Rachel Sheinbein
Rachel Sheinbein

Rachel Sheinbein

Co-founder & Managing Director

Makeda Capital

“I would tell my teenage self that grades and knowing how to do every problem and being the best is not what really matters in a career. I studied chemical engineering, and I never felt confident in my classes and didn’t even like it much until my senior year. It was a tough slog.”

Who or what inspired your career in tech? 
I actually tested better in the reading/verbal parts of standardized tests than the math, but my parents encouraged me in math and science. In my sophomore year of high school, my teacher encouraged me to attend a camp at Arizona State University for girls and minorities interested in science. In that week-long camp we did hands-on experiments like building a pseudo dialysis machine. I had a taste of the kind of work I could do with an engineering degree and how I could build things that could help people.

What’s been your best career or life “hack” ever?
I am strategically opportunistic with my career. I have some boundaries and “must haves,” but I try to stay open based on people I want to work with and topics that excite me. I’ve taken many non-linear steps in my career.

What has been your greatest career challenge?
One that is still very vivid is when I was given the choice by my manager of either leaving the company or staying on in a different role. After lots of tears and conversations, I decided that the role presented to me was not a good fit and that it was time for me to leave. The manager then changed his mind and wanted me to stay, but I I knew that I didn’t want to do an ill-fitting job with a terrible commute at that time. Ultimately, I found the right people who helped me negotiate my way out of the organization. It was scary to make the decision in the first place, but once I did, it was even more challenging to actually leave.

Another challenge was when a senior member of my company wanted me to take a job with him as a Chief of Staff. I respected this person, but I did not want that role and felt that our working styles did not match. Saying no to it was risky, as he was powerful at the firm. After many weeks of agonizing, I said no. He said some demeaning words to me after that.

What is your biggest career success to date?
I’m really excited that my career has aligned around girls and women. I am president of the board of Expanding Your Horizons, an organization that encourages girls in STEM; I angel invest in mostly women entrepreneurs; and I invest in women running public US companies in the Fortune 2000. I believe in women, and even if some people have been discouraged in this work, I know that I’m onto something here. I’m forging something new.

Who are your role models?
Nancy Pfund, who has been a great investor and mentor on many boards. Don Naab and Lou Lupo, a few of the CEOs I’ve worked with. Women I’ve invested in, like Debbie Sterling of Goldieblox and Danielle Applestone of The Other Machine. My husband is often a role model for how I want to interact with others in the world.

If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
I’d tell my college-age self that grades and knowing how to do every problem and being the best is not what really matters in a career. I studied chemical engineering and I never felt confident in my classes and didn’t even like it much until my senior year. It was a tough slog.

What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
Hang out with friends and family, cook, meditate, yoga, read, ski.

Flats, heels or kicks?
Boots or tennis shoes– and sometimes flats.

Best career advice book?
Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

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