Given her soft and gentle voice, you may mistake her for a student in an ivory tower. But in fact, she stepped into the world of venture capital five years ago. Lu ZHAI, a graduate of SAIF MF Program, now serves as Investment Manager at TMT Group of Sequoia Capital China.
It is worth suffering for
Having completed her undergraduate study on National Economic Management at the Renmin University of China, Lu chose to continue her campus life in a graduate program. At that time, she already heard about Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF) and SAIF MF Program was also recommended by one of her seniors, who had enrolled this Program. Though only launched in 2009, SAIF MF seemed an ideal option in terms of curriculum and faculty. Lu carefully reviewed the situation and soon decided to join it without hesitation.
However, she was quickly drowned by tons of specialized financial courses. Though used to be a student of straight As, she encountered a number of unknown areas. “At that time, I could hardly follow the lectures and that was something I had never experienced before. What's worse, the reference books were abstruse when I tried to prepare for exams,” recalled Lu of her campus days at SAIF. But the training under intensive study and enormous stress helped her quickly adapt to the hectic work and easily deal with her career after graduation. “It is worth suffering for,” said she.
Live Course impressed Lu the most, during which the guest speaker presented and simulated his professional experience of consultancy at the classroom. It aroused the interest of the class and even imposed its impact on the future career paths of some students. “The guest speaker of Live Course guided us to take a closer look at the evolution of the industry, which played its role in our choice of career. Even now, if I have doubts at work, I would ask for his advices.”
After graduation, Lu and her classmates still gather together from time to time, sharing their concerns and insights both at work and in life. “It feels really good to have such friends and alumni,” commented she sincerely.
Do what you do the best
The days at SAIF were full of overnight study and discussion, during which a team of students worked together to conquer numerous assignments one after another. But after graduation, Lu prefers giving full play to her strengths. “To pick up the right career path and do what you do the best” is her advice to younger students.
Concerning career path, Lu smiled and admitted that she might have been the headache of Career Development Center (CDC). “I wasn't sure about my preference and don't know what to do.” Some focused on buyer research, some on project consulting and the others on equity and debts. But Lu was different. She tried as many as jobs during her internship.
“After several attempts, I discovered that I would be better off in consulting and investment. A consultant explores which sectors will grow quickly and how an organization can work better. However, an investor goes further, who visualizes the outlook in 3-5 years beyond business analysis and roadmap.” Thanks to the ongoing assistance of CDC staff, Lu eventually gained a clear picture on her future career. Just before her graduation, she received an offer from Sequoia Capital. “As one of top-class investment institutions, Sequoia Capital met my interest the best.”
From a confusing graduate to a firm investor, Lu ZHAI has worked at Sequoia Capital for five years and continues to enjoy her journey of investment by conquering the challenges along the road.
Return is key to investment
Talking about her job at Sequoia Capital, Lu admitted that “it's quite tough and you need to trade off between work and life, in particular for women.” To define “tough”, she explained that she has to meet 4-5 groups of clients until 10PM every day and also need to review each underlying company out of conference room, for example, which strategy to take, what kind of executives to employ, how to deal with competition and even more subtle details. “People used to describe me as 'nice' rather than 'aggressive'. But it's different now. My job requires me to create my own point and stick to it.”
Undoubtedly, Sequoia Capital is prestigious in the trade. It is highly recognized for its precise and forward-looking vision by having invested in Meituan and Dianping separately, before these two organizations were merged. But according to Lu, instead of Sequoia Capital's intention, it was resulted from the unique competition and delicate interplay in TMT business, and such innovation and changes represent the charm of the investment profession.
“Return is the cornerstone for the viability of a fund”, this statement was made by Lu repeatedly during the interview. The value of venture capital resides in figuring out an intersection between your own belief and fund's performance, serving as the entrepreneur behind entrepreneurs and bringing up more optimal solutions to the world.
At Sequoia Capital, a VC platform highly respected by founders, startups from all walks of life always flood in. For Lu, such value-based inflow derived from brand awareness is the strength of an exceptional platform. “I hope I would help more remarkable startups over the next five years,” she was extremely confident in her next milestone along the journey of her VC career.