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The Importance of Network for a Career in Finance

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Wednesday 4 October, 2023

Meera Clark & Ranjana Clark

On their backgrounds and careers…


  • Grew up in India and attended the top business school there.
  • Career decisions have been joint with husband. 
  • Was part of the team that helped launch Deutschebank in India. At Wachovia, was able to move around, as they’re a big company, left after the acquisition and have been at various companies.
  • Recently retired, having done what I wanted to do.
  • Current Distinguished Career Institute (DCI) Fellow here at Stanford.
  • Current and future focus: amplifying my impact, focusing on non-profits, especially digital education for underserved girls. Growing. Having fun!


  • Came to Stanford in 2011, it was all finance and politics after the 2008/2009 downturn. Tech wasn’t dominating headlines at that time.
  • Explored classes and found MS&E, not sure what to do with it, went into ecommerce. At PayPal, had questions about where the company sat within the industry, and wanted to gain a macro perspective.
  • Stumbled into Stanford Finance student group, and decided to spend a summer in New York on the Morgan Stanley trading floor. It was competitive yet collaborative, similar to Stanford. Fell in love with finance!
  • Was on the Morgan Stanley cross assets team, startup culture. Lots of exposure, but not having desired impact. Asked - where is the world headed? Answer - growth investing, private markets. Problem - recruiting into venture jobs is hard! Took a lateral move into banking and later investing off of the bank’s balance sheet with support of existing relationships.
  • From there moved to Obvious Ventures and had a great experience, very mission driven. However, wanted to learn more from a broader set of investors who’d been through the whole cycle to diversify and enhance her perspective, so moved to Redpoint. Focus is on consumer and software businesses, and sustainability.

On moving into the VC world…

  • In VC, many people do come from larger companies, eg, Bain, BCG, etc. The larger companies have structured training programs, which are super helpful. This helps you build a network, give you credibility, and an awareness of how high quality firms do things. 
  • In the VC world, you’re getting hired for your network, work quality, and insights. The network helps you get advice and find deals. 

On mentors and sponsors…

  • Mentors help you learn, and are a really valuable resource.
  • Mentors can be formal or informal, eg, the coffee chats where you ask lots of questions of someone.
  • Sponsors are the people who will speak up for you when you’re not in the room, and help get you promoted. Ranjana for example was appointed to a major role because someone spoke up and advocated for her when she wasn’t there. 

 On finding mentors and sponsors…

  • Managers cannot be a sponsor for everyone they hire! But you can mentor and sponsor for people other than your direct reports.
  • Looking for a combination of experience, expertise and attitude. 
  • You’re hired for attitude and what you know, trained for skills, and promoted for what you can learn. Therefore, make pivots/transitions within your firm, and then move outside for the growth role.
  • If you’re going to sponsor someone, they have to have demonstrated capability, desire, cultural fit.
  • Advice: keep learning, stay relevant, and take risks. It is ok to take a step down to learn something to be able to come back up. Demonstrate loyalty (it is not worth taking a mentorship or sponsorship interest in someone who is going to leave). Be personable - people want to support those that they understand and have things in common with. Be the person with the work ethic and tenacity who can be trusted to get the job done well. 

On the practicalities of networking…

  • Be intellectually honest and intentional about who you’re connecting with and why.
  • How can you add value to the person you’re contacting? What’s unique about you? Offer value before trying to receive value. For example, Meera soaked up all things Bay Area during her time at Stanford, so when colleagues in New York were coming for a tech conference, she sent recommendations for restaurants and things to do.
  • Build a network outside of just your organization.
  • Don’t forget about your professors! 

On the maintenance of your network…

  • When scheduling catch-up conversations, give a topic of discussion - something that will hook the recipients’ interest. What are you thinking about? What could you use some specific guidance on?
  • Offer cool opportunities when you can. For example, if you’re going on a podcast, see if you can invite someone as a co-speaker, or suggest them to the host as a future guest.
  • Giving people hospitality goes a long way. For example, invite people for dinner at your house.
  • Curate groups, eg, investors *and* founders, so that everyone can learn from each other. Mix ages, background, perspectives.
  • Don’t be shy! People have said “connecting with others is the best part of my day”.
  • Develop your personal CRM to keep track, however works for you.

On creating structure and discipline when working in the VC world…

  • Everyone will have their own way, and there’s only so much that can be done!
  • Create your own routine, eg, certain investors on a monthly calendar. 
  • Be intentional about always moving forward, eg, go deep on a market.

On being a Stanford grad in the finance world…

  • Other schools prep better for the short term, which can be intimidating in your first 6 months.
  • Ultimately though, the curiosity and big picture thinking that Stanford fosters will set you up better for the long run.

 On what else to do (other than networking)...

  • Get out of the echo chamber!
  • Talk with people who are actually doing the jobs/work
  • Listen to podcasts, read books and newsletters etc.
  • Maintain a flexible mindset.
  • Build your reputation as a thought leader and expert - write blog posts, sit on panels, guest on podcasts. You’ll gain the credibility to have more in depth conversations with experts in fields you’re interested in.

On the skillsets VC’s are looking for…

  • Culture fit.
  • Different perspectives and networks.
  • Hustle and grit.
  • Oftentimes, the VC firms don’t know what they’re looking for till they see it - don’t take rejection personally.
  • All firms hire differently: some through recruiters, some through networks, some through their websites. And there’s no schedule or regularity either.