Entrepreneur Kelly Hoey’s advice on careers and networking

By Kelly Hoey

Monday, January 11, 2016

What do you think were some necessary push/potential success factors during your college?

It was "expected" that I would attend college - it was also expected that I would study hard while in college! Yes, I was the type who didn't skip class and studied on weekends. I also had a part-time job throughout all my college years (and pretty much paid my whole way through). Having support from my family and a strong desire to learn probably are the main factors that account for my success at college.

What are the three most important things you weren't clear about when you graduated from school but you learned in your career that you'd like to share with us?

I have a law degree but I didn't know what area of law I wanted to practice when I graduated. Keeping an open mind, and saying yes to learning opportunities has been important in advancing my career. And I'd add that being a lifelong learner is important. I didn't occur to me that I'd change careers completely, several times in fact - law to management to consulting to investing to writing - so understanding I can learn something new, at any point in my career, has been important.

Would you be willing to share how you found your financial means to start your entrepreneurial endeavors?

Living within my means and saving every bonus I earned from when I practiced law. Sensible financial management (which sounds a bit dull, but it has been the financial magic to pursue my new endeavors).

What advice do you have about women considering starting their career at a startup?

Do it! Beyond earning equity and having a paycheck, understand what you want to gain from the experience. Know what skills and responsibilities you want to learn and take on. Startups provide a great opportunity for you to grow leadership skills and try a wider range of projects than you may otherwise get in a traditional job.

How did you envision your future in five years in 2009 and what have been some surprises for you and what were some extra effort you put into your future that resulted the extraordinary outcomes?

(Based on you said you are kidding me if asking that if you believed the public compliments of you in the past).

Oh, I don't know if I was thinking bigger than having a successful consulting career or working in partnership with someone back in 2009. I've always been happy quietly working behind the scenes, so this new very vocal and public "me" is a "you are kidding me" moment - both in my willingness to be highly visible, to use my voice and the fact that people actually want to hear my opinions. The big effort truly has been a willingness to step out of my comfort zone.

What's your long-term goal and how are working on them? Based on your experience, what would you suggest to college students in setting out on their career path?

My long-term goal revolves around writing (I'm working on my first book). Beyond the book, I write for Inc.com and on the Turnstone blog (plus continually seeking out other opportunities to share my thought leadership in writing). If writing is my platform, I'm also very focused on how keynotes, workshops, podcasts etc. fit within and support my writing (and vice versa). I pay a tremendous amount of attention to feedback I receive and reactions to content I put out, as it influences where I go next in my career. For college students, I would say get in tune with your personal interests and skills. Pay attention to feedback you receive as the intersection between your personal interests and what others see in you, may just be your future.

I am in get a JOB phase and I am sure many in room would be in that phase sooner or later. What advice would you like to give as a mentor? May be with respect to company, career development path and changing career path.

If you're in the JOB search phase, make sure you - both online and off - reflect the job you are seeking. And bring your network along with you on your job search and first job journey. If someone has made an introduction, be sure to follow-up to tell them how the meeting went etc. Your network is invested in your success, keep them informed and highly engaged in your career journey!

When you land a JOB, don't forget to reach out to peers and mentors outside your company for advice on particular office / co-worker / career challenges. No career question is too small to ask! Levo League (www.levo.com) has a great Q&A format for asking questions of career mentors (I'm a mentor on their site plus I'm an investor).

I'm in a field that's a juncture between tech and social science. How do I market my strengths in a computer scientist's world?

Show them how you are uniquely placed through your education and skill set to advance the business (or a product, depending on the type of company you are speaking to). I personally feel that someone who with an understanding of technology plus has a footing in the social sciences (i.e. human behavior) is strongly desirable as a job candidate in a technology driven economy (people are using, and creating the technology after all).

Where do you see data science as a field in the next 5 years, and what do you envision as women's roles in it?

If I could come back as a Data Scientist I would! My recommendation is to follow Hilary Mason and read her every blog, interview etc. to understand "what's next" as well as the endless possibilities for women in the field.

What should I do as a college student to prepare for a future career in entrepreneurship?

Build a strong network of contacts and a way to stay in touch with them. Your first customers, employees and investors will come from a network. Arguably, other than your time, your network is your most important asset as an entrepreneur.

How do you keep a life balance?

I take a long-term view, not a daily or weekly view on this subject. I'm also very grateful for the incredible opportunities that come my way because of my work - so sometimes it doesn't really feel like work at all. And having supportive friends and family members who "get" the professional path I've chosen in life helps too.

What's your definition of a successful woman in your field?

One who defines her own success - and helps others achieve success.

Is there need for other degrees in technology companies?

I think there is a need for a diverse range of thinking, problem-solving approaches, life experiences - things that may or may not come with a degree attached to them.

Do you see the direction of technology changing, how do you imagine the job market (ie careers) to look?

The global economy has shifted - and technology is the new language and currency. Being fluent in the language of the new economy is essential.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned as an entrepreneur?

That I am one. I didn't realize I had the appetite for risk (or imagination to create something) until I was well into my 40's.

How does someone whom is not the most tech savvy get into the technology field, and where is the first place to start?

Even if you're never going to be a programmer, I would say understand their world and be able to speak their language. Then, if you take a role in marketing or business development or talent acquisition in a tech company, you'll also be able be speak to the company's core business. And understand the trends and developments in the technology field (if that is where you are headed) even if you're not going to pursue a career in directly creating new technology.

How to determine the thing that I really want and really like?

Don't put too much pressure on yourself to find that one thing. Be curious, take on different projects that challenge you to learn new skills or work with different teams of people. Become self-aware of when you know you're producing your best work (or when you're most excited about work).

What have been some of your biggest career obstacles?

Office politics and self-confidence. Yes, I could have played some office situations much better in hindsight...and I wish my career confidence had kicked in earlier in my career!

Who has influenced you and your career so far?

So many people - typically those who unapologetically love what they do and mentor others in their careers, as that is how I chose to live my career.

Would you be interested in aiding a nonprofit start-up for English education, technological, and psychological resource services on an international level?

Happy to answer any specific questions or provide guidance as I can. Connect with me on Levo.com.

What is the most important project you are currently involved on.

I'd guess I'd say me - and whatever this next career cycle shapes out to be for me! I would also say continuing to advise the founders of the early-stage investments I have made also tops my list of important projects.

Can you give example on exactly what you do when helping someone?

As a mentor, I'm there to be a sounding board or to brainstorm ideas. I also give the tough-love straightforward advice too. I typically find when I'm helping someone that they have the solution they need, they just need to talk it through to see it.

Read more from Kelly Hoey on her Twitter and her personal website.