BS/MS, Mechanical Engineering
Polytechnic Institute NY
U Mass, U of Illinois
BS, Electrical Engineering
MS, PhD Computer Science
BS/MS/PhD, Chemical Eng.
U of Wisconsin, Minnesota
BA Math, MBA
BS/MS Electrical Eng., MBA
Rice University, Harvard
Almost all had technical co-founders
(but not necessarily as CEO)
Why did they succeed?
Because of their math/engineering training?
Or just their raw brainpower?
Or did they succeed *despite* being engineers?
Or innate leadership ability?
Or is this all just random?
There is no defined career “path”
• There are simply a series of decisions
• Where you start is just a first step
• Take lateral moves and pay cuts
• You can be good at more than one thing
• But make the decisions off of some basic
But now I’ll talk about a few guidelines to think
about along the way.
Was this the accomplishment?
Getting a big
Getting VCs to
i.e., what someone else gave me?
•How to work
•Working in teams
•Press and analysts
•Deciding what I liked
•Learning the necessary skills
•Building the right network
Who is this all about?
It’s not about
them to hire
them to fund
It’s about YOU
• What do you
want to do?
• What are
Oh, actually it is
• Your team
• Your peers
• Your board
There is such a thing as a bad question
Not so good questions Good questions
What will look good on my
What will build the skills that I
What will make my teachers,
parents, peers happy?
What will make me happy?
How do I get a promotion? How do I learn how to be a
What do venture capitalists
want to see in a business plan?
What do I think my business
plan should say?
How do I convince people I’m
How do I actually be good?
Worry less about what “they” think
(they don’t really care anyway)
• Work on your skills
• Find out what you want
• Trust that if you are good, other people will see it
and get involved with you
• It’s not them, it is you
• But do find mentors
• Yes, you need to learn how to sell yourself, but
you need a *product* to sell!
Do you have skillz?
• Political landscape Your products Your strategy
• Your competitors Company legacy
• Marketing Sales Support PR/analysts
• Finance Strategy Engineering Innovation
• Management Interpersonal Listening
• Presentations Teamwork Professionalism
• Intelligence Motivation Self awareness
• Discipline Humility Curiosity Confidence
only one place
Maybe the answer is “off the grid”
(Hint: it is
Work on your skills
• Put yourself in challenging situations
• Skills are transferable
• Your foundational skills can never be too good
• Personal and professional are the same thing
There is no such thing as “job security”, only “career
security” (if you got skills).
By seeking “job security” you may get neither job
security nor career security!
The Stanford Curse
“I didn’t go to
Stanford to build
is going to
“I need to be a
CEO in 5
“I want to be a
before I’m 25.”
Lots of voices whispering
into your ear….
Small vs. Large
• Lack of structure
• No support
• Pivots and twists
• Equity focus
• Focus and Specialization
• Structure and support
• Business class upgrades
Management vs. Individual Contributor
• Team building
• Problem solving
• Understand what you like to do
• Leverage your strengths, work on your
• Show humility and curiosity
• Have the “I know nothing” / “I can learn
• Being smart at something doesn’t make you
smart at something else
• Listen to the voices, but also learn to tune them
Some of the suggestions included:
• “Here is why Twitter sux…”
• “Here is why Facebook sux….”
• “Go where you’ll make the most money”
• “Go where you like the product the most”