Vijay Pande: ‘Fix The Process, And You’ll Fix The Problem’

The venture capitalist on how he deals with email and dealing with failure.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s your secret life hack?
Vijay Pande:
No wasted effort. Mapping out where you want to be in five years, ten years, and working backward. Every career move, every project undertaken, is with the end goal in mind. I didn’t get to where I am by accident or luck. Every major decision is filtering through the lens of “how does this fit into my long term plans?”

TG: How do you deal with email?
VP:
I find batch processing email in several bursts throughout the day to be the most efficient approach. I’ll do a first pass and flag all my “to do’s” so I know what’s urgent at any given moment, and then work my way through the to do’s. I try to keep the number well below 100 at any given time, ideally at ~30 (zero is inefficient since it means often doing work that turns out to later be unnecessary). When the number gets too high, I make time to handle it.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
VP:
I play the piano! For me, music is a way to unwind, to process emotions, and a way to connect with others. Music is very much a family affair in our household, we’ll often play a few songs together before bed, with my 9-year-old on drums and my 13-year-old singing or playing guitar.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
VP:
I learn a lot from my mistakes by ruminating over them. I see most failures as a failure in process, so I try to understand where the breakdown occurred and figure out how we can improve the process. The approach also helps to depersonalize it — it’s not you, it’s the process.

Fix the process, and you’ll fix the problem — forever.


Vijay Pande is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he leads the firm’s investments in companies at the cross section of biology and computer science.