Pam Hendrickson, chief operating officer, the Riverside Co., is one of 36 dealmakers named in Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. Click here for the full list. This year, we asked the dealmakers to tell their stories in their own voices through Q&As.

How did you get into dealmaking?

I began my career in 1984, underwriting industrial revenue bonds at the Chemical Bank. During my career, I did deals for many different types of clients. Small companies have always been my favorite. They need you more, so there is a true partnership and they have many levers through which to drive growth. We have one company, for example, that has grown EBITDA 50% and done eight add-ons in the past 18 months.

How has a mentor helped your career?

I was incredibly lucky to have James Bainbridge Lee III (Jimmy Lee) as my mentor at JPMorgan Chase. Not only did he put my name forward for a big promotion, he was also a great coach. He was direct when you did a bad job, but also supportive. He once made a client apologize to me because he thought the client was abusive. His toughness caused his compliments to mean a lot.

What is your current role?

One of the most enjoyable things about my role is that there is no typical day. I can go from leading a discussion on how to use artificial intelligence in deal sourcing, to an actual deal discussion in an investment committee meeting, to a discussion with an investor on what “impact investing” means.

Describe your influence on the middle market.

I spend a lot of time trying to deemphasize the private in PE. We have wonderful stories that need to be shared, whether I’m speaking to leaders in Washington, D.C. or talking to business owners in Washington state. Through my work on the board of the American Investment Council, as past Chairman of the Board of the Association for Corporate Growth, or as part of my work with Riverside, I have watched how private equity helps businesses, workers and communities and I am passionate about telling that story.

Describe a challenge you overcame.

I’ve been the only woman in a lot of rooms, but I try not to view that as a challenge. Whether I’m doing a deal or sitting in the White House in a room full of white men, it’s all about confidence. My father worked for the State Department, so when I was little, we hosted dignitaries from many different backgrounds. I learned from an early age that people are just people.

How do you support women?

It sounds simple, but being there means a lot. Not just by showing that women can – and should – hold the types of positions I’ve held. But also through just being available. I try to inspire students in the classes I teach at Duke University and I hope that they see my success and recognize that they can achieve anything they want in life.

When you’re not making deals, what is your favorite thing to do?

I love to cook. In fact, thanks to my daughter, there’s an Instagram account called “pamsmeals,” where I document recipes, pictures and gadgets!