If You Were a Venture Capitalist, Would You Invest in Yourself?
In my previous post, I wrote about my unconventional journey from a teenage entrepreneur to a college student to helping start the AlphaSights New York office. What I left out was why I chose to join AlphaSights over the other companies I was interviewing with. Simply put, I made a choice to invest in myself.
On Twitter, a user asked Mark Suster, an Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist who sold his company to Salesforce, if he would have backed himself before he became an investor based on the criteria he uses now to assess whether or not to invest. He responded by saying that he did invest in himself - he had left a secure job to start a company, taking a major salary cut for the first 8 years. He continued, “If you’re willing to go into debt for $100,000-150,000 to get an MBA and have 2 years of your life with no work experience, why on Earth wouldn’t you just join the most ambitious early-stage startup you know and work for a salary to get the experience? At the end of the period you’ll have zero debt, 2 years' experience and have at least earned money.”
I had similar thoughts when I graduated from Villanova with a degree in Finance, even though all signs pointed towards a career in Banking for me. Many of the most prestigious banks came directly on campus to recruit and the majority of my peers and close friends chose this route (a common choice for finance or economics majors). But, unlike many of my peers, I decided not to go the traditional finance route and made an immediate investment in my long-term future by joining AlphaSights, which at the time was just opening it’s New York office. The decision to do this stemmed from my desire invest in myself and learn as much as possible by stepping outside my comfort zone.
Most students pursue careers at big investment banks or consulting companies because it's the traditional path and often the path of least resistance with predictable salaries and career advancement. But if you’re a student with a dream to run your own business one day, to start something from scratch, or to be an early joiner at a startup like I was, you have to think about joining a company right out of college that can get you there.
When deciding what company to join post-graduation, make a long-term investment in your knowledge and skills. Learning should not stop outside of the classroom; on the contrary, it should accelerate in your first job. Join a company that’ll teach you new skills valued by any company, from the art of negotiation to the keys to being a good manager, or pick a company that’ll further ones you already have, such as your communication and presentation skills. This can more easily happen at a company that has you working the front lines and gaining commercial experience, and not hiding behind an excel spreadsheet, and that provides formal professional development opportunities as well.
At AlphaSights, in just three years, I’ve learned how to lead a team; mentor my peers; present my ideas eloquently and with conviction; and manage a large budget, among countless other skills that will help me later in life. At the same time, through AlphaSights’ emphasis on horizontal, not just vertical, mobility, I’ve had the opportunity to work in five different business segments to get a holistic view on how AlphaSights operates.
At AlphaSights, we encourage all employees to contribute to both the business and operational aspects of the firm. Members of our Client Services Team run onboarding; some run vendor relations and other functions outside their job description. They’re learning the front and back end of how a business works. They're moving outside their comfort zone and gaining invaluable experience that no MBA program or large corporation can teach. They are investing in themselves.
Stephen joined AlphaSights in 2011 and serves as a Vice President.