Confessions of a $300,000 hedge fund PA: ‘They hired someone to collect my food from the lobby: my time was so valuable’

What ’s your boss like? Maybe they moan about targets or make snippy comments when you’re late back from lunch. Carrie Sun’s employer was in a different league.

His motto was ‘Speak faster, do faster, decide faster’. He’d assess her ‘ability to communicate’ on an ascending scale of one to five – three was ‘world-class’, but employees were expected to do better. 

He’d even appraise her aura: ‘So. Your energy,’ began one of his ultra-detailed feedback sessions.

Sun, 38, was the PA to a hedge-fund founder, Boone Prescott – one of the world’s youngest billionaires – and it was a job she clearly wanted. Why else would she do 14 interviews, including a session with a clinical psychologist, and supply 11 references to get it?

‘You undergo a personality test and an IQ test too, but they don’t show you the results,’ she says. ‘The very wealthy are often aware of what you want before you know yourself, and they can exploit it to their own advantage.

I think Boone knew me taking the job wasn’t just about pay and perks; I was on a treadmill seeking validation.’

Prescott is the head of a phenomenally successful New York hedge fund called Carbon (these are fictionalised names but the story is true). Sun started working for him in 2016 when she was 29. 

Her memoir, Private Equity, published this month, takes us into the rarefied world of high finance. Here, the goal is to find a ‘ten bagger’ (an investment opportunity offering a tenfold return) or to pursue a BHAG (a ‘big hairy audacious goal’).

Sun’s job was to curate a frictionless, super-luxe experience for Prescott: she checked his investment presentations (she’s a maths whiz), wrote his speeches, booked his breakfasts and organised his surf trips to Malibu. 

They hired someone to collect my food from the lobby: my time was so valuable  

She worked most days from 8am to 8pm and was expected to confirm that she had read all emails immediately, day or night. Usually, she had ten minutes for lunch and would order takeaways to her desk three times daily – despite the fact that she was mostly too busy to eat them. ‘

They even hired someone specifically to collect [the food] from the lobby, because every second of my time was considered so valuable.’

In Sun’s book, hedge-funders sound intense. Prescott liked his privacy, so when he appeared in a social media post alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, calls were made and it disappeared. When it was a big staff birthday, Sun ordered a $1,000 cake but everyone was so busy it ended up in the bin.

However, her rewards were fabulous. After two years, Sun was earning $300,000 a year. And Prescott was a generous gifter. For her birthday, he gave Sun a $5,000 shopping spree at New York store Barney’s. 

As a reward for hard work, she received a Balenciaga tote bag and $3,000 to spend at the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Tahoe. ‘The problem is I didn’t have time to enjoy any of it,’ she says. ‘In fact I was so burnt out I ended up in therapy; my therapist told me, “This job is killing you.’’’

Sun’s appetite for work is perhaps explained by her personal story: the daughter of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the US in the 1980s and 90s. Her parents instilled in her a brutal work ethic. Her father once slapped her round the face, hard enough to leave a bruise, because she spilled milk while making her morning cereal.

‘The way my family dynamic shaped me meant I always put others first and became totally disconnected from myself,’ Sun says. 

At secondary school in Michigan, she was a child prodigy who finished the maths and physics curriculum two years early. She went to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and got two degrees (maths and finance) in three years. After graduating, she worked at the investment firm Fidelity – earning $300,000 a year – but she hated it and wanted to be a writer. 

Burnt-out PA turned writer Carrie Sun

Burnt-out PA turned writer Carrie Sun

Carbon was supposed to be the day job that allowed her to write in the evenings: ‘That was naive.’

Sun expected life to be tough. Take her reaction to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. It is set in a totalitarian dystopia where women are forced to have children and are banned from working, reading and writing. Sun read the novel aged 18.

‘I thought, “Well, those are just the rules – those girls have to live by them,”’ she says, ruefully.

On almost every page of Private Equity, Sun seems to find a way of torturing herself. For her first day at Carbon she wore black patent leather Louboutins. They were agony but she gave herself a pep talk. ‘I instructed my body to reclassify any pain as a necessary investment in myself,’ she writes. 

If her footwear was painful, her choice in men was worse. She met her fiancé Josh at MIT. He was from a wealthy family and due to inherit a fortune of almost $1 billion.

He claimed to love Sun but he also wanted to control her choice of clothes, make-up and insisted she speak in a ‘Pooh voice’. He even offered to match her salary at Carbon if she turned down the job, as he didn’t want her to work. Surely the email he once sent her saying ‘I forgive you for not being a virgin’ was a red flag?

‘When you are at a low ebb your expectations are adjusted down, too,’ says Sun. ‘I didn’t come from money but I eventually learned that, as a woman, owning your own things and controlling your own life are vital.’

There are toxic men everywhere in Private Equity: Prescott and Josh with their various demands; Sun’s father; and the student who raped her when she was 18, during her first term at MIT. (There was an investigation, he got away with it.)

‘To be honest, Boone was not a bad person,’ she says. ‘He had high moral standards, he didn’t break the rules and I admire that. But generally, men in finance get more respect than women. 

I was under-titled for the job I was doing. I wasn’t a PA, I was more like a chief of staff, but I believe bosses do that to make women’s pay expectations lower.’

In 2018, after two years, a near nervous breakdown and the onset of bulimia, Sun quit Carbon and started her writing career. Prescott responded to her exhaustion by buying her a spa day, but then told her he didn’t think she would make it as a writer.  

That same year, she broke up with Josh and estranged herself from her mother and father. ‘In the end I had to leave Carbon, my parents and Josh, simply to find out who I really was.’

We are talking via Zoom and she is clearly adjusting to the life of a writer. She now lives in an apartment in New Jersey; she no longer orders high-end takeaways for lunch but is about to cook cabbage and mushrooms on her hob. She did keep the Balenciaga bag.

‘I’m selling off my old work clothes to finance my writing,’ she says. ‘I don’t need a $6,500 coat; one that costs $200 is fine. I’m living on far less than $300,000 a year but I’m very happy.’

Even more pleasingly, just after she left Carbon and dumped Josh, she started going out with Chris, a classical musician she met at a concert in New York. 

They married in 2019 – but that is a salutary tale, too. After falling in love, they discovered they’d previously been matched on Tinder. Chris hadn’t wanted to go on a date with Sun. Why? Because he didn’t like people in finance.

‘I get it,’ she says. ‘I’m just glad I found myself in time for him to meet the real me.’

Private Equity by Carrie Sun will be published by Bloomsbury on29 February, £20. To pre-order a copy for £17 until 10 march, go to or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £25. 

Beowulf Sheehan

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