TL;DR: VC is hard to break into, but if you're creative and scrappy, you can find yourself working your dream job.

I get asked how I got into VC a lot. Did I go to an Ivy league school? Do I have family connections? Was I a management consultant or did I work in banking at one point?

No to all of the above. I started my career in non-profits (fundraising and then finance & ops), and before that, I worked in the hospitality and service industry (read: resort retail associate, server, hostess, bar back). These experiences and perspectives have informed how I look at opportunities, understand needs in the market, and put a tremendous value on the teams and firms I want to work for. I like scrappy environments and being strapped for cash, which forces creativity and a unique approach. And ultimately, for me, it's always been about the people.

Growing up, I had no clue what venture capital was, and I never imagined I would one day make a career out of it. When I moved to San Francisco for undergrad, I quickly blew through my savings from all those long hours in retail and working as a server. Out of money, I took to the wonders of the internet and started to think about the career I wanted to build for the first time. Sure, I had many side hustles and odd jobs here and there, working in restaurants, retail, and private events. One of my favorites was for a start-up Staffley, a retail staffing agency working with local businesses across SF. This was my first start-up job, now that I think about it.

And boy, was it fun. The service was on-demand staffing needs, primarily for retail. I worked at boutiques in the marina, sold chocolates at the ballpark, and even was called into a meeting with Macy's for a contract they were trying to negotiate as an example of their offerings (they didn't get it). As with ~90% of start-ups in 2017 they struggled to fundraise and shut down operations. Someone eventually acquired them, but now it's global staffing support with remote workers in Asia. Ce la vie.

As college continued, so did my need for money. Like any good entrepreneur, I got creative. I bought cases of 2-buck chuck and sold them for $5 a bottle (keep in mind, no car. I was walking from campus to Trader Joe's and carrying it back to my room). Eventually, I grew that operation to larger Costco trips once I found a partner with some wheels. In CA, you can buy alcohol without a membership (god bless America).

These side hustles were nice and decently profitable. But over time, I got bored; scaling them larger wasn't appealing. And I really wanted an office.

Mission-aligned work was always important. Growing up, my mom was (and still is) an avid volunteer and actively involved in the community. I wanted to do something that felt important. Respectable. And, of course, something that I could leverage to get my next job when I graduated.

I quickly found a promising events internship at a non-profit, a real office experience, and a paid trip to the famous Dhina Shore in Palm Springs (THE lesbian event of the year). On the side, I got a gig as a server and bar back on the weekends since the pay was a bit of a joke and I was living in one of the most expensive cities in the US.

My internship became a full-time job offer after 3 months, and I became a Development Associate. I worked on fundraising strategy, donor cultivation, and how to ask people for money, and get comfortable with rejection, which turned into the greatest gift a first job could give me.

After a while, I was ready for a role change. In a team full of lawyers and people 20+ my senior, I was itching to make some process Improvements. I mean my god, these people were keeping physical files of their credit card receipts in drawers!

The CFO had recently left the organization, and we needed someone in finance and operations. I quickly transitioned over and with very little oversight, started to experiment with systems and behavior change. My first task? Our annual audit. Which, if you've ever experienced an audit, fucking sucks.

But I had a process I was desperate to change: the credit card receipt tracking. Because I was the one doing the bookkeeping and coding of everyone's expenses, there was no way in hell I was going to sort through paper files to confirm what the coding should be for any given expenses. There were 30+ cards across the team with thousands of dollars in charges!

So how do you get a bunch of older lawyers to change their ways? Show them the pain. I blocked the conference room for 2 weeks and every day, I came in, sat on the floor, and matched my printed-out Amex statements with their ad-hoc folder stash of physical receipts. And when I couldn't find an expense, I went to their office to ask for it.

Was this overkill for an audit? Absolutely, an auditor will spot-check statements and pick a handful of charges or months they want to review and ask for the receipts. But that didn't quite have the impact I wanted to make on the office and my team.

I fell deeply in love with running internal operations, finding ways to leverage time for others, and figuring out what solutions worked at scale across generations. I learned how to leverage your team and optimize for processes to enable folks to focus on their work and not the noise. Once they got the hang of a new process, they were pleasantly surprised with how much it freed up their time. And I finally had an office to call my own, decorated from the very best from Ross' across the street on Market.

Now don't forget, throughout this, I was also going to school full-time with a brutal morning and evening schedule. I was in summer and winter sessions every year and eventually found myself ready to graduate a year ahead of my peers. This was in 2019, little did I know how much of a critical benefit that would be less than a year later.

After graduation, I decided it was time to leave the nonprofit sector. I was tired of being broke and balancing such a crazy schedule. And since I had been living in San Francisco, big wealth generators like Allbrids, Brandless, x were founded. Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat, and more IPO’d. SF was overflowing with a level of capital I had never seen before; the city felt electric. Untouchable. Things happened too slowly in non-profits, the time horizon for impact was too long, and I wanted some of that energy I felt in the start-up ecosystem.

So it should be no surprise I joined Rhia Ventures shortly after, a non-profit investing in early-stage women’s health companies. Early stage investing time horizon to know if you're any good? 10 years. Time until impact? About the same, sometimes a little sooner. Fast-paced and start-up mentality? 100%. 2/3 of my wishlist isn't bad.

For the first time in my career, I was surrounded by wealth. As one of the only people on the team who had ever worked in non-profits, I quickly found my footing running the finance and operations department. Looking back, my responsibilities were a bit insane. I created and managed the $3M budget, presented financials to the board, developed organizational strategy, and spearheaded new programmatic areas.

At the time we were doing SPV's investing in early-stage maternal health and contraceptive innovations, with a theory of change that foundations should align their Investing with their strategies. For a number of reasons, that was not an ideal method of investing. It was challenging to find companies who would work with you if you didn't know how much you were investing (or if), you'd do a bunch of technical diligence and memos for deals that may or may not go through. And there wasn't really a portfolio construction model; you invested what you could and had no allocations for follow-ons.

Eventually, we decided to split the fund activities into a standalone subsidiary, RH Capital, and raise a traditional VC fund. I got to experience what it was like working with lawyers to draft an LPA, developing a pitch deck, and joining the fundraise, conducting diligence with institutions, setting up the books and running audits (something I have learned to love and now actually miss).

My heart was with the fund, but my day job was still managing the day-to-day operations at the non-profit, which was going through its own transition and strategic planning. Eventually, I took the plunge and transitioned fully into an investing role. Leaving my non-profit career behind and finally getting my badge as a fully-fledged capitalist and investor.

There was so much work to do in such a short period of time. We were fundraising for a $30M fund, actively deploying capital and investing in 12+ companies, and building all the infrastructure a firm needs along the way. It was exhausting and exhilarating to watch something you built come to life. By the time I left, the fund was finally closing (after some extensions to address the increasing need for a women's health fund after the rollback of roe v wade in June 2022), oversubscribed at $38M. A micro fund in the scale of the venture world, but everything to us.

My passion for investing in solutions impacting people like me, women, opened up a massive underinvested segment in healthcare investing. Dealflow was exploding starting in 2020, the emergence of ‘femtech’ was gaining traction, and the solutions were finally meeting the needs of a segment of the population that had long been ignored. And there just weren't many folks who saw this opportunity, as a firm, we were able to get into insane deals and quickly build our reputation in the sector. If RH Capital was in a deal, you knew the science had been vetted (thanks to some grant funding from The Gates Foundation) and that they would happily share their 30+ page technical memos. The workload was a lot, but you were so distracted by how much you were learning that you never quite felt drained by it.

I was surrounded by female investors, female founders, and a supportive ecosystem working towards a common goal: Increasing female representation and participation in a male-dominated industry.

We all know the stats on VC funding for female founders and mixed-gender teams. (If you don't ~2% of VC funding (a total of $330B in the US) goes to all female teams, and 15.6% goes to mixed-gender teams, despite women starting 42% of small businesses. All male teams received 82% of VC capital and on average raised 2x what a co-ed or female team raised.)

On the VC side, women represent 20% of investors and even less with check-writing authority. In a 2021 survey, 87% of decision-makers at firms were men, and 40% went to Stanford or Harvard. No wonder we have so many 10 minute grocery delivery companies but only 2 new contraceptive methods that have hit the market in the last 5 years.

The consequences of not having different perspectives and opinions at the table quickly became clear in the type of solutions which receive VC funding . I met with insanely talented founders solving problems that impact 51% of the population, yet they were struggling to raise capital or to got a room of all-male investors who just didn't understand the need or frankly the money they were leaving on the table the economics, women make +80% of consumer purchase and healthcare decisions.

As a society, for a long time we weren't talking about menopause, so how would we expect a 25-year-old dude to know that hot flashes and vaginal dryness were a problem?

As investors, we aren’t able to see innovation in white spaces due to not understanding the problems and its all too easy to get lost in the sea of dealflow and opportunities you do understand.

To me, women represent the largest unlocked human potential and economic value currently underserved by venture capital. As a representative of the next generation of investors, understanding the driving factors and looking for creative ways to demonstrate the business case to other investors where I am spending the majority of my time. Because with 80% of the industry still male, we need them to understand the opportunites if we are going to make this segment win.

These consequences and factors are why I have worked at boutique VC firms investing in spaces I'm passionate about and with women at the helm.

Today, I am investing at True Wealth Ventures in women-led companies building solutions for improving climate change and/or healthcare. My dream investments are solutions that sit at this intersection, given the amount of waste generated by the healthcare industry.

My career, while incredibly early, has been defined by a lot of luck and good timing.

I was lucky to have graduated college a year before the pandemic, securing a job that didn’t lay me off and providing stability to stay in the city I love. Before the pandemic, I was always the youngest in the room. Post-pandemic, I find myself surrounded by recent grads and answering questions on how I got to my current role, given my unorthodox background in this industry.

I hope this story is helpful for those on their journey. My advice:

  • Hustle. If you're not getting calls back on roles, find a way to demonstrate you're value add. Send them deals aligned with their thesis, share LP opportunities you think they'd be a fit for, send them a landscape of a sector they invest in, etc..
  • Go for it. Women often underestimate their qualifications for a role. Even if you think you're a 50% match, apply. And make your application stand out with things like a pitch deck about you. At the end of the day this is a people business, people liking you and wanting to work with you go a long way.
  • Don't accept less than you're worth. So many times before landing my first VC job, I almost took a job I was overqualified for and that would have paid me a fraction of what I am worth. Don't sell yourself short. (2022 VC comp survey for reference on $$ & carry expectations)

how I got here.