Former VC Risa Stack shares how she created a role that never existed before.
August 17, 2018 3 min read
In this series, Open Every Door, Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.
Risa Stack, general manager of New Business Creation at GE Ventures, says her current position didn’t exist before she spoke up.
“I’m a big believer in trying to create my own job,” she says.
If you ever feel at a loss for what to do next in your career, Stack challenges you to try this exercise: write out a description for your dream job. You never know who might be in a position to help you make it happen.
Stack was a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins for nearly a decade and was looking for a change. An honest meeting with Beth Comstock, a co-founder of Hulu and the first female vice chair at GE, set her on a new path and allowed her to literally write her own ticket. In her role today, she helps create and shepherd new businesses in the healthcare, software and energy sectors under the GE umbrella, five of which are currently up and running.
Stack attributes her success to having a clear sense of her strengths and not being afraid to reach out to those people and organizations she respects.
“If there is a company you really want to work at because you admire it or you like what they do, meet with people there and figure out what way you [can] help them,” Stack advises. “Is there a job that you can create or is there a job that suits you there? Try and think about what it is that you want to do, and then find the right environment to do it in.”
If you’re nervous about advocating for yourself, Stacks advises to practice your pitch with people you trust and who will give honest feedback. Also, be as clear as possible about what you have to offer.
This is a skill Stack says was forged during her early days working at the highly male-dominated Chicago Board of Trade starting when she was 16-years-old and acting as a runner on the trading floor, all the way up to when she was running her own trading desk while earning her Ph.D in immunology.
GE is the largest entity that Stack has ever worked for, and while it was initially somewhat daunting, especially with the number of stakeholders in a given project, she says that it taught her to be persistent and trust herself.
“Women like to go into jobs that they believe they know how to do. One thing that I would encourage women to do is … something that you are not naturally confident you can do, because that’s part of the fun,” Stack says. “You’ll learn and expand yourself and realize there’s a lot of things that you can do.”