re interested in the film, they were interested in education, politics. They had a lot of passions that went well beyond what they were doing on a day to day basis, whether it’s at Goldman or somewhere else. And I kind of brought that mindset or ruin it to reflect that more in the magazine because I feel at that time it wasn’t really a Men’s Magazine that’s spoke to that demographic. Erik Michielsen: In modern finance professional. Phil McKenzie: Exactly. The modern, more of a renaissance man so to speak, you know. Erik Michielsen: True. Phil McKenzie: Someone that was very accomplished in their professional life but yet, was looking to do a lot of different things socially and so we really wanted to bring that content to Free. And by doing that, the magazine started to take on a different tone and style and really became a young man’s arts and culture magazine, really for taste maker on it. Erik Michielsen: Got you.