Week 5 – Critical Reflection on Skills and Competencies

Since I am studying Finance and Accounting at Pitt, I always look forward to working in the relevant industry. As a raising senior, I have already taken most coursed under my majors. Therefore, I thought I was quite prepared for this internship this summer. However, reality is not the same as what I expected. When I just arrived in San Francisco and started to work, I met many challenges and difficulties in the workplace. After having been working for almost a month, I gradually learned more knowledge and mastered more skills which I could not gain from the university.

At Pitt, one mandatory course is Investment Management. I learned how to invest in through buying stocks and how to use CAPM for stocks. Even though this course is crucial and helpful, it does not help me get prepared for this internship. I am working for an early-stage venture capital, A-Force Ventures, which invests in women-led consumer startups. Investing in early-stage companies is different from investing in publicly held companies. The former requires me to analyze the pitch deck, the total addressable market, competitors, revenue forecasts, and so on. Since the early-stage startups have not had sufficient data for analysis, most of the assessments are based on the other competitors, assumptions and forecasts. The latter mainly depends on the analysis of data. Therefore, I had to learn from the beginning. However, there are still some similarities shared by all investments. Taking Investment Management at Pitt, I learned the importance of finding the balance between the return and the risk. To meet different requirements, we choose different portfolios to achieve the goal. The concept behind investments is the same, but the methods are different. 

Another essential course under Finance major that I took at Pitt was Corporate Finance. During this course, I learned how firms are operated, how to solve the agency problems between managers and shareholders. All knowledge is still relevant to publicly held companies, which is very different from venture capitals. Venture capitals usually do not have many employees. A small team with efficiency is enough in most situations. Therefore, what I learned in the university is not sufficient for this internship.

One of the most efficient ways to learn and get help at the workplace is communication. I talked to my colleagues and supervisor frequently. They knew that I was new here and had not touched upon early-stage venture capitals, so they were friendly and happy to help. By communicating directly with them, I got the idea about how to start. Without their assist, I did not even know how to begin the following research. This is just like when I was at Pitt in May, I tried to learn more about this industry, but I did not know what kind of information is useful and not outdated. After starting my internship, the instructions and advice from my boss and teammates gave me the right direction, which largely improved my efficiency.

Nevertheless, everyone in San Francisco are busy with own business. No one wants to waste too much time. Therefore, I also need to depend on myself. To solve the gap and master new knowledge and skills for this job, I put great efforts into it. First of all, I researched a lot and searched information online to have an overview of this industry and other venture capitals which are similar to ours. For more than fifty venture funds, I checked all their websites, related articles, LinkedIn, Twitter, Form D of SEC and some other professional websites and databases. I also learned a lot from some websites, such as Crunchbase, PitchBook, and so on. To have an overview of the trend and the latest events, I read a bunch of articles and news every day. The vast reading and research allowed me to learn by myself. 

These four weeks in San Francisco enormously improved my ability. To be better at work, I frequently communicated with other people at my workplace. I also learned by myself to gain more knowledge. Even though what I learned at Pitt cannot help me with this internship a lot, I understand the knowledge is fundamental and necessary, introducing me into the business world and the finance industry. To be better at work, I stepped out of my comfort zone and became more active in asking for help and communicating. Thus, I also appreciate this opportunity, which forces me to improve my communication skills and self-study ability. All of these factors contributed to my progress and improvement.