Shan is one of our OpenHours alumni, where she was previously Ian’s mentee. We asked her several questions about her experience of the OpenHours program and here’s what she had to say:
1. Is there a particular reason you were drawn to the VC and start-up ecosystem?
Having focused on corporate ventures via strategy consulting for the last few years, I wanted to compare and glean transferable insights from VC early stage to growth investing, as well as validate current methodologies for scaling up through product, design and operational excellence across portfolio companies.
Besides an opportunity to strengthen ties with the venture ecosystem, it was also a valuable personal channel for a “connection to reality”,to ascertain if a role switch into serving into a portfolio versus client service for corporates might be on the cards, if not right now, then in the right time.
I also had opportunity to catch up with Jessica via Zoom andto connect with Jaclyn early into the pandemic, so I thought, “why not get deeper insight with the rest of the OSV fold!”
Therefore, OpenHours was a relevant and timely window into the practical world of VC. I’m a fan of organisational behaviour HBS / LBS professor Herminia Ibarra’s ideas on transitional periods and zones in path discovery, so this was one such context made available. Many thanks to the team who initiated and delivered it!
2. Were there certain challenges that you identified navigating the VC space as a woman?
I’ve had the fortunate circumstance of working for brandname companies that grease access across settings, and I find generally with a sufficient understanding of counterparty interests and a starting proposition that presents enough value, doors open.
That being said, the barriers to VC vary depending on role:functional understanding of how VC business models work, the nomenclature, how rewards are distributed, what levers increase the odds of success etc, where a corporate finance / strategy background or e/MBA can help, and where gender equity may be less of an issue.
Or you might face technical barriers, pertaining to product, engineering, technical topics that impact right to play, where we want better representation in generally. I think the barriers are most felt socially – a‘gentlemen’s club’ dynamic that manifests more often in social settings where women might self-select out of situations in favour of more like-minded connections.In which case, too bad, their loss! Enough has been said about ‘manels’ so I won’t add on.
3. Did Ian or the OpenHours program contribute to how you looked at VC?
It was awesome to be paired with Ian, gleaning from his war stories as Director of Product across corporate venture experiences and current life fulfilling operating needs across the portfolio to help fledgling ventures grow and scale. Going behind the curtain so to speak, thanks to the ‘live explainer’ moments I had with him breaking down how things work (and what didn’t, over a long span), I gained an appreciation of pragmatic focus on key actions that matter, if you want to succeed amidst uncertainty, and the choices to be made are largely dependent on where you sit.
4. What has been your career journey since your participation in OpenHours?
I’ve taken a more expansive role in the last 9 months, heading Product, Innovation & Design for SoftServe, which has been builder and strategic partner to digital natives for 30 years but new entrant in APAC.From design consulting with IDEO, to strategy consulting at McKinsey, I’m now deep in the tech consulting world, intensifying the business-building leg of my journey. More importantly, I have an exciting platform to participate in the growth of digital economy, and a runway to shape propositions that solve bottlenecks for a larger set of its key players: corporates, conglomerates, tech companies and portfolio ventures. I’m also looking to build a core nucleus of stellar product managers and experience designers to do it with.
Thank you, Shan!
Openspace is now accepting the applications for OpenHours2023. If you are a woman who is keen to join our mentorship program, you can sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd9lo_nxES8KQca5PX5xlQGhzEA3IXwrqniOWUZSvkh9a9m4w/viewform