Female entrepreneurs talk optimism, luck and creating for the joy of the process
Advice on how to succeed from Reshma Sohoni, Ann Miura-Ko & Tina Roth Eisenberg.
We’re all about debunking success at Role Models, which is why we ask all our podcast and event guests which three foundational skills they would advise people starting out in their careers to learn, to carry them through and enable success. The answers we receive all point to the same fact: Success truly has no special recipe — it’s simply a mix of positive traits which anyone can develop.
To help illuminate this fact, we’ve delved into the dizzying world of tech with three leading entrepreneurs and investors, Reshma Sohoni, Ann Miura-Ko and Tina Roth Eisenberg, who break their successes down into optimism, luck and creating for the pure joy of the process…
1. Be optimistic
“If you’re going to lead a group of people, lead anything, lead a mission you have to be optimistic.”
Success came as a result of optimism for Seedcamp co-founder Reshma Sohoni who co-founded the first-time entrepreneur venture capital firm in 2007 as the world entered the financial crisis.
To practise optimism, Reshma recommends first seeking out the core root of where your future happiness lies: “I think the biggest thing is ‘unknown unknowns…what you know you know is probably not enough” she points out.
Once firmly embroiled in the ‘unknown’, Reshma then advises leveraging the available opportunities in everything you do. When working at a then very male-dominated Vodafone, for example, Reshma decided to see her unrepresented gender as a strength not a weakness. When a male colleague leaned over to her just before a presentation and said: “It doesn’t matter what you say, you’re the only girl in the room — they’re just going to be thrilled to hear your voice and look at you”, Reshma took the guarantee of a captive audience to be a good thing and owned the presentation, excelling in the process. “There are a lot of things in life which you can look at from two very different ways” she says, “it just didn’t occur to me to look at the situation as a negative.”
2. Maximise your luck
“If you bring your absolute best-self to every single interaction it’s extraordinarily exhausting. But if you try to do that on most of the things that you do, you will maximise your luck.”
Staying optimistic is something Ann Miura-Ko recognises takes a lot of hard emotional work: “You have to go out into the world and reclaim optimism” she admits, “it’s not something that is just naturally gifted to you”. But as the the co-founding partner at Floodgate, Ann thinks optimism is critical for staying lucky: “I think of luck as probably the most critical element of anyone’s success” Ann told us. If you look at anyone who’s successful they’ve had massive lucky moments, so are they just more lucky, or can we all learn to ‘dial-up’ optimism?
Some people are born more lucky or privileged, but also Ann sees luck as something we can capture and maximise: “The way I think about luck is this it’s a surface area where random lucky moments will just drop out of the sky, and if you have a very large surface area in your bucket your chances of capturing that luck are much greater than if you just have a very narrow bucket” she told us. By putting yourself at the centre of things and presenting the best version of yourself wherever possible, Ann trusts that your “surface of luck” will expand in no time.
3. Create for the joy of the process
“If there’s an idea I know I want to exist in the world and it’s keeping me awake at night and I know it would bring me joy (and maybe two more people in the world that I know) then I just have to create that because the process in itself for me is pure joy and it’s exciting.”
Tina Roth Eisenberg
Serial founder, Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka. Swissmiss), is dedicated to finding the intersections between personal and professional interests and believes we should all take our side projects more seriously to see them as areas of opportunity for wholesome work environments instead of things that will never develop.
As the founder of CreativeMornings — a global monthly lecture series; TeuxDeux — a to-do list app; Tattly — a design-led temporary tattoo shop; and Friends Work Here — a co-working space in New York City, Tina told us about a “lightness” she experiences from starting businesses as side projects and a playfulness that people can actually are drawn to: “When you start something without the main purpose of it paying your rent and making you rich there’s an incredible innocence and an energy around the project that people pick up” she told us.
So how can we test this philosophy with our own side projects? Tina recommends creating something that’s a true personal passion: “When you have something that’s a real labour of love and people respond to it then there’s positive feedback which means you can just keep pouring a bit more energy and a bit more love into the project and I’m convinced that eventually doors will open for you to step into”.
She goes on to suggest thinking about things on a smaller scale. “Just tell yourself: “I’m just making this for myself, for the joy of the process and because I’m learning something while I’m doing it” as opposed to wanting success or financial gain she suggests. “Shut out the rest of the world. Don’t worry about what anyone’s going to think or whether it could fail because if you’ve scaled it down to this teeny tiny project that you’re just creating for yourself then, well, what do you have to lose?”
Role Models hosts candid conversations with inspiring women and is a bi-weekly podcast and event series motivating the next generation of global leaders.