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VC Partner: "I cried at Morgan Stanley when my boss left for Goldman Sachs"

Working in a bank isn't for everyone, particularly those with an entrepreneurial inclination. Nicole Quinn, a general partner at venture capital (VC) firm Lightspeed Ventures, spoke recently on a podcast about the moment she checked-out of the industry, and why VC is much more her scene.

Quinn joined Morgan Stanley in 2006 because investment banking "was the hot thing to do" pre-financial crisis. She worked there for eight years, and became head of US consumer research sales. However, she decided not to become a 'lifer' at the bank, after she was chastised on the trading floor for crying.

"When I was about 21 and working at Morgan Stanley, my then-boss left to go to Goldman Sachs," Quinn said. Due to sadness over losing her boss, and fear over potentially losing her job, she went to the bathroom to cry "maybe for five minutes."

After that, Quinn said the man who headed up the trading floor called her over and said "I can tell you’ve been crying, never ever let that happen again." Quinn said that moment "made me realize I am not staying in investment banking forever. They definitely have different values to me."

She left in 2014 to join a fintech, but has spent the past nine years in venture capital. By joining an industry that is "all about being your true authentic self," it meant she "could get [her] soul back." Being more emotionally attuned can also be an asset, as "there will be times that a founder will call you in tears."

Life for 21-year-olds in investment banking in the years after Quinn left has been... mixed. Banks cut hours and raised pay after complaints of mental health crises, but as economic conditions worsen, the culture towards juniors looks to be regressing. VC might treat them better, but jobs in the space are much harder to come by, and a number of funds might be risky bets given the dearth of funding.

The benefits of leaving for VC (if you can) aren't just limited to wellbeing, according to Quinn. Now, more so than ever, she says "you can rise up through a VC; you don’t need to join as a partner." Early-career gigs in the space weren't always a long-term arrangement, but now "if you really prove yourself in a VC, then you can stay there for the next 20 years." 

Our guide to getting a job in VC says 2024 is a down period, and you've got plenty of time to gather experience elsewhere before joining. 'Template paths' like banking are losing their charm these days; perhaps stories like Quinn's are a reason why.

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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