Believe in yourself! If you won’t who will? It was relevant at every step in my life. I was the only woman engineer in a room full of very confident men often. Frankly the same is true today with many founders. It’s important to trust your gut and instincts since you can believe they have been built on lots of hard work, experience, and education!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Shruti Gandhi, a professor in the CS department at Columbia University and founder of Array Ventures a data-driven venture capital firm. Six of her portfolio companies have exited to companies such as Apple, Paypal, and Samsung with 10x returns. Shruti spun Array Ventures out of True Ventures. She is also an adjunct professor in the CS department at Columbia University, featured on Business Insider, BBC, Forbes, VentureBeat, and USAToday, and host of the Array podcast. When not investing, she is hacking on some app or thinking about ways she can be in many places at one time. Shruti also has an MBA from the University of Chicago, where she polished her finance skills and developed engineering knowledge in CS departments at Columbia University and Marist College.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path.
Curiosity and Necessity. My parents one day told me we are leaving everything behind to build a new future for ourselves in a new country. Once we got there to a shiny new country with lots of opportunities and hope they told me they will leave me on my own to figure it out. I was left on my own to figure out how to get into a college without SAT scores and well no money. I had to earn my way through college once I get in.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I taught myself how to code, got admitted into college ( convinced them I was a good bet), graduated college in 3 years with a summa cum laude (I had to look that up too). I paid for that degree on my own with three jobs on the side, and even managed to take some interesting classes like ballet and piano and I got a job in the middle of a recession at a fortune 500 company!
Oh and somehow during my 3 jobs I earned enough money to NOT qualify for need-based grants. So not only did I have less time for fun I was punished for not having more fun in college.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There was no other way. I think those days made me resilient. I never believed certain jobs and opportunities were only for a few kinds of people. I always said why not me? If it wasn’t me I worked hard to figure out how could it be me and what I need to get wherever I wanted.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Because of my grit I am running a venture capital fund, Array Ventures, that has raised millions of dollars and has a lot of exits to companies such as Apple, Paypal, McGraw Hill. I am a founder of a VC firm in an industry where barely 5% of women are investors and much fewer have raised VC firms. I have deployed millions of dollars in founders like me that are women and immigrants.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
Ironically, in addition to running my fund I am an adjunct professor at an ivy league in the CS department. A school that I could have never dreamt of even attending at one point in my life without SAT scores.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
1) Never give up
2) Work twice as hard
3) Never let anyone tell you what you want is impossible
4) Have a positive attitude
5) Think outside the box — Don’t let the constraints defined by others limit you!
6) Think big!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
My parents who taught me how to stand up when you fall down and to think big!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I give back and coach my founders who are like me on gems I have learned along the way. I help them navigate the fundraising world. The way my founders describe me they tell me I go to bat for them!
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Empower them. Make them see the vision and give them the flexibility to be creative.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Open as many doors as one can for people who are stuck and frustrated. How can we make that happen?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Believe in yourself! If you won’t who will? Its relevant at every step in my life. I was the only woman engineer in a room full of very confident men often and frankly same is true today with many founders. It’s important to trust your gut and instincts since you can believe they have been built on lots of hard work, experience, and education!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.