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Silicon Valley Investors Share Career Advice with Olin Business School Students

Students at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis, gained influential career advice from some of Silicon Valley’s most accomplished investors.


John Doerr has backed some of the most successful ventures in the internet age from Amazon to Zynga. He shared insights and advice during a recent visit to Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.
“I’m an idea junkie, an addict to new and shiny ideas,” John Doerr told an audience of students and faculty at Olin Business School this week.  The influential Silicon Valley venture capitalist and his partners at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have backed some of the most successful start-ups in the internet age.  From Google and Amazon to Bloom Energy and Zynga, Doerr has a passion for discovering and funding the “next big thing.”
Michael Long, chairman and CEO of Essence Group Holdings Corporation (EGHC), invited Doerr to visit Olin along with two other investors, John Burbank, Passport Capital, and Christopher W. Kersey, MD, MBA, Camden Partners. All three investors are members of the Board of Directors of EGHC. EGHC provides a wide range of technologies and management services to healthcare delivery systems.
Doerr’s casual lecture style — which he prefers to call “conversation” — included career advice and life lessons that the St. Louis native said he hoped would “affect your ideas about choices you make.”
Career advice from John Doerr:
• Seek out opportunities to learn and grow
• Learn how to sell
• Learn how to be a manager
• Learn how to launch a product
• Get in on the ground floor of a high-growth industry
Doerr’s career began in 1974 at Intel after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from Rice University.  He also has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and he founded software company Silicon Compilers and @Home, the nationwide broadband cable internet service, before joining KPCB in 1980.
“Talented, experienced leadership is in high demand,” Doerr said. He noted that learning from experienced mentors throughout one’s career is important, and he emphasized the value of networking to develop lifelong mentors. He urged listeners to build their leadership skills by constantly reaching out to people outside their areas of interest.
Doerr advised students to “be crystal clear about your priorities.” He offered profiles of two distinct corporate cultures — missionary vs. mercenary — and said no matter which approach to business and life one chooses, it’s important to remember that it can’t be done alone. It takes a team.
Long, the former CEO and Chairman of Healtheon/WebMD, echoed Doerr’s advice about teamwork while acknowledging the unique responsibilities of being a chief executive. He said it is difficult to manage life-work balance when you’re accountable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but the rewards are great.
“Nothing is more fun on the planet than to be a part of a team that’s making changes and creating a better life for people,” Long said.
The 90-minute conversation with Doerr, Long and their fellow investors included a question-and-answer period that covered everything from starting a business incubator to solving the shortage of engineers in the U.S., as well as the future of healthcare and innovation as the driver of job creation.


 Olin Business School
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 career advice
 Washington University

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