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[Career Advice #2] Abby Lyall on starting a VC career while you are still a student

Today, Highre is very excited to introduce you to Abby Lyall! Abby is a very passionate and enthusiastic Senior Associate at Quake Capital. It is an early stage VC fund and accelerator program based in NYC, LA and Austin. Don’t you want to know more about her? This is her story:

‘When I was in High School, I used to be one of those kids taking all the AP (Advanced Placement) subjects and was very GPA-oriented. My GPA was ridiculously high, something like 5.2 out of 4.0. Ever since I was 12, I wanted to get into Ivy League, but I got rejected from all of them on the same day. Thinking back, I was very narrow-minded, because it’s not all about the grades.’

  1. Would you be able to explain why you decided to study Finance and Data Science? How did your degree help you form your career path?

I went into Stern originally planning on studying Finance, because that was what the school was best known for. I had also played around with investing in the stock market in high school with my dad. He was a psychologist but was very smart about investment, and I guess I was influenced by him. When I got to Stern, I founded a company and got involved in the entrepreneurship community, which helped me develop an interest in programming, and after that I picked up the Data Science major. One of the most valuable Stern experiences was the network, more than the actual classes I took; through the Stern network, I completed five different internships in five different industries, which really helped me solidify what I wanted to do post-graduation.

2. What is the most memorable experience that helped you decide your job now?

The most memorable experience for me was when I won $20,000 as a freshman from Stern to start my company, MyDrop. It was totally unexpected, especially as a first year student, to be entrusted with that amount of money and the task of starting a company from scratch. This experience brought me into the entrepreneurship community in NYC and reassured me that I wanted to pursue a career in the space (previously, I had wanted to be an investment banker!). I took this opportunity to make all the possible mistakes, because that’s how you learn.

3. Do you have previous start-up work experience?

  • Founder at MyDrop (a socially impactful ed-tech startup that helped high school students maximize the impact of their mandatory volunteer experiences). We ran from October 2014-May 2016.
  • ‘BLADE’, a high growth, venture-backed, on-demand helicopter business. I worked on their flight operations for a summer and learned the ins and outs of a startup and all of the pitfalls and mistakes that come along with running one.
  • In August 2016, I went to work for Quake as an intern, but also as one of their earliest employees. Quake was so new, we didn’t even have an office yet when I started. I built out the intern and university programs and helped launch Quake’s first accelerator in the Spring of 2017. I merged into a full-time role in January 2018 after graduating from Stern.

4. Do you have experience at a bigger company? Any corporate internships?

I have an internship experience at BlackRock. It was a great experience but a lot of skills that I learnt from the internship was mostly firm-focused, which I can’t really apply in other contexts. Corporate jobs do pay significantly more, but I asked myself a question: Do I want to be happy? I was ready to work 100+ hours per week. But the opportunity came along, and I decided to work for Quake.

5. Can you tell me more about your professional life: day-to-day, your responsibilities and tasks?

There are only 3 people on the Quake NYC team, so we all do a bit of everything. I am the most focused on operations, and I am very hands-on in managing the accelerator program when it is in session. During the “off-season,” I am mostly focused on sourcing and evaluating deal flow for the upcoming program, as well as building out our VC and mentor networks in NYC. I also manage our intern program and university relationships on the east coast.

6. Are there any advice that you wish someone gave to you before you started work?

First, be open to new opportunities: it does not mean that you need to do something hardcore. It’s to be open to anything, both professionally and personally. Go to events if you think they are interesting. For example, I went to a Buddhist discussion group in the summer after my sophomore year. And I made a question about AI, and after the session, this guy came up to me if I could help him with the marketing of his play (‘Algorithmism’). You never know what’s going to happen. Just say ‘yes’ if you think it’s going to help you grow as a person, let everything integrate together.

Second, don’t be afraid to be unconventional. Life is a combination of cool experiences. Just remember that your career is not going to follow a linear trajectory.

7. Any last CV, cover letter or interview tips?

If it’s possible, try to get a job in person. It’s always better than getting a job with your resumé. It will save your time, because you get to know the culture of the company and people you are going to be working with. If you don’t have a direct connection, talk to any employees. In the pool of hundreds of applications, you will stand out if you have managed to create that network. Networking is a way more powerful tool than your resumé.

In terms of CV, write down everything you have, don’t discard anything! My boss at Morgan Stanley asked me about my part-time experience at a diner I used to work for in High School. You never know what’s going to catch their attention.

When it comes to interviews, you need to be 100% yourself, don’t be fake. When you try to be someone that you are not, people can tell and that’s not impressive. Let’s say that they can’t tell, you were hired for being who you are not, do you really want that?

And when it comes to not getting accepted to a job, I advise you to be thankful for that rejection. You probably were not the right fit, surely, you don’t want to work for the company that doesn’t hire you for being you.

Tell us about what you think, and don’t forget to get Highred at @www.highre.co.



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