Podcast Weekend: Gotham Gal On The Role Models Podcast

My friend David reached out to me and suggested that I share this podcast with the AVC crowd.

In it, he and the Gotham Gal talk about her career and the lessons she learned from it over the years.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Matt Zagaja

    Finished it and thought it was worth the listen. Especially liked the part about dealing with mistakes quickly. I’ve experienced and seen so many unforced errors happen because someone is stuck in indecision and lets things fester.

  2. sigmaalgebra

    A lot of quite good questions.So, Mrs. Wilson has had an interesting and successful journey, curiously unplanned, of wide variety.=== 1. A Huge ProblemMrs. Wilson has solved what I’ve long seen as a huge problem that a lot, too many, US women go through roughly (quite roughly) with six steps:Step (1): By age 2 or so, she realizes that she is a small version of mommy and not of daddy, that she is a girl and that is very different from any brothers, boys, or daddy.Step (2): By kindergarten, pre-school, grades 1-5, she is with girls, has nearly all her peers girls, fits in as a girl with whatever are the main parts of the girls culture.Step (3): In grades 6-8, she discovers that in some quite serious terms she is no longer a girl but now is a young woman, and that is a big shock with a lot of potential for confusion: She can see what their mother is like as a women; she is drenched with lessons about the birds and the bees, sees that young men 1-6 years older will look at her, and again will fit in with her peers with whatever are the main parts of the culture of young women.Step (4): Grades 9-12 again has her following young women norms, track, expectations, etc. she picked up from her surrounding culture, mommy but also her peers, the media, etc.(A) To too much of an extent, what is picked up is just from what is out there as the common stuff. There can be too little selecting and filtering. It can be a lot of cultural junk food. It can be really short on being exceptional.(B) There is too little information, guidance, mentoring, etc. to what is better, more valuable, etc.Step (5): Then, by age 18, with 16 years or so of being drenched in the most pervasive of the external culture, more education or not, she gets pushed, pulled, driven, etc. into marriage. Then presto, bingo, she becomes a mommy. Commonly she takes motherhood very seriously, 24 x 7. She has a few children, no longer 8-10 or a dozen, and by the time the youngest child is in first grade, suddenly has a lot of time that she doesn’t know what to do with.Step (6): Now some disasters can happen: She gets bored, then unhappy, then angry. The results can be ugly, dysfunctional, destructive, dangerous. “Idle hands do devil’s work.”.Problem is, she never learned, saw, or figured out what the heck to do with the last several decades of her life.This situation is relatively new: First, she lives longer than women did, say, 40,000 years ago (which a simple argument can show essentially the genes come from). Second, she has fewer children than usually in the past. Third, she has less to do than in the past, less for each child, and less otherwise. E.g., she used to gather firewood, keep a fire burning, make clothing from animal skins, …, fiber, thread, cloth, and sewing, had much more work to do preparing food, etc. And she was in a tribe or village of a few hundred people where she knew all the people — now she may know that well only 10% of that many people. In the tribe, she could work with the other women on all the work to be done from child care to whatever. With the rise of agriculture and livestock, there was more for her to do.Now sometimes she becomes a grandmother and devotes a lot of time to that, and the grandmother role can be huge strength of the family tree.Still, in simple terms, now there are too commonly too many decades where she doesn’t know what the heck to do or does too much she really shouldn’t do.So, net, Mrs. Wilson’s work in business and entrepreneurship is, can, and should be one heck of a good solution for a lot of women for a lot of years after the youngest child is in first grade.One solution, now needed by our society, is for mothers to do much more in child development, from the birth of the child until they make her a grandmother. A list of such child development topics I threw together once is: emotional, verbal, psychological, social, creative, artistic, empathetic, moral, ethical, religious, athletic, academic, mechanical, rational, quantitative, scientific, technical, romantic, entrepreneurial, etc. A mother could stay busy doing all of that!=== 2. What Business?If we assume that those extra decades will be devoted to business, then there is the issue of business, that is, what business.Sure, maybe an investor can do well looking for a seemingly attractive new product or service, with some good barriers to entry, with traction, in a huge market, with a good team, etc., but an entrepreneur needs actually to cook up such a business!For a would-be entrepreneur, there is a severe challenge here: How the heck to do the cooking up?E.g., how about patterns? Okay, what is the pattern of Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Facebook? Hmm ….A successful business is likely exceptional in some major respects. So, IMHO, without some clarity in picking a startup direction, an entrepreneur is wandering around and picking up scraps of ideas from the streets walked by the general public where anything exceptional is just wildly rare luck. Bummer.Instead, we need better means.=== 3. Better Means for What BusinessBroadly we have such, better, means. Implicitly we accept much of the core — new technology, now information technology or bio-medical technology. And the best of those are from research, e.g., as funded by the NSF or NIH.Some big, huge lessons, although not all the lessons needed for an entrepreneur, are from the many examples of US national security technology since the beginning of WWII. This work hit grand slam home runs, right along, with one heck of a high batting average. E.g., GPS.So, for an entrepreneur, sure, for a back of a business card summary, follow steps: (1) Find a good problem, e.g., where the first good or a much better solution stands to please enough users/customers to have a very successful business. (2) For a solution that is so good, borrow from the examples of US national security since the start of WWII. In particular, have enough powerful, valuable technology as trade secrets, etc. to have the first good or much better solution and with a technological barrier to entry. (3) Go to market, etc.Now usually a project exploiting information technology, instead of bio-medical technology, is easier and much cheaper to start and to bring to market and good revenue. So, first-cut, in simple terms, for now, information technology is, broadly, where the opportunities are.But to underline, for the solution, we need some high quality, powerful, valuable exceptional stuff, i.e., not just the scraps picked up off the streets walked by the public.Again, how US national security hit grand slams with high batting average is a great guide: Keys to how those high batting average grand slams were and are accomplished, that an entrepreneur might borrow, are research as from MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, Cal Tech, etc., that is, STEM fields at world class research universities.This is a big secret? Maybe in much of information technology entrepreneurship and their equity funders, but, curiously and very strongly, not in the US Congress!Back to the NSF and NIH: Those are two of the crucial money sources. How much? For a world class research university, commonly over 50% of the budget is from research grants from those two. Sure, a professor gets a grant, but, then, bingo, the university takes about 60% as overhead.In simple terms, the world class US research universities concentrate on the STEM fields and bio-medical, and the money comes from NSF and NIH — can also toss in, say, Office of Naval Research (ONR), DARPA, the national laboratories, JHU/APL, …, Lawrence Berkeley, the research teaching hospitals, etc.Curiously, the numerical details don’t matter: What matters is the goal: Congress wants to be sure that the US is the unique, world class grand champion in such research. Period. When the price of that goal is carefully determined, Congress writes the check. How much? Whatever it takes.For the NSF? That funding is the foundation of US national security, and the members of Congress are all highly interested in that if only for their own skins. For the NIH? That funding is the foundation of advances in medical care, and the members of Congress, often with a lot of gray hair are, again, just so interested. And they are interested not just for themselves personally but for the country.So, for entrepreneurship, should they wish to borrow from the high batting average grand slams for the means of the really good, exceptional stuff for (2) a good solution, that borrowing goes back to research as in the US research universities and research-teaching hospitals funded by NSF and NIH. And that’s the truth.So, to heck with this picking up scraps off the streets walked by the general public. Instead, for the crucial technology, for that part of entrepreneurship, follow the money, i.e., the NSF/NIH money.=== 4. Being Cared forOne more point: As girls in the US grow up and become young women, nearly all of them have seen the Disney Cinderella where they are poor but pretty, good at mothering (mice, kitty cats, the dog, little birds, etc.), make good things from little or no money, but dream of a handsome, nice prince, in a big castle, wealthy, financially secure, with the prince’s father very much wanting to hear the “pitter-patter of little feet” — the guy wants GRAND KIDS and wants his son the prince to get started NOW.Net, as a result of that Disney movie and much more in our culture, the young women all thoroughly understand the situation of their being a wife and mother and being cared for, in particular, getting their financial security from others and not directly from their own efforts.So, one biggie result is, a lot of women want to avoid business careers fearing that if they have any significant financial success then they will no longer deserve to be cared for, will no longer be treated well as a wife, mother, and woman, and, net, will be worse off. Moreover, if they are to have a career, then it should be one that “helps people” so that, then, they, as women, can DESERVE to be cared for. No longer deserving to be care for is a common and significant fear.=== 5. Retail BuyerBeing a retail buyer reminds me!When Mom was 14, the family, a son and four daughters headed by the maternal grandmother, was short of money, so Mom dropped out of school to get a job, in retail. The department store Lazarus promised her a job if she could get some experience. So, she got a job selling dresses in a small store on the other side of the red light district. She got off at 9 PM and walked home. Sometimes a good uncle gave her a ride home.When she was 15, the uncle also paid for an oil painting of her. The painting hung in our home for years; she looked a lot like Elizabeth Taylor. At one point, at about age 40, she did some modeling of women’s dresses at a department store.For her work, soon she returned to Lazarus and got the promised job. After about two years, Lazarus offered to send her to NYC to buyer’s school. Ah, her grandmother objected since mom was only 16.Soon she got a job during the day and finished high school in night school — bookkeeping, etc.Soon she got married and had two boys. I was the younger, and when I was 7, she got a job as the secretary at a well off Episcopalian church. She did all the office work for the parish. Later she was secretary to the head of the University of Tennessee Medical Units in Memphis. As Dad’s job went to the Pentagon, she got a job as secretary at the National Cathedral.She was very much interested in business but didn’t see what to do in business except be a secretary.She was terrific at networking, i.e., social climbing, and in Memphis knew nearly all the best people! While she was really good at that, she didn’t teach Dad, my brother, or I how to do that! Somehow she was linked in to some surprising sources of information, e.g., about some details of the families of my peers. How she knew some of that stuff I’ll never know.

  3. Twain Twain

    Thanks for sharing. It’s a great insight on many things:(1.) Responsibility arising from the trauma of parental fights and divorce.(2.) Fred being the type of person for whom it doesn’t matter if what needs to get done is done in two years and “no one would know it was him” … as long as it GETS DONE.(3.) Carving out a path even if there’s no one who’s walked this path before (so not having any mentors / role models).

    1. Chimpwithcans

      Agree with number 1 – big experience for her and hints at the importance of maturity in success – I think there is often an immaturity that subconsciously holds people back because they think that someone else will foot the bill. True reliance on nobody but yourself is a huge part of success i think.