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Millennials & Risk vs. Upside

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I felt compelled to write this post for two distinct reasons:

1) I am worried about the low level of risk tolerance in some of our generation’s most well-educated and promising students and future leaders.

2) I have been asked over the past few months on job thoughts from students at universities and people <5 years into their career.

I read a piece by Priya Parker who recently completed a study on “the values and behaviors of the world’s next generation of leaders – the most talented, educated, capable Millennials”.  These include those from the best institutions, at the most prestigious firms, and with the greatest ambitions.  What Parker finds is spot on:

“What I found was a rising generation of elite leaders who bring wonderful new gifts to the table – more empathy than their predecessors, more worldliness, more pragmatism for an angry, ideological age. But I also found my generation of young leaders paralyzed, hesitant, and unwilling stick their necks out and lead on the big questions of our time: how to build a more equitable and sustainable capitalism, how to manage the transition to a post-Western world, how to extend prosperity to developing countries without pushing the planet over the brink.”

She said our generation effectively has a FOMO syndrome, or ‘fear of missing out’.  It’s perhaps the biggest reason why our top institutions’ graduates seem to migrate towards consulting and investment banking at higher rates than ever before: it’s prestigious, it’s broad in terms of skillsets acquired, it pays well, and, most importantly, it keeps our options open.

When I was in my second year at Stanford, I wanted to go work for McKinsey or Goldman Sachs.  They were the two firms that some of the smartest upperclassmen I knew were joining post graduation.  After I went through the interview process myself, I ended up receiving offers from both of those firms.

Then, I received some great advice.  A professor emeritus, David Abernethy, asked me to design my ideal job assuming monetary considerations were thrown out the window.  We eventually arrived at the conclusion that often the most exciting jobs have to be designed yourself since hardly any job description can possibly contain all that we wish.  I wanted to invest and work with many entrepreneurs that are building technologies to change the world, so I thought I should try and do everything to found my own venture or get into venture capital, an asset class known for high risk investments in budding startups, with the intention of carving out an emerging markets niche.  And, although my ultimate choice of VC isn’t as high risk as starting your own company, I do think I took the “less safe” route.

Our 20s are the time where we can, and should, be the most risk-seeking.  We’re free of familial obligations and are used to a relatively lower quality of life having been stuffed in dorm rooms.  We may, however, have considerable student debt that we need to pay off (a whole different subject), which is a very valid reason for going into guaranteed low risk, high paying jobs straight out of school.

I would implore anyone graduating soon or considering an early career change to do something slightly riskier, but with greater upside.  Upside can be monetary (say: early stock options in a company), measured through diverse experiences (for example, traveling to countries or places outside your comfort zone), or even personal fulfillment/growth (for example, always wanting to do XYZ, like work for X organization, rally for Y cause, or start Z nonprofit, etc).  I have nothing but respect for an institution like McKinsey and if two years there increases your confidence, network, and appetite to dive into something higher-risk, then it is a tremendous option.  But, if you have even the slightest inkling as to a high risk, high reward job or career path that you would find fulfilling, assuming financial obligations are not too crazy (which is not a safe assumption anymore) then you should go for it.

I think we would all be surprised by how much we learn, how much we can impact, and maybe even how much we can personally gain for ourselves when we take the higher risk, higher reward option.

Written by sheeltyle

March 14, 2012 at 9:26 am

Singapore’s Government & Dollar Leverage

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Singapore is an eclectic array of cultures, a dynamic business hub, a free port, and the least corrupt country in Asia (and maybe the world).  Last week, I was having coffee with an entrepreneur at Fusionopolis, a government planned, built and supported massive 21st century tower that houses science and technology innovation.  Part of our conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m amazed by all that the government is doing here.  How do they have so much money?”

Him: “Every government has money.  It’s just that Singapore’s government isn’t corrupt.  It actually uses it for it’s people.”

One of the most interesting pieces of information I learned is the way government officials are compensated.  While Obama makes $400,000/year, the President of Singapore makes $3,355,270 in US dollars.  The government benchmarks the salaries to slightly below the mean of public company CEOs, thinking that government should attract the best talent and such salaries prevent (or, more realistically, reduce) the need for corruption.  When students from the best universities are polled in Singapore, their ideal jobs are either in the government or for a large MNC.  Government jobs are seen as very prestigious.

On the entrepreneurial side, the Singapore government created the Technology Incubation Scheme through the National Research Foundation to jumpstart seed investments into startups.  They will invest up to 85% of the total investment (up to a maximum of $500,000 Singaporean dollars).  And, the NRF offers an option for its shares in the investee company to be bought out at a price of 1.1x the capital in the first 2 years or 1.15x the capital in the third year.  It effectively means private investment leverage of greater than 4:1.

As I leave Singapore tonight, I marvel at what an efficient, highly skilled, and uncorrupt government has been able to achieve.

Written by sheeltyle

November 30, 2011 at 5:44 am

TEDxTeen Talk is Live

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I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to share a message at TEDxTeen.  My talk on overcoming innovator’s myopia just went live.

“Is it about solving the problems right in front of you?  What if instead of picking up all the crap in the world, you could fly over it?  How can we do this?  Let’s find out.” – Touré, the TEDxTeen host.

Hope you enjoy!

Written by sheeltyle

April 17, 2011 at 9:10 am

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TEDxTeen, Age-Old Problems, Innovator’s Myopia

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This April 2 in New York City, I will be giving a talk at TEDxTeen, with the especially timely theme, “The Age of How.” As the program notes, with every passing day, we become more connected with the rest of the world, access to technology becomes greater, and knowledge transfer becomes easier and easier.  Every generation is able to take the learnings and best practices of the previous generation more quickly than ever before, and build upon them.

Yet still, age-old problems – cancer, Alzheimer’s, pollution, unsafe water, poverty, war, religious and ethnic tensions – have remained problems for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It requires “new age thinking” to effectively tackle them.

I will be talking about escaping the “innovator’s myopia,” highlighting how we should think about problems if we truly want to create disruptive change rather than merely bandage up their symptoms.  I am hoping that this will inspire “new age innovation,” led by a generation that, for the first time in history, has the world’s knowledge perennially at its fingertips.

Written by sheeltyle

March 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Sparing Skype

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I’ve finally begun!  The main purpose of this blog is to spare my loved ones incessant Skype messages, text messages, phone calls, or emails about various articles or topics I find interesting and instead to post them here.  If you derive some value out of this, then even better.

Investing.  Venture Capital.  Inspirations.  Social Change.  Development.  Sports.  Gambling.  Music.  Hotels. Chipotle. Everything.

Hope you enjoy!

Written by sheeltyle

February 11, 2011 at 11:14 am

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