Career Stories: Emily Yu, MBA ’24 – Breaking Into Venture Capital: An Engineer’s Pathway

By Emily Yu, MBA ’24

Embarking on a venture capital (VC) career, particularly from a non-traditional background, can often feel like deciphering a black box. However, with introspection, strategy, and leveraging your unique strengths, transitioning into this dynamic field is not just possible, but can be profoundly rewarding. I’ve distilled some key lessons on navigating this journey from my personal experience during my MBA, aiming to illuminate a clear path forward.

1. Reflect and Introspect

Before diving deep, ask yourself: Is VC the right path for me? Transitioning into VC, especially from a non-finance or unconventional background, requires comfort with ambiguity and a love for continuous challenges. Assess your resilience, willingness to constantly reinvent, and capacity for living in a state of productive discomfort.

Remember, your engineering (or tech, healthcare, musical, government, etc.) background is a strength, not a disadvantage. The intricate understanding of the domain you possess is invaluable in the startup world, where financial acumen can be acquired. Knowing your strengths and leveraging them can set you apart. As Marc Andreessen (GP of A16Z) once said, “The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you.” This does not just apply to founders; it is also particularly true in venture capital.

Additionally, VC as an industry is, by design, perceptive to the “fear of missing out.” Craft a narrative showcasing your unique value. Creating a sense of FOMO among potential firms for your exceptional talent will set you apart in this highly competitive pool.

2. Define Your Interests

Be clear about what you are looking for in the venture capital landscape. Are you interested in early-stage startups or more mature companies? What sectors or industries are you passionate about? Identifying these preferences will help you focus your networking efforts on relevant funds and individuals, making your approach more targeted and effective.

3. Leverage the MIT Brand

The resources and network provided by MIT are unparalleled. Engage actively with clubs and groups like the VCPE Club or the Entrepreneurship Club. Position yourself as a bridge between VCs and the rich MIT ecosystem, offering VCs access to talented students, innovative startups, and cutting-edge research. Understanding and articulating the dynamics of the MIT startup ecosystem to VC firms can significantly amplify your value proposition.

Being at MIT opens many doors for you, and opportunities are especially strong while you are a student. Make the most of this time by working closely with players in the VC ecosystem, maximizing their exposure to you.  Additionally, strive for leadership roles whenever possible, as you’ll want to showcase your work ethic, intelligence, and drive. VC is a small circle; building a strong reputation for yourself expands your surface area of luck and pays dividends in ways you can’t imagine.

4. Know Your Audience

If you have secured a spot on a partner’s calendar, congratulations! Approach meetings with them as you would in any strategic interaction: by understanding your counterpart. Research their current interests, investment thesis, personality, and personal stories. Familiarize yourself with the firm’s portfolio and use this knowledge to guide your conversations. The more you know, the more you can align your discussions with their interests, increasing the relevance and impact of your interaction.

5. Act Like a VC

Before securing a position in venture capital, start thinking and acting like a VC. Focus on adding value first—whether through insights, connections, or resources—before asking for anything in return. Demonstrating your capability and mindset as an investor can often be the most compelling argument for your candidacy.

Transitioning from engineering to venture capital is a journey of transformation, requiring deep self-knowledge, strategic networking, and the ability to showcase your unique strengths. Embrace the challenges, leverage your technical background, and immerse yourself in the ecosystem. Remember, the path may be demanding, but the impact and opportunities in venture capital are vast and fulfilling.

Final parting thoughts:

  • Emphasize what you’ve got (e.g. domain knowledge, operating experience), not the skillsets you’re developing (e.g. financial modeling).
  • Don’t overestimate your competitors. Everyone is learning at the beginning.
  • Do the work. Focus on the value of the results you’re creating, not how much time you’re spending seeking advice from other VCs.
  • Don’t give up. Recruiting into VC is like running a marathon – skills matter, but what pushes you across the finish line is resilience.
  • Be patient. Progress can take time.

Some resources that helped me get started:

  • Podcasts:
    • 20VC
    • Venture Unlocked
    • Equity by TechCrunch
    • All-in Podcast
    • My First Million

There’s only so much I can share in a blog post (thank you CDO for this platform!), but if you’re currently navigating breaking into venture capital, I’m happy to be a sounding board and resource to you. Feel free to reach out to me at, or DM me on LinkedIn, or Twitter/X: @edreamoon. Best of luck!

By MIT Sloan CDO