Breaking Into a Competitive Role: Pond Size Matters

throughthebackdooronly 11.2

So how do you get through the back door in a given industry? How can you go from being a teaching professional to being a player in the tech investing space (that's me btw)? Or how can you go from being an undergrad student to TV host. You can input several different scenarios into these phrases. Today I will briefly touch on the power of starting in a small area.

Key Point: Be a big (or medium) size fish in a small/medium pond. Then move up to being the medium/big fish in the large/ginormous pond. It's that simple.

Right before I was headed to business school back in 2013, I was teaching high school science. I knew I wanted to get into venture capital but I didn't know a single VC or founder in a major tech company. Since I had the summer off, I decided to make it a summer on. I was headed back to Ohio for the summer, so I decided to research and reach out to all of the VC funds that were in Cleveland (a small pond). I told them that I wanted to learn more about the space and would work for free if necessary. I emailed dozens and dozens and dozens of managing directors, executive directors, and VCs until one said yes. From that one yes, I was able to start my journey into venture capital. I used the summer to meet several investors and VCs in the Ohio area and learn as much as I could about VC. Once I moved to Philadelphia (a medium pond), I had some experience in VC and was able to leverage that for a position at Dreamit Ventures, 76 Capital, and the Wharton Social Venture Fund. I met several people in the Philadelphia tech ecosystem. Then I moved to one of the largest ponds, New York City (the ocean). Since I had success in each of the smaller ponds, I was able to get a role at Techstars, one of the elite accelerators in the world. 

This path worked for me in tech and can also work in other sectors. A classmate of mine from Ohio State named Zuri Hall went from a normal college student to being on E News. This took several years, but she used the same method...start in a small pond. Her first hosting job was for a network in Indianapolis. It was a small market, but allowed her to learn about television, hosting, and about entertainment. From her role there, she was able to win an Emmy (pretty cool). She leveraged that experience to get a role with Fuse TV in New York. New York is a giant pond, but she wasn't quite a big fish yet. She again used her experiences at Fuse TV to build her network hone her skills and become a bigger fish in the ocean. From there she hosted several shows on MTV and became a recognizable face in the entertainment arena. All of these experiences prepared her for her current role as a correspondent on E! News. Now she can be seen nightly on television in millions of viewers homes. Slowly but surely Zuri became a bigger fish in each pond that she ventured into and became more and more of a success. 

This method is key for people that don't have the connections, background, or skill to immediately become a big fish in a big pond. Some people can, but most can't. Take the time to build your brand and skill in each subsequent pond and you will be successful. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Blog X