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Going Backwards to Go Forward
As someone who is ambitious in their career, it is easy for me to forget how far I’ve come as I’m constantly looking ahead for what’s next.
I’m starting to realize the Steve Jobs quote holds true:
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
Having a strong understanding of how I got to today will increase my self awareness and support my future decision making.
This idea of self reflection crystallized for me the other day when I was talking to a local LA entrepreneur who runs an outdoor fitness community. He said:
I’ve been a professional soccer player in Europe, ran triathlons around the world and have been a personal trainer for celebrities in LA. All of these experiences made me who I am and allowed me to start my current company.
Building your personal narrative is empowering. Our species was founded on stories. It’s important for all of us to dial in our own stories for two reasons.
It allows you to be clear headed about the path you’re on;
Others can quickly get to know you and see you’re journey
We all have a unique story to tell. The better we get at telling our own story will allow us to tap into previously unseen opportunities.
Here’s my attempt to share my life story (with a career focus) in a few paragraphs:
I grew up in Seattle with two loving parents and two younger brothers.
I played football in high school and was an all-division running back and corner back. Our team was tiny and unathletic but we worked hard and cared a lot. We went undefeated our senior year.
The summer before going to college, I crashed my car and then went on a trip to Israel which was a spiritual experience. This altered my perspective toward extreme gratitude and making the most out of my one life.
I attended CU Boulder for college and wanted to have impact. I decided to major in Neuroscience as I saw the brain as the final frontier of science. During my time in college, I became interested in philosophy which led me to entrepreneurship as I saw it as the most effective vehicle to create change.
I learned more in my curiosity for entrepreneurship than in the classroom. I hosted weekly events with local entrepreneurs for my fellow college students, planned Start Up Weekend Boulder which raised over $10K and had 100+ participants for a startup hackathon in 54 hours, and organized the first Everything Entrepreneurship Event at CU which brought together all of the entrepreneurial programs around campus.
All of those experiences were in addition to my associate role at Catalyze CU (a startup accelerator), and my job as a venture analyst for both the Rocky Mountain Venture Fund and CU Anschutz Innovation Center.
I literally breathed everything “startup” across Colorado. But during my second semester of my junior year, I did a program called Semester at Sea where I circumnavigated the globe on a cruise ship from South East Asia to West Africa to Europe for nearly 5 months with college students from all around the world.
After getting out of the “Boulder bubble” for just a semester, I realized I needed to seek opportunity outside of Colorado after college to broaden my perspective. I decided to move to New York City to work with biotech startups on their communications.
Moving to NYC was a shock. I was now in the big the leagues. The biotech startups I worked with were raising $100Ms, going public, and getting drugs approved that were saving patients lives. It felt like everything I did in Colorado was small in comparison. This hurt my ego a bit.
Communications for biotech companies was great but I worked at a large agency and felt like another pea in the pod. This also hurt my ego.
I knew I wanted to work at a biotech startup and get more involved directly but it was difficult to make the jump. Who would take a chance on me?
I did two things that made it possible:
I was able to secure an analyst job at a prestige biotech family office which helped continue to build my craft for due diligence as well as my resume.
I began to network with biotech CEO’s for their advice on how to get a job in biotech.
These two experiences allowed me to land a Chief of Staff job to the CEO of a venture backed biotech company. This was a monumental leap in my career.
I am still with this venture backed company but have transitioned to focus on investor relations after 1.5 years in the chief of staff role.
My goal now is to help this company go public and continue to learn how biotech companies are financed to achieve their goals of developing meaningful medicines for patients.
It’s hard to articulate how helpful it was to write out what led me to where I’m at. As I scheme on what this year will have in store for me in 2021, remembering where I came from is critical to increasing my self-awareness.
I’m going to tap into a few things:
Network with fellow sub-stackers on Twitter, Clubhouse, etc.
Think through what my own investment fund may look like
Re-engage mentors for their feedback
Better understand what I truly enjoy doing and see if I can optimize my life for that.