I Learned Early On That If You Hustle And Learn Quickly, You Can Do A Lot
Vanessa Pestritto | Partner, Lattice Ventures
If you believe in the adage that New York City is a place that can either "make or break you", then Vanessa Pestritto has certainly put this idea to a test. Her move to the concrete jungle came via El Paso, Texas. Upon graduating from New York University (NYU), Vanessa began to explore career opportunities that took her from management consulting to gallery assistant to Executive Director of one of the most reputable angel investing communities in New York City. She shares that "staying true to my voice and myself" has helped her flourish throughout her unique journey that has led her to where she is today. Vanessa was named a Top Latino Tech Leader by the New America Alliance and blogs at vanessa.vc.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I grew up in El Paso, Texas and lived there between the ages of three to eighteen.
TELL us A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO WHERE YOU’VE GOTTEN TO TODAY.
I went to NYU for undergrad and studied economics and international business. My first job was in consulting where I worked as a business analyst and product manager. I found it easy communicating with different people. Sometimes at corporations, you're given your responsibilities and get stuck in a box. I didn't like that. In New York, there are so many different verticals - finance, art, media, fashion - that you can find the best people in each area quickly. I became curious about the art world and within three months of quitting my consulting job, I got a job as a gallery assistant and was subsequently promoted to Assistant Director of the gallery.
I learned early on that if you hustle and learn quickly, you can do a lot. I eventually ran operations and sales and became really interested in using technology to make things run efficiently. I realized then that I was more interested in technology, so I left the gallery and within three weeks I received an email from New York Angels - [an organization of business angel investors] - looking for a Director. I had dinner with Brian Cohen, [Chairman of New York Angels], and was brought on. During my time there, we doubled in size, investment activity grew over 250% and we created better experiences for investors. I worked on deal flow, deal sourcing, pipeline management, retention, bringing new members and matching the interests of investors to investments.
In January 2014, I re-connected with a friend who is now my business partner at Lattice Ventures. She was focused in Series A funding while my work had been focused on seed funding, and we asked ourselves "what are the gaps and market problems". We put together a breakfast club - the Gladiator Club - and tried to create a peer relationship particularly for women since there are very few women in venture capital.
TELL us ONE WAY EXERCISING LEADERSHIP HAS ALWAYS COME EASY TO YOU.
Easy: Understanding other people's motives or dynamics. In a roomful of people, I'm able to acknowledge people's comments, run groups effectively and keep people engaged. I'm also able to address points that are brought up, treating them all the same, while being able to get to quick "no's" and keep a conversation moving. It's about being able to prioritize and manage perspectives.
NAME ONE OF THE MOST SATISFYING LEADERSHIP ROLES YOU HAVE HAD, AND BRIEFLY TELL ME WHAT MADE IT SO.
New York Angels. I got to work with some of the best people who were humble, intelligent and I had free reign to collaborate with the Board to build and change the way we felt it would work.
WHAT IS THE BEST DECISION YOU'VE EVER MADE?
The best decision has been staying true to my voice and myself and keeping my integrity, and honoring that so I can flourish. That has helped me through through and through in my career, partners, and relationships.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BARRIER TO FEMALE LEADERSHIP?
It's giving power to two things - 1) People’s reactions to you being a woman and 2) What you think people think of you being a women. Treat it like a non-issue. Demonstrate your skills and intelligence. The market is not going to change overnight.
WHAT WILL BE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR THE GENERATION OF WOMEN BEHIND YOU?
Maintaining momentum with our progress and increasing it where neededed by including more of everyone.
WHAT WOMAN INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?
So many. The world is big. There are women that are not accepting their situations and turning them into opportunities. We have to celebrate these people and help and give because they deserve it.