By Jeanine Suah – Guest Contributor
Let it be known that I did not choose the tech streets – the tech streets chose me.
Lol jk. I 100% chose the tech streets and I am SO glad that I did.
I’m what the startup world would call a “non-technical founder.”
But what I DO know is how to solve problems – and that my friends, is the foundation for entrepreneurship. Solving a problem at scale can have a significant impact on the growth and evolution of humanity. And that is what excites me the most about tech.
Having owned the first coworking space in Miami founded by two Black women, I was deeply embedded into the Small to Medium-sized Business (SMB) space.
But like most of us, COVID caused me to shift and pivot much quicker than I anticipated. I broke into startups and Venture Capital with a B.A. in Spanish & Portuguese and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and TESOL. No finance background.
So – how did I go from a trained linguist of 15 years who specialized in Sociolinguistics and Phonology to working at one of the top fintech startups in the world?
I’ll tell you in 3 quick points.
1. Ignore Societal Expectations & Limits
Once you understand that you are limitless and can literally do whatever you want in this life, you have won half the battle.
Who cares if you don’t have a degree in Computer Science? Who gives a sh*t if you’ve never worked at a startup before? Whatever is in your heart to TRY is what you should 100% try!
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated by the initial idea of getting into tech and VC, especially not having a previous background, but the more I thought about it, the more I dreamt about it, and the deeper I wanted it.
And so I said screw it. I ignored what society and even some friends/colleagues told me I should do (go into academia, stay on one path, keep the coworking space), and I took the leap. Best decision ever.
2. Be Intentional with Your Vision
I use this word a lot and people always ask me what I mean. Being intentional for me means moving with purpose, alignment, and self-awareness.
In other words, any move that I make, ultimately has to be aligned with my purpose and my short-term/long-term vision.
For example – I knew I wanted to get into VC and angel investing so one of the first things I did was put myself out there. As a linguist, I saw a lot of parallels between how a second language (L2) learner acquires their second language and how a first time founder interacts with language around VC. So I started creating these videos called “VC word of the day” where “we make VC shit more fun.”
And that caught the attention of founders and investors and landed me my first role at a VC fund, and as a Venture Partner at Wefunder. Because of that intention and self-awareness, it led me to open myself up to more opportunities.
3. Embody Servant Leadership – “How can I help?”
This has been a HUGE tool throughout my entire career. My genuine nature is to give. One of my favorite books in the world is the Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann and the credo I’ve adopted is “Always give more in value than you receive in payment.”
Focusing on what I could give more than I could take, led me to a lot of opportunities in tech and VC. I wanted to be known as a super-connector because being able to help VCs find deals, and help founders connect to VCs in a meaningful way is an active way of staying front of mind.
Lead with value, offer help, and you may be presented with unique opportunities.
There is definitely so much more I could share but for the sake of not boring you to death, I’ll keep it short.
Above all, I think the most important thing to remember is to go after what you want. Others will always project their insecurities onto us, which we, subconsciously, internalize.
If you want, go for it. Regardless of WHO or WHAT gets in your way.
Jeanine Suah is an avid ecosystem-builder and Miami tech advocate and has assumed that role through her work as an X in Residence at Brex, one of the world’s top fintech startups, a VC Scout at Florida Funders, and a Venture Partner at Wefunder.
READ MORE BY SUAH: Miami should set the pace nationally for diversifying access to capital
This column was first published on LinkedIn and republished here with permission.
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