Why Being a Capitol Hill Intern is the Perfect Pre-VC Job

My first office job was as an intern on Capitol Hill. (My first job was selling Cutco knives to my neighbors, but that’s another story!)

I can’t imagine a better training ground for my work in VC. Why?

  1. As a Hill intern you have to respond to every constituent email. That means sometimes 100s of e-mails a day. Yes you can build out a template, but each one needs to feel personalized. People are e-mailing you about very personal and important topics – climate change, healthcare reform, their own experience with discrimination, the list goes on. As a VC, I am now responding to 100s of e-mails a day and doing the same thing. I am creating some templates to help me shortcut the timing required to get back to every single person, but I’m also personalizing every e-mail so that the folks who reach out know it’s a person who is responding back. They’re e-mailing me asking for funding to support a company they might have put their life savings into – they deserve a response that has some care given to it.
  2. As a Hill intern, you have to manage many stakeholders all the time. When I was interning for Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Republicans had just taken control of the House. That meant that Congresswoman Barbara Lee had to manage these new colleagues of hers, and also the expectations of her very liberal constituents who elected her. Plus she had just taken the role as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). This does not include the other leadership positions she had at that time – so she had to manage the relationships with the CBC on top of the other positions she held in the House. She was pulled into a hundred different directions daily. She was an amazing role model for me to watch. As a VC, it’s very similar. You have the expectations of your investors (or LPs), your co-investors, your portfolio, your teammates… Managing all of these stakeholders while also staying true to who you are and what you came into office (or into VC) to do is hard and also one of the most important responsibilities of the job.
  3. As a Hill intern, you have to play the long game. There are no metrics for success. You spend most of your day writing e-mails, drafting PR statements (I got to help draft the one Congresswoman Barbara Lee wrote after Michael Jackson died), and just generally helping. The path towards working on policy and legislation often times requires first working on consituent related problems. Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a great example – she worked for Ron Dellums for years before exploring a Congressional seat. You are required to do work that serves others before you become a decision maker. This concept of servant leadership teaches you how to stay focused on the collective instead of yourself. Which is honestly a great pre-requesite for any leadership position, but I think it has definitely served me well in VC!

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