Reflections on Imposter Syndrome

A few things happened yesterday that got me thinking about this. The first is seeing this post by Jenna Wortham on Twitter. She is referencing the fact that many media companies are now realizing that they have created hostile work environments for black people.

The second was an interesting conversation with my friend who mentioned that she didn’t understand why more white people did not see the importance of racial equality. I responded that this was probably a response born out of their own insecurity. For if there was racial equality and they didn’t have white privilege, where would they be? Would they be worse off than they are now? (answer is probably yes)

This got me reflecting on my own issues with imposter syndrome. And now I think I have a deeper clarity about what that means for me. So many black people have been excluded from racist institutions. As a result, so much greatness has been excluded from racist institutions. Because I have succeeded in spite of this, I am left with a less great competitive set. So my imposter syndrome comes not from the fact that I don’t belong with these other white people, it comes from the fact that maybe none of us belong. Maybe there is a completely different set of black, white, asian and latinX people who – if we had anti-racist systems – would be standing in our places.

So my imposter syndrome is actually not about me feeling less than great. I think I am pretty great actually. It’s about the sadness I have that I could be greater, could get better, could be more challenged if I was given the opportunity to compete with the best. And I believe that many, if not most, of the best are left out and/or pushed out because of racist policies and institutions.

None of us in any of our industries can write ourselves down as the best, the greatest or a member of the “midas list” until the industries themselves are anti-racist. To do the former before the latter is untruthful.

The Allure of the Black Messiah

“You’re organizing people to be self-sufficient rather than to be dependent upon the charismatic leader…the most important thing was, and still is in my mind, is to develop people to the point that they don’t need the strong, savior-type leader.” – Ella Baker, 1968

“The good news is that racist and anti-racist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and be an anti-racist the next. What we say about race and what we do about race in each moment determines what, not who we are. I used to be racist most of the time. I am changing. I am no longer identifying with racists by claiming to be not racist. I am no longer speaking through the mask of racial neutrality. I am no longer manipulated by racist ideas to see racial groups as problems. I no longer believe a black person cannot be racist. I am no longer policing my every action around a white or black judge trying to convince white people of my equal humanity; trying to convince black people I am representing the race well.” – Dr. Ibram Kendi from How to Be Anti-Racist.

This past week was devastating. With the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Avery, George Floyd and the countless others who we will never know, it seems like white america has finally decided that black people are important to listen to.

Black people have been and will continue to be important to listen to. I worry though, that in an effort to offload the work of critical thinking, white (and black) people will gravitate to a Black Messiah. Someone who tells them exactly what to think so that they don’t have to think for themselves at all and also helps them offload some of the guilt of participating in a racist society for so long which prevented them from listening to and believing in black people in the past. The work that needs to be done cannot be offloaded onto a black messiah. The work is deep, personal and painful reflection on how your behaviors have contributed to (& if you’re white), and benefited from) white supremacist institutions.

How I’m Managing My Anxiety During Today’s Uncertainty


Since COVID-19 took hold, I’ve been given the privilege of working from home. Now that I have a little more time (no more commute, no more travel between SOMA and Embarcadero and Union Square for meetings, no more “get ready for work” time), I’ve been able to reflect on what I’ve enjoyed in this moment.

That focus on enjoyment has helped curb my anxiety during a time when everything is changing even more rapidly than usual.

I decided to share a list of my favorites here with hopes that it helps some of you as well!

The inspiration behind this list is the amazing Mari Andrew who is able to capture life’s agonies, joys and reflective moments in a way that is viscerally relatable.

#1 Dancing all night to jams that remind me of childhood alongside Janet Jackson and Oprah

Thank you, DJ NICE!

#2 Catching up with another person in VC who has decided that this is the time to invest in companies focused on doing good

#3 Scheduling calls with my best friends in Beirut, Los Angeles and NYC to really check-in on each other

#4 Checking my neighborhood facebook group and learning that my neighbor is offering to pick up and deliver groceries for the most vulnerable in our community

#5 Learning that my cat hates slack notifications just as much as I do

(this is not my cat)

#6 Seeing the flood of announcements on Twitter that people are donating money to charities

#7 Being able to join my dance class with my favorite dance teacher from the comfort of my living room + not feel guilty for ducking out early!

#8 Taking an extra moment between e-mails to really understand the feelings behind my reactions instead of just reacting


Given that my inspiration is Mari Andrew, I felt like I had to end with one of my favorites by her from her book, “Am I There Yet?

My User Guide

How I approach my work within venture capital

Ah‚ you’re part of something way bigger
Bigger than you‚ bigger than we
Bigger than the picture they framed us to see
But now we see it
And it ain’t no secret‚ no

— Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, “BIGGER”, The Gift Album

I recently realized that when I enter conversations with other VCs, I have a pretty complex background song playing. It’s not always Bigger by Beyoncé, but it usually has a similar tune. 🎶

To help people understand how to work with me and get the beat down of the song playing in my head, I decided to create a user guide. A “user guide” (or manifesto or first principles) is a list of your own values.

I decided to create a User Guide when I realized that I’m pretty complicated & putting my values down where everyone could reference them could be a useful resource to decrease stress & anxiety of interactions

Here is my first stab. I hope you’ll treat it as a living document that reflects the living, evolving person I am.

Let’s begin with a quick summation of my life story:

I grew up in San Diego, CA

I spent summers in West Virginia with my mom’s side of the family — that includes, but is not limited to 11 uncles, 1 aunt and 20+ cousins

I graduated from Duke University with a major in public policy, just 4 years after the lacrosse scandal

I drafted legislation for the City of New York + lobbied the federal government to pass it

I conducted tax preparation services for low-income New Yorkers, supported a multi-city roll-out of a city program & raised money from private sector organizations like Nike to invest in New York City’s public schools

Then my background starts to get boring…

I went to business school at Berkeley-Haas

Then it gets exciting again!

After business school, I helped Charles Hudson manage and operate Precursor VC

Cool cool cool, if you have read this far, thanks for getting up to speed – we are now the same page.

So let’s get into the question I really came here to answer: “what is my relationship to venture capital”.

Short answer: It’s complicated 🤷🏾‍♀️

Long answer:

1. Venture Capital has a transformational ability to support and finance companies that are building scalable solutions for people and places that have been systematically under-invested in. That excites me more than anything which is why I’m here. 🎉

More background on my POV: Why I’m Betting on Real People

2. At the same time, the relationship between capitalism and black people has been fraught since slavery.

a. Black people were brought to the US to build foundational pieces of the economy (agriculture, railroads, construction) while venture capitalists’ invested in them and reaped the rewards.

References: Without Slavery, Would The U.S. Be The Leading Economic Power?

b. After emancipation + reconstruction, many black people had the capital that they accumulated stripped away from them leaving us with today’s issues of extreme wealth inequality between races.

References: 8 Successful and Aspiring Black Communities Destroyed by White Neighbors

References: African American Homeownership Falls to 50-year Low

c. There has been little action taken to decrease this inequality and instead, immense work has been done to reinforce a brand of meritocracy. As a result, the word “meritocracy” and the assumption that folks with power deserve it or earned it hurts me.

References: The Perils of Meritocracy

3. This informs my own imposter syndrome as a black woman in VC — I know that 1M+ black or brown people could be great at this job and yet somehow because of my own luck, I have ended up here. So I take great care to try and call in those left outside of the room & make their voices heard.

4. I struggle with the evangelization of technology and startups. Startups/tech/entrepreneurship is hard, but it is not the hardest job. Having family across the country with many different socioeconomic status’ keeps me grounded. A harder job to me is trying to making ends meet while working for less than minimum wage in the only job available to me in the small town where I live. I’m not in venture capital because it’s the hardest work available, I’m doing it because it has the widest impact.

5. We are all complicit in an economic system that has caused significant trauma on people, communities and countries across the world.

My favorite book that discusses this is American Spy — review by NPR here: ‘American Spy’ Is A Unique Spin On The Cold War Thriller

6. In order to be a productive member of society, being a thoughtful investor is not enough. The work starts with you. The arc of the universe does not bend towards justice if nobody does the work to make it so. How are you building a pattern of reflection and growth? How are you living your values? Do you wonder how what you say/do impacts others? What are you hoping to accomplish in this lifetime? How are you actively working to raise your own consciousness so you don’t become a reactive pawn in a greater system created by other people? These are questions I struggle with daily. One of the ways I work towards addressing them is by building a full life outside of my day job. I am an active supporter of Beyond Emancipation, the North Carolina Bail Fund, Esq Apprentice and am getting more and more involved in my own community of Longfellow, Oakland.

7. I think that listening to people different from you, and changing your opinion accordingly, is the biggest act of courage you can take. This is based on my love for humility. It is my favorite trait (right above gratitude) and one I try to practice often. Humility isn’t a widely appreciated trait in VC because it is at odds with industry standards of conviction, assertiveness and self-righteousness which makes this work hard sometimes.

8. The hustle culture of entrepreneurship and tech is problematic. It is particularly problematic for communities of color where the old adage that “you must work twice as hard to get half as much” rings true. That isn’t a life I wish to cultivate or to exhault. It leads to burnout and breeds exhaustion which can create even more anger amongst underrepresented communities. I recognize the privilege in this lifestyle choice and also believe that my ancestors wouldn’t want me to live in a way that hurts me if I don’t have to. I approach my life and my work within VC with this lense and work hard to build boundaries so that I can have a full work and home life. Please don’t try to e-mail me on weekends and please please please don’t follow me on instagram 🙃

a. That being said, one of the values that I hold deeply is that in order to be successful, you must be proactive. If you are reaching out to me cold and would like to speak with me, I expect that you have your questions prepared. If I have invested in your company, I expect that you will treat me as a valuable resource who can help guide you. One of the most frustrating experiences I have had, and would like to prevent, is feeling like the person I’m talking to isn’t taking full advantage of my time and and/or isn’t taking responsibility to make their situation better. One of the quotes I try to live by is: we all have agency over our own lives and I have continually developed a practice of proactiveness. In order to work together effectively, I need to see you model proactiveness as well. I try really hard and work best with people who are also trying really hard.

References: Black Workers Really Do Need to Be Twice as Good

10. Being a black woman doesn’t mean I have all the answers to inequality within this industry or outside of it. Please read a book (or an article) before asking me any questions pertaining to inequality, white supremacy, racism, etc.

References: How To Be A Better Ally: An Open Letter To White Folks

a. I am still very much a beginner in learning about the different struggles that other communities of color experience. And welcome more resources that I can use to improve.

Some of my favorite books have been:

In the Midst of Winter —From Isabel Allende, a Novel of Three Immigrants and a Brooklyn Misadventure

Pachinko —Culture Clash, Survival And Hope In ‘Pachinko’

Exit West —Escaping A World On Fire In ‘Exit West’

Long Story, Short: I love venture capital and technology, but my relationship to it is complicated. This industry was not created in 1976 with the invention of Apple. Books are important, history is important and without those two things you can become an actor in a greater narrative that you didn’t know existed — I try my hardest not to be that actor, but mess up sometimes. When I could do better, I expect you to call me out and I promise to listen. To earn my respect, I expect you to try hard too. I also expect you to mess up sometimes — at which point, I will call you out on it and expect for you to listen. We’re all human.

First Draft Written: August 9, 2019

Updated: March 11, 2020

Updated: March 12, 2020

Why I Decided to Become Pipeline Angels’ 1st VC-in-Residence

In September, I added another job to my title. I’m still the Investment Associate and Head of Ops at Precursor Ventures and have now joined Natalia Oberti Noguera and her team at Pipeline Angels as their first ever VC-in-Residence.

It started with a simple e-mail. I’m not yet an accredited investor, but I was inspired with what Natalia was building. So I filled out the Pipeline Angels application and included a short note about how excited I was to get involved wherever I could be useful. Luckily, my application aligned with a new idea Natalia had brewing to get more women like me involved in Pipeline Angels.

Natalia and I hopped on the phone and she shared her vision for extending her pipeline initiative to not just help women and non-binary femmes become angel investors, but also help women, non-binary people, and men of color become GPs at investment firms.

The road to GP is usually paved with a stint in angel investing and a demonstrated ability to bring quality LP leads to the table.

But these prerequisites to the job require one huge piece that many women and non-binary femmes lack → access to capital.

As a VC-in-Residence, her vision was that I would be given the opportunity to learn both. Through working on a team alongside angel investors, I would get to learn the ins — and — outs of the angel investment process, support their decisions on who to invest in and be a contributing member of their investment team. Through working with accredited investors, I would be able to build relationships with women and non-binary femmes who could be tomorrow’s LPs.

As Natalia put it: Pipeline Angels created the role of VC-in-Residence to inspire our members and broader network to help change the face of venture capital by becoming LPs in VC firms led by #morevoices.

I’m grateful for Natalia’s vision and even more grateful for Precursor Ventures’ sponsorship. Professional
development opportunities in venture capital are few and far between. I’m lucky to have found a crew that understands the importance of growth.

Interested in learning more? Check out Megan Rose Dickey’s feature about the VC-in-Residence role in TechCrunch.

Why I Decided to Become Pipeline Angels’ 1st VC-in-Residence

In September, I added another job to my title. I’m still the Investment Associate and Head of Ops at Precursor Ventures and have now joined Natalia Oberti Noguera and her team at Pipeline Angels as their first ever VC-in-Residence.

It started with a simple e-mail. I’m not yet an accredited investor, but I was inspired with what Natalia was building. So I filled out the Pipeline Angels application and included a short note about how excited I was to get involved wherever I could be useful. Luckily, my application aligned with a new idea Natalia had brewing to get more women like me involved in Pipeline Angels.

Natalia and I hopped on the phone and she shared her vision for extending her pipeline initiative to not just help women and non-binary femmes become angel investors, but also help women, non-binary people, and men of color become GPs at investment firms.

The road to GP is usually paved with a stint in angel investing and a demonstrated ability to bring quality LP leads to the table.

But these prerequisites to the job require one huge piece that many women and non-binary femmes lack → access to capital.

As a VC-in-Residence, her vision was that I would be given the opportunity to learn both. Through working on a team alongside angel investors, I would get to learn the ins — and — outs of the angel investment process, support their decisions on who to invest in and be a contributing member of their investment team. Through working with accredited investors, I would be able to build relationships with women and non-binary femmes who could be tomorrow’s LPs.

As Natalia put it: Pipeline Angels created the role of VC-in-Residence to inspire our members and broader network to help change the face of venture capital by becoming LPs in VC firms led by #morevoices.

I’m grateful for Natalia’s vision and even more grateful for Precursor Ventures’ sponsorship. Professional
development opportunities in venture capital are few and far between. I’m lucky to have found a crew that understands the importance of growth.

Interested in learning more? Check out Megan Rose Dickey’s feature about the VC-in-Residence role in TechCrunch.

My First Mentor

I am still on cloud nine from meeting so many new friends after my last post: the List of Black Women in VC! Multiple women shared that it was inspiring to read about others who have come before them. You can’t be what you can’t see. And in that list, I showed them many versions of who they could become.

This got me thinking, who was that person for me? Who did I see as an investor who gave me the chutzpah to believe I could do it too?

It was my mom.

A masters-in-education-holding, eldest-daughter-of-12-siblings, born-and-raised-in-West-Virginia-in-the-60s black woman. She is the definition of grit before it was cool.

She is also an investor and founder of The Nicodemus Investment Club. What she intended to build is laid clear in the name.

Nicodemus is one of the last standing western communities in Kansas created by freed-slaves as a “Promise Land” after the end of the civil war.

She gathered other black parents in San Diego who were interested in investing and for over two decades, they have met the first Saturday of every month.

A few basic ground rules have kept it successful over the past 20 years:

Missing a meeting hits your pocketbook. $20/missed meeting!
Sell high. At the beginning of the meeting, they review the current portfolio. If any one stock has doubled since it’s original investment, they sell it.
Do your homework. Stock pitching is a critical part of each meeting. In advance of the meeting, one person is tasked with completing research on a stock and bringing their recommendation to the members.
Democracy Matters. During the meeting, they spend a lot of time debating the stock brought to the floor. If the majority of the members decide against purchasing the stock at the end of debate, it’s a no go.

Growing up, I attended these investment club meetings every month. From when I could barely read, to when I was babysitting the other kids in the group (we were not allowed to invest, just learn) to when I stopped by to say hello to the folks who helped raise me. I never realized that it would have such an impact on my career choice.

I’m so grateful that it did!