What's an engineer doing as a COO of a venture capital fund?
Since announcing my role as COO & Operating Partner at the Agthentic Group, which includes Tenacious Ventures & Agthentic Advisory, I’ve been struggling with an identity crisis of sorts. I know that ‘what I do’ is not ‘who I am,’ but explaining the career pivot to others has not been an easy task. After all, what is an engineer doing as COO of a venture capital fund? Isn’t that the job for a lawyer or an accountant?
The conversations about who I am and what I did use to go something like this:
But now, they go like this:
So over the past three months, I’ve been asking myself this question: how can I succinctly explain what value my almost 20 years of experience as an expert in operations, manufacturing, supply chain and hardware bring to this role?
For me, the decision to join was more straightforward. When I looked at the Agthentic Group’s strategy and vision, I realised it ticked all the boxes. And further, that my skillset aligned directly with the Group’s vision to be a world-class organisation, underpinned by exceptional systems, processes and operations. Looking ahead to the challenges that they - now we - face in scaling our business, we need to unlock our own capabilities to ensure we bring the best value and efficiencies in order to achieve our mission of enabling innovative agriculture for global impact.
This is where I come in. As engineers, we are taught to challenge the status quo. To come at things from first principles and to “Go to the Gemba”. Going to the Gemba is the act of visiting the shop floor in Lean. Literally translated as 'The Real Place', it pushes leadership to understand their own business. To "Go to the Gemba" is to go to the source, see, learn, listen, understand and only then start to devise solutions that will enhance the operations of what we are working on.
This is exactly what I am doing at Tenacious Ventures. Ensuring we have a best practice approach to fund management, enhancing our capabilities through systems and processes which enable us to be a high impact, high conviction hands-on fund manager that delivers value to investors and portfolio companies alike.
I see my role as COO & Operating Partner as a unique opportunity to bring all of my expertise, skills and learning together. From drawing on my experiences as a business owner; to working for and with global corporations on operations, manufacturing and supply chain initiatives; to commercialising a world-first open area smoke detection system; to community building initiatives for hardware innovators, and more; this role is able to leverage them all.
There is no question skills add strength to an organisation; and that includes the process-driven, problem-solving mind of an engineer. As Google CEO Sundar Pichai says: “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussion, decision and outcomes for everyone.”
This is an approach we all need to take in business but too often we overlook opportunities or talented people because we fail to see the potential and silo our skills into “what we think we should do”.
We need to look beyond that. Skills today are transferable – knowledge and experience are a gift – and looking from the inside out can help us to innovate and find new opportunities.
So, when people now ask me that question: “What is an engineer doing as COO of a fund?” My response is simple: “Bringing value and experience to scale a world-class organisation.”
Career transitions are a process, one that I am tackling one question at a time. If you’d like to read more about my journey of self-discovery which resulted in this career pivot, check out the related blog posts below.