When Mike Smith, MBA 98, was 16 years old he mapped out a plan that would help achieve his career goal of becoming a CEO of a public company by age 42. But after working for a dot-com startup that would later go bust shortly after its launch, Smith learned quickly that the best laid plan doesn’t always work out.
“These [career] journeys are super windy, they’re rarely up and to the right,” said Smith. “My advice is to embrace the zig zags.”
Smith said he’s grateful for those who helped him build his career as previous COO of Walmart.com and Stitch Fix, and now as general partner and co-founder of venture capital firm Footwork. He spoke with MBA students and the Haas community about his career successes and failures, talent management, and cultivating a workplace culture at a recent Dean’s Speaker Series talk held on Nov. 1. The event was co-sponsored by the Berkeley Culture Center.
In his current role, Smith, along with business partner, Nikhil Basu Trivedi, backs early-stage startups focused on consumer technology, many of which are founded by BIPOC entrepreneurs and women. Their portfolio includes Table 22, an online tool that helps restaurants build subscription models, and Cradlewise, a smart crib that helps babies and their parents get better sleep.
The former Stitch Fix COO also talked about his experience with leading diverse teams, hiring employees who have forced him to be an excellent leader, and the value of mentorship.
Watch the complete DSS talk here: