Location: Chicago, IL
Job: Senior Associate, Pritzker Group Venture Capital
I was a consultant at the a global management consulting firm Bain & Company. One of my closest friends was interning there and encouraged me to apply to a program designed to give minority college students early exposure to consulting careers. That program helped me understand the value this type of job could bring to many other areas of my life outside of business. I was lucky enough to get through the interview process (including the dreaded case interviews) and land an internship and fulltime offer afterward.
I tend to have a pretty diverse work schedule. My days include meeting with entrepreneurs to help grow their companies, analyzing financial plans and creating statistical modeling, researching potential investments in market trends, and meeting with my colleagues to share findings and divide tasks. Every day, I’m exposed to smart, passionate people who are seeing problems in the world and trying to fix them. It’s humbling to have the opportunity to offer feedback, advice, and occasionally money to help them along the way. I’m continuously learning how different industries, markets, and businesses work and evolve. The nature of the job requires me to wrestle with really uncertain, difficult questions – and has forced me to grow a ton in the process.
I’ve worked abroad on three different occasions – twice in South Africa, for the African Leadership Academy's Anzisha Prize and a socially-focused venture capital fund called Edge Growth, and once in Ghana, for a technology school/incubator called MEST. I found these opportunities through a combination of research and connections from mentors.
Be proactive. Being hesitant to share your opinions when you have something valuable to share serves no one. This of course needs to be balanced with doing the necessary work to discover important contributions – but I probably erred too far on the side of caution early on in my career.
I keep a running list of work and personal items that need to get done. I find it reduces my mental load to have a single place that I can check to see what projects are on my plate and prioritize accordingly. I also shut off email notifications and put away my phone to avoid breaking my concentration until I've either finished the task or need a mental break. One of my mentors once told me that email is someone else's to-do list for you, so I try not to let my inbox dictate my priorities for me.
The best book I’ve read recently is called Superforecasting. It’s about this experiment in which professors were able to get random groups of civilians to predict thousands of unforeseeable events at a rate and confidence level significantly better than the CIA. I find it fascinating because one definition of intelligence is the ability to take in inputs and use them to predict the future. We can do this at a pretty high accuracy rate in most basic tasks (e.g., if I drop a glass, I can predict it will fall to the floor), but it’s harder in cases where there's little to no data, or where the number and relative impacts of those inputs are hard to parse through.
The common characteristics of candidates I get excited about are those who display depth of thought and clear communication. When someone can put together a valuable viewpoint that is backed by data, that always catches my attention. I also look for a deep passion in our industry and a track record of success.
Images courtesy of Ablorde Ashigbi