In 2016, Kate Shillo Beardsley packed up a ten-year career in New York City and relocated for lifestyle (plus love and career) to Colorado. For two years prior to her move, Beardsley had worked remotely for Upslope Ventures (formerly known as Galvanize), technically making the transition from Silicon Alley to the thriving startup community of Denver, easier.
But let’s back up a decade or so. Beardsley was a new college grad without a clear direction or solid network. Her career path into venture has been unusual – and has definitely benefited from developing and tapping into networks along the way .
By her own admission, Beardsley “walked in sideways to venture” as an English Major from Middlebury College. The degree taught her how to think critically and communicate her ideas however it was the brand recognition of the liberal arts school that unlocked a new network in a city where she didn’t have one. And oh, how the career doors opened for Beardsley. Her first job was as Martha Stewart’s executive assistant. The opportunity to work as chief of staff to Ken Lerer (for his family office and as chairman of The Huffington Post) followed. From there, Beardsley became director of operations and part of the investment team at Lerer Hippeau Ventures. The experience of raising and investing three funds (together with a now rock solid network) made her an ideal candidate for Upslope.
Beardsley’s career offers valuable networking insights at each stage – post-college, relocation and now, as the mother of two small children, the intentional growth stage of her career :
- Especially when you are early or just starting out in your career, lean into the close friendships you made in college . A friend of a college friend introduced Beardsley to the recruiter who placed her at Martha Steward Living Omnimedia and The Huffington Post. Her college roommate aggressively lobbied Beardsley about moving to Denver, to the extent of making introductions to Upslope.
- Don’t shy away from random interactions. Having no significant network when she moved to New York City, Beardsley initially relied on chance, casual encounters to build her network. Name recognition of your employer or school can be enough to spark a little conversation with an acquaintance – and is should not be under-valued small talk. Studies have shown that “weak ties” in our networks frequently offer up the most opportunities.
- Be tenacious about following up with everyone you meet . Beardsley learned this essential networking skill from Martha Stewart (“She drilled it into my head” Beardsley admits). Follow-up doesn’t need to be an elaborate exercise – grabbling a coffee at the office with a new colleague or personalized connection via LinkedIn will do. As relationship management is a critical part of being a venture capitalist, acing the follow-up was essential later on to enhancing Beardsley career beyond simply good networking know-how (whether she realized it at the time or not).
- Make a conscious effort to say yes. When Beardsley moved to Denver she initially chose to say yes to every local event as well as meeting with every founder who requested advice or feedback. This choice enabled her to get a pulse on the community plus paying-it-forward is a wise network-building investment when you’re establishing your reputation in a new community.
- Build strong relationships with your service providers locally and tap into their networks for national connections. With two small children, Beardsley can’t easily dash off to conferences, demo days or impromptu dinner meetings in San Francisco or New York City, so she relies on the deep bench of connections of those she works closely with in Denver.
- Never hit pause on your networking, simply become more intentional about your choices . Realizing that motherhood didn’t give her a pass on networking, Beardsley has become smarter and more strategic in her choices. She travels for key events, ensuring the time away is maximized by also scheduling in-person meetings. She maintains a strong online presence – and of course, Beardsley has not forgotten the importance of following-up.