15 tried-and-true tips for working from home

The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted our need for flexible work structures, with many organizations mandating remote work this month. Certainly distributed teams and satellite offices have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the wonders of high-speed Internet, cloud applications, and fancy collaboration tools, but it’s been something of a learning experience for this surprise new WFH-force.

Perhaps you’re still in the honeymoon phase, that blissful period when you realize you no longer have to wear pants with zippers, but the psychological aspects of remote work may set in before long. We’re here to help. Our Operator Collective team is fully distributed – from New York to Berkeley, Vancouver to Houston – so we’ve had to figure out what works for us. Here are our top tips for getting into that remote work groove. We’d love to hear your tips for working from home, too – Please share them at @OperatorCollect.

Mallun Yen, Founder and Partner

  • It can be easy to forego exercise. Two mornings a week, we block out time for exercise and don’t schedule meetings until 9:45. But don’t cheat – Sign up for classes in advance to keep yourself accountable.
  • Keep your video on when you Zoom into meetings (try these tips). It keeps everyone on task and connected. 
  • Look to the pros. Zapier, a pioneer in distributed teams, has been sharing tips for a while.

Leyla SekaPartner

  • Make your desk area beautiful. I cover mine in flowers and things that make me happy.
  • Get moving! I try to walk 10K steps around my house before noon. I may look crazy yapping on the phone as I circle the house like a shark, but it keeps me sane.
  • Do something for you. My friend April suggests growing a vegetable garden. I dress my cat up in costumes (a lot), but you could try learning a language or making every recipe in a cookbook. 

Ambrosia Vertesi, Operating Partner

  • Reserve the first five minutes of a virtual meeting for watercooler talk. At Duo, Dug Song would start meetings by sharing appreciations which helped build connectedness.
  • Play Team Chatroulette to connect with people outside your immediate orbit.
  • If you don’t schedule snack breaks and bathroom breaks, nobody will. 

Ruthie Miller, Head of Marketing

  • Create a basic schedule and stick to it. Resist the urge to sleep til noon.
  • Don’t work from your bed. As tempting as it is, that’s a slippery slope.
  • Use your regular commute time to do something for yourself – read, send a card, get an #OfficeDog.

Marley Sarles, Events and Operations

  • Don’t forgo team building. Use Zoom for a team coffee, happy hour, or remote dance party.
  • Throw in a load of laundry between meetings. You can be so productive at home!
  • If you don’t have a lot of calls, switch things up by working at a coffee shop or restaurant.

Your turn! Please share your tips for working from home with us at @OperatorCollect.   

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Growing up on HBO: The early feminist movies that inspired me

For several years now Hollywood has been engulfed in a trend of remakes, redoing the old movies we loved in our youth in hopes of giving them new life as modern-day classics for a new generation. Most of these remakes have fallen flat for me, but I have to admit I was pretty excited about the new Top Gun

My husband and I decided we should show our kids the original movie so they can see its greatness for themselves and note the differences. Old versus new fight scenes! Bigger, badder explosions! More beach volleyball! We knew they’d love the both versions.

Top Gun movie imageBut 20 minutes into the classic, my 12-year-old turns to me and says, “Mom, I can’t believe you like this. These guys are sexist jerks. This movie is awful.” I was totally caught off-guard. Yet as I continued watching, his point became painfully obvious: inflated male egos everywhere, a cocky student hitting on his female teacher, testosterone to the max. Afterward, my 9-year-old commented: “The only good part was the end when they finally started blowing things up.” 

How did I ever think this movie was great? As I thought more about it, I began to realize that Top Gun is a classic snapshot in time. It was, unfortunately, where we were as a culture in 1986. I loved Top Gun back then (and still love The Hunt for Red October now), but the basic message I got was that the men were out there doing things and in charge… and the women weren’t. 

My parents are foreigners; my Dad left early every morning and came home late, while my Mom worked to keep the home running smoothly. From my own house to the Brady Bunch, I saw the way the gender roles stacked up. Fortunately one day my parents invested in a new invention – The Home Box Office – and that’s where I connected with some key movies that helped me find my place in the world. So in honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share a few of the feminist movies that defined me.

Women dominating the working world  

9-5 movie imageThe number of working women has steadily increased since WWII, but there was a seismic shift in the 80’s with movies that portrayed women as taking control, rising through the ranks, or becoming entrepreneurs. 9-5, for example, tells of a gaggle of secretaries who scheme to transform their office into an inclusive workplace that offers flexible hours, equal pay, and onsite daycare. In 1980! Companies still struggle with those things today! 

And then there’s Baby Boom. Should women have to choose between having a kid and having a job? Not Diane Keaton and not me. Melanie Griffith was Working Girl, which postulates that just because someone starts out answering phones, doesn’t mean she’s going to end up answering phones. And finally, Selena, the biographical story of the Tejano mogul who sang, danced, and toured her way to a clothing line and cult following. 

Women breaking cultural archetypes 

Princess Leia imageThe movies of my youth also started to break the archetype of the frail, incapable woman. First there’s Private Benjamin, which shows Goldie Hawn join the Army on a whim and discover the value of inner strength. The lesson? The life set before us is not the one we have to lead; we are tougher than we think we are. And then there’s She-Devil, which portrays women not as helpless victims, but as clever and resourceful opponents. Perhaps a Vesta Rose is what the technology industry needs right now. And my absolute favorite, Star Wars, which created the ultimate feminist idol, the woman who took absolutely no sh*t and ruled the galaxy: Princess Leia.

Behold the power of female friendships

Waiting to Exhale imageOf course, there were plenty of feminist movies that depicted the power of friendships among women, like Waiting to Exhale, which shows how women watching out for each helps them build power. We all need those trusting relationships in our lives.

At the time, grief was still a matter largely kept private, but thank goodness for two classics – Steel Magnolias and Beaches – who opened us up to emotion. Those movies highlight just how much we need to rely on our friends when the going gets tough. Truly they both are tearjerkers that present the comic with the tragic in a beautiful way.

Inspiring a new generation of women

These old storylines, which were totally outnumbered by slapstick comedies and male heroes, came at just the right time to launch a new generation of feminism. We began to see what was possible, what could happen when women take charge. As a result, the women who watched those movies are now pushing for equal pay in Hollywood, amplifying the #MeToo movement, and working for greater diversity and more representation

They’re also bringing women into venture capital, helping women invest, leading companies, starting companies, and running for office in record numbers. And now that we have models for what these roles actually look like – on the big screen and in our very own world – the girls of today will know what’s possible. There is no limit to what we can do.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How we brought so many first-time investors into venture

Why is the world of investing so insular? That was one of the questions we thought about as we created Operator Collective, our new venture fund designed to give talented operators from diverse backgrounds a safe, comfortable way to join venture. It was a good idea, right? A respectable pursuit?

Yet as we spoke to our wide networks of operators – most of whom happened to be women – there was notable trepidation. We saw it beneath their poker faces. These confident, ultra-talented operators with an absurd amount of collective experience building, growing, and running the world’s top enterprise companies were intimidated by the thought of investing in venture capital. Few had invested before, and if this experienced, savvy bunch shied away from the opportunity, how could we ever expect to bridge this gap?

It’s no secret that venture capital has long been an industry dominated by white males. As we’ve noted, this isn’t necessarily because no one wants a change, but rather because there hasn’t been a natural way for it to happen. And considering the gender pay equity gap and “gap table,” there never would be a natural way for this to happen unless we made one. If we want different companies, we need different venture capitalists We needed a new model. 

1) What if our LPs invested on a sliding scale?
So we started by creating a sliding scale to invest in our Operator Collective Fund. 90% of our LPs are women and 40% are people of color; because so many of them began their operator careers before the Equal Pay movement took hold, they’ve lost out on thousands (or even millions) of salary dollars comparable to others in their industries. A sliding scale for LP investments allows these experienced leaders to join the venture ecosystem at a level they’re comfortable with.

2) And they want more active roles
Even the sliding scale wasn’t enough, though. Beyond the financial side of the equation, our LPs wanted more. They didn’t just want to throw their hard-earned money at founders – there’s certainly no sure return on that investment. No, they wanted to help them build. Get hands-on, answer questions, serve as a resource. They wanted to share their experiences and lessons learned to advance the next generation. Refreshing, isn’t it? 

3) All while learning and sharing together
So now we’ve got our sliding scale and hands-on opportunities, but we still needed one more component to create the perfect trifecta for LPs. And it came from right within our own community: education. Operator Collective also has an education component designed to increase our business and investing acumen. Our own LPs lead webinars and host Office Hours. They meet 1:1. They offer up their expertise to anyone looking. It’s deliciously selfless. 

Our holy trifecta: Sliding scale, hands-on help, and education
What we’ve ended up with is a new model for venture investing, one that’s intentional and unique. By assembling these talented operators, offering education and experiential knowledge, and sourcing new opportunities together, we hope to #RiseTheTide in venture capital and create an industry where
everyone looks like an investor.

 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Alpha Girls: 5 lessons from the women who earned their way to the top of Silicon Valley

Venture capital needs a hero right now, and it just might be the Alpha Girls. Alpha Girls is the story of four women whose hard work and dedication pushed them to the top of the venture capital world. It’s an undertold, yet necessary piece that details not only the rise of the title characters, but also of the venture and tech industries.

The four Alpha Girls — Magdalena Yesil, Sonja Perkins, Mary Jane Elmore, and Theresia Gouw — are an inspiration and a force for good, which is why we’re so proud that three of them have partnered with us at Operator Collective (and we’re working on that fourth). Here are five things I’ve already learned from Alpha Girls — and now that these women are on the OpCo team, I have a feeling these kinds of lessons are just beginning.

1) Emotional connections are incredibly important.

Venture capital has typically been ruled by white males — ambitious leaders with dominant personalities. As charismatic as they come across, they’re often lacking in emotional intelligence. Sonja Perkins filled that void with great success as a VC at Menlo Ventures. In the book, she talks about connecting with founders and forging relationships that lead to future deals. Presenting to a room full of experienced VC can be incredibly intimidating for a founder; Sonja’s easy-going demeanor and outgoing personality helped to put them at ease, leading to smoother presentations and more investments.

2) It’s OK to make the first move.

There’s an old philosophy that women shouldn’t make the first move, but that kind of thinking is laughably antiquated. Like many industries, venture capital is all about timing, connections, and the flow of information, so waiting to make a move only opens the door for the next person to come in and take it. Theresia Gouw’s quick moves helped her firm land several deals, including Facebook, while Magdalena Yesil’s foresight and connections helped her become the first investor in Salesforce (for which I am very thankful!). These successes and others are largely dependent on the Alpha Girls’ abilities to think and act quickly.

3) You never know when or where a connection will resurface.

Connections are important in any industry, but in venture, they’re vital. You never know when an old acquaintance or former colleague might resurface, opening the possibility of a deal. Magdalena Yesil recounts the story of confronting Larry Ellison at the gym, of all places. MJ Elmore and Sonja Perkins discuss how their networks and connections lead to major new deals. And what a strange connection that Theresia worked with Timothy McVeigh at a Burger King in high school. It’s a small world after all, or so the song goes.

4) Find people who support you at work and at home.

It’s always important to find your people — the ones who support and challenge you, and the ones who’ll have difficult conversations with you when needed. Theresia Gouw was at her desk one day when fellow VC Jim Goetz came in to let her know about rumors circulating that she was sleeping her way into deals. Rumors like these were nothing new to her, so she blew them off — but how great to know Jim had her back. At the other end of the spectrum, MJ Elmore realized after many years that her marriage wasn’t an equal partnership. Her husband had been supportive of her career and they worked equally hard, yet MJ was the one handling all the household responsibilities. Eventually the imbalance lead to divorce; today MJ advises women to discuss things like this early on with their partners to establish expectations.

5) Pick your battles when it comes to sexism.

The feminist movement has shined a light on equality and is doing wonders for women around the world. More and more women are rightfully calling out sexism when they see it. But at the same time, as the Alpha Girls demonstrate, you’ve got to choose your battles. Theresia Gouw recalls stories when founders asked her to get coffee, assuming she was in the meeting to take notes. Sonja Perkins shares a time when she lived in a pool house for free, but was expected to babysit the homeowner’s triplets. Both women could have made a stink about gender norms, but chose not to: Theresia said the embarrassment these men felt when they realized their mistake was palpable, and Sonja didn’t mind the work exchange. Sexism is rampant, they said, but there’s no need to go looking for it.

Alpha Girls and Operator Collective

Alpha Girls offers a fascinating window into Silicon Valley as the four title women use their grit and intelligence to succeed in an industry that’s heavily dominated by men. Given their intimate experience in venture, the Alpha Girls are an incredible asset to the Operator Collective team as we work to diversify the industry, break down the barriers to entry, and encourage wealth redistribution. This book is a treasure trove of stories and inspiration, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for these four women — at Operator Collective and beyond.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.