Prior to business school, you worked in enterprise product and as an engineer. What were the most important skills you learned in these operating roles, and how do they influence your work today?
In my previous roles, I worked primarily on designing and creating new products. The most important skill I learned is how to develop strong customer/end user empathy. Listening to users and identifying their needs, beyond what they actually say, is critical to building great products.
This skill has helped tremendously in my work at Harlem Capital. When evaluating a potential investment opportunity, it’s important to put myself in their customers shoes and understand the product from that lens. This helps to understand the company’s value proposition better and remove my own biases.
Engineering taught me how to critically think about problems and break them down into fundamental components, to then build a solution. When analyzing industries, it’s helpful for me to break them down to the key fundamentals that will dictate a company’s ability to thrive.
Many people assume that everyone in VC has a business school degree. That’s verifiably untrue. Why did you decide to go to business school, and how specifically has it impacted your journey into VC?
The journey of going to business school started because I recognized that as an engineer I didn’t have the full understanding of a product strategy or business needs. The business school evaluation process catalyzed my interest in VC and led to my internship at Harlem Capital.
On Twitter, you’ve emphasized this quote by Steve Jobs: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." How does this quote resonate in your personal and professional life?
It is a reminder that all of my experiences, good and bad, have shaped who I am. It’s encouragement to take risks, seize opportunities, and stretch myself. Every moment then becomes a chance to learn and grow, never knowing how that will impact me down the road.
A lot of people aspire to work in VC but have no clue how to get there. Being as specific as possible, what steps did you take to land this role at Harlem Capital?
My initial entry to Harlem Capital was through the internship program where I was part of the Spring 2018 intern class. Since I was going to business school in the fall and was interested in learning about tech and VC, I was looking for a pre-MBA internship where I could learn and get some practical experience. I learned about the internship through LinkedIn and friends at MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow). There were several rounds of interviews which led to me being selected as part of the Spring 2018 intern class. The last interview round included an industry analysis and pitch for an investment opportunity that fits Harlem Capital’s thesis. I relied on my background in product development during this phase of the interview process.
The journey from intern to fellow to senior associate is a reflection of growth and learning. I’ve always been passionate about the mission and my skills and operational perspective brings a unique combination to the team.