Beyond Engineering: Reflections on my Conversation with Heidi Roizen

Last week, on November 4, Box Women in Tech hosted a fireside chat between me and Heidi Roizen, Operating Partner at leading venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ). The event—Beyond Engineering: Skills You Need to Be a Successful Entrepreneur, Innovator and Leader—focused on the skills outside engineering required to design awesome features and bring ground-breaking products to market, whether at a startup, midsize or large company.

Heidi Roizen, a self-described venture capitalist, corporate director, Stanford lecturer, recovering entrepreneur and mom, contributed some very important and insightful perspectives. To begin, Heidi shared her selection criteria as a venture capitalist, and we discussed the many challenges in defining a minimum viable product for release. Below are my reflections on what I think of as the key takeaways from our chat.

1. Let random into your life: Engineering is about eliminating randomness and uncertainty, but in life, randomness and uncertainty can sometimes be good things. In our world of constant control and incessant measuring, we are always looking for ways to optimize how we use our time. Against this backdrop, allowing room for a little bit of randomness struck me as an especially refreshing thought.
2. Networking matters: Most of us have heard this before, but during our conversation, Heidi shared some more specific, actionable insights. Networks should be diverse—don't be limited to your usual circles or the same groups of people with whom you usually interact. But that also doesn't mean that you need to connect with every single person you encounter.
3. Do hard things: Heidi led off with the idea that entrepreneurship is making something out of nothing. She argued that if you're not working on hard things, you're wasting your time. I couldn't agree more. Sometimes tackling the big challenges means identifying your usual patterns and pushing beyond them.

My entire chat with Heidi Roizen is available in the video below. Check it out for more of our conversation on randomness, networking, hard things, and the skills beyond engineering that make for successful entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders.