Career Code: Meet the Woman Turning Startups Into Success Stories
In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s latest book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($13), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. Last round, we tapped celebrity stylist and interior designer Estee Stanley. Next up, the enigmatic venture capitalist Michelle McHargue.
While experts are advising us to lean in and boost our confidence (or fake it) in order to break the glass ceiling, women are putting on their entrepreneurial caps and crafting their own corner offices. According to a Forbes report, the 2012 U.S. Census showed that women own 36% of all businesses, a 30% jump over 2007. Mompreneurs are also on the rise. In fact, moms are the sole or primary provider in four of 10 households with children, compared to just 11% in 1960. But here’s the question: Who’s backing them when they’re ready to launch their idea to market or scale their growing business?
The lack of women in venture capital and angel investing could inhibit that process. The CrunchBase Women in Venture report looked at the top 100 venture firms globally and found that just 7% of investing partners at the top 100 venture and micro-venture firms are women. One female-founded company is working to change that, one startup at a time.
After 15 years helping some of Silicon Valley’s top hiring managers, CEOs, and founders build rock-star teams to scale their businesses (including Google, Adobe, Yahoo and Amazon), Michelle McHargue partnered with Aileen Lee and Joanne Yuan to form Cowboy Ventures. As the talent partner, McHargue provides meaningful support to entrepreneurial teams, including problem-solving and recruitment. Ready to learn more? We quizzed the inspiring talent on her tips for success. Get your notepad ready.
“I’m the talent partner for Cowboy Ventures, a fund based in the San Francisco Bay Area that invests in tech startups. My role is to be a hands-on team member that assists the companies we’ve invested in to think through what kind of teams they want to build. Then I help the founders attract, recruit, retain, and motivate world-class people who want to join their startup’s mission.”
“A recent study cited the venture capital industry as having only 5% women. We are an all-female team of three, which is exciting and different for our industry. We also work in a very modern way. We don’t have a traditional physical office. We prefer to work with entrepreneurs in their offices, or we take meetings in coffee shops and co-working spaces and work from our home office, which has the benefit of lower costs and better caffeine and snacks. We are connected digitally with each other almost all the time, and we make sure to work physically together as a team at least one day a week.”
“Wow, that was such a long time ago. I was likely wearing a blazer with shoulder pads and matching slacks.”
“I would love to talk to female founders whose talent, determination, and passion to never give up created an amazing brand and legacy. Think J.K. Rowling or Sara Blakely, to name a few. I would love to learn about their wins and challenges in starting and growing their companies.”
“I wish I’d done a better job of keeping track of the many ideas and programs I’ve put together throughout the years in one place. I’ve had the pleasure of working with companies like Amazon, Yahoo, and Adobe. A lot of the things I did and learned at prior companies would be pretty helpful in my current role.”
“Adaptability, collaboration and communication, empathy, passion, and confidence.”
“I’m usually a casual dresser and running around San Francisco from meeting to meeting, so I need to be comfortable. My go-to power outfit is a good pair of jeans, blouse, and some fun statement shoes, like my Aquazzura leopard flats.”
“I don’t have an assistant, but if I did, I would imagine she or he would say I’m caring; a bit disorganized, but that I know the method to my madness; that I’m funny, hardworking, and love working with others.”
“It’s easy to get stuck in your chair while working through emails and calls for hours. If I start to feel like it’s too much sitting, I back away from my desk and take a walk to reset.”
“Make sure you give notice to your manager first, versus having her or him hear you’re planning to leave from others on the team. Having this sort of news come from watercooler chatter will leave a bad impression. Two weeks or more is customary—but think through how much time is needed to wrap up loose ends and transition your work. When you are transitioning, keep focused no matter how mentally checked out you want to be. Leaving as professionally as you came in will go a long way.”
“When I’m running around, my go-to lunch has to be quick and hopefully healthy. I’m a vegetarian, so I frequent Plant Café, Proper Food, or Fresh Roll in San Francisco. My backpack is stocked with granola bars and water if I’m in a pinch. If I’m working from home, a salad with lots of veggies and quinoa or an egg sandwich is my go-to. We have chickens in our yard, so we have plenty of eggs, and I hard-boil a bunch a week for easy snacking.”
“A lack of patience. Some new hires want to move to another position before being in their current role for even a year. It’s obviously important to grow and learn new things, but becoming a subject matter expert takes some time to learn. It’s a shame when employees are too impatient before they’re already gunning for their next position internally or externally.”
“@SincerelyJules: I love her casual yet dressy style. She puts pieces together that make me feel like I can actually pull that look off.
”@MyDomaine: A great curation of contemporary modern looks for the home. We recently renovated our entire house. MyDomaine gave me plenty of inspiration to incorporate into our design.
“@MemeBox_USA: This one brings you the latest in Korean beauty with fun names like Donkey Milk, Hell-Pore, and Pig Nose, just to name a few. While they have funny names, the products are really high-quality that leave your skin feeling and looking amazing.
”@BritandCo: This company enables creativity through inspirational content, online classes, and do-it-yourself kits. I love DIY’ing, and this is where I get my gift-giving ideas.
“@DogsofInstagram: Who doesn’t love to look at dogs? We have a mini zoo at our house with three dogs plus chickens, but I still can’t get enough of dog photos.”
“I walk every morning before I start the day. It helps clear my mind and think through the day. When I get back, I’m ready to tackle what’s ahead of me and feel like I did something good mentally and physically. In the evening, I unwind with my family and catch up with how our day went. I try to get shut-eye before 11 and avoid bringing a computer to bed.”
“You won’t know until you try. If you mess up, who cares? You learn and move on.”
“Continuing to work with our companies on their people strategy to build a world-class team and amazing products.”
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