Podcast Interview With Annie DeStefano

Annie DeStefano is the Vice President at Silicon Valley Bank where she works with CEOs and founders of venture backed Fintech companies. She is also a member on the Advisory Board at Stevens Institute of Technology. Having worked at Goldman Sachs and Foursquare on the technology front, she has become a leader in Fintech

Transcript

Wei Zheng: Thank you so much Annie for speaking with us. I really appreciate the chance to hear your stories. At the very beginning, could you give us a little bit overview of your career history?

 

Annie DeStefano: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the time and opportunity to share my story and what life has looked like for me since I graduated Stevens. So right when I graduated Stevens, I started my career at Goldman Sachs over in New York City and I joined the technology division and the innovation group at the bank. A lot of the work that I did early on in my career was technical thinking about the commercialization of technology and how does Goldman really manage a multibillion dollar technology division and it was a really great experience to be exposed to that side of financial services and the technology world because Goldman was very much in an engineering hub as much as it was a financial powerhouse. During my time there. I started on a project which is now known as Marcus by Goldman Sachs which is the consumer bank that Goldman incubated and built. So, I had the opportunity to join that team during the end of my tenure at the firm.

 

From there, I was looking to take a little bit of a break from financial services and experience a technology start-up, one that was a little bit more mature, a little bit larger in size. And so, I was connected to the executive team at Foursquare which is a venture backed company in the location intelligence space. I joined that team in a more of a chief of staff operations and strategy type of role. At the time, Foursquare was looking at some acquisition efforts and really thinking about how to expand the business as it got more mature in its stage as a tech company. And the combination of all those experiences of technology and finance has led me to my current position where I am at Silicon Valley bank working on our fintech banking team. Just to briefly give a little bit of context on Silicon Valley bank or SVB as we affectionately call it, is a 35 plus year old bank that’s focused on serving the innovation economy. So, all our customers and our clients have some role within the broader venture capital ecosystem, or the innovation economy. So, all the clients I work with are fin tech start-up companies and really my role is to build a relationship with them and be a trusted advisor to them for their banking needs, an advocate for them and market connect them to key folks in the ecosystem and really be a point person for them as they are working through the challenges of starting a young company and what they need out of their banking partner and navigate that process with them in partnership. So, that’s kind of the distilled version of my career over the last few years here.

 

Wei Zheng: That’s very impressive. Thank you for sharing your brief career history. Could you tell us in a little bit more detail how have you grown into a leader? I assume like other leaders, you started as an individual contributor and then moved into more of a leadership role. So, what was it like are there particular important milestones in that transition?

 

Annie DeStefano: It’s a great question. No one’s fully grown as a leader. I’m still growing. And it’s always something that you have to work on and nurture and give time to. I would say some distinct milestones probably would be when I assume direct management oversight for individuals which I did during my time and my career, thus far, and really having to take myself out of the colleague seat and being a supportive colleague in a team and then being their direct manager and they’re really looking to me to help them answer questions they have and work with them about career growth. You talk about compensation, you talk about challenges they’re having and it’s a little bit of a different dynamic than being a supportive colleague to them and a peer versus their direct manager. So, I think that’s a distinct milestone that comes to mind when I really had to deliberately think about my mindset and say I’m no longer the supportive peer to this person, I’m their leader and they’re looking to me to solve and take roadblocks out of the way for them to be effective in their career and their personal and professional growth. Situations like that are probably distinct milestones I feel like I’ve crossed over during my career so far.

 

Wei Zheng: Was that transition difficult from being somebody’s peer and colleague to somebody’s direct manager? What was difficult about that and how did you overcome some of the difficulties?

 

Annie DeStefano: I think we all start with the second part of overcoming difficulties which is so predicated on trust and communication. If you have a situation where it’s a tough dynamic to grow into just building the trust with your direct report or reports as well as being an open book and communicating with them really goes a long way and trying to mitigate any issues or awkwardness with it. But certainly, it is difficult to navigate. You are used to being someone that is kind of unbiased, someone’s just a colleague that’s talking to you and maybe venting their frustrations to you. But they are not necessarily looking for you to solve it and solve the problems. You have to change that mindset and behaviour and share with your colleagues. In the past, you could just talk to me openly about issues you were having. Now I am going to take it as my responsibility to solve that for you and help you navigate that situation. So, being upfront and sharing that is a new dynamic you are going through as their leader. We will work through it together, but it certainly can be an awkward transition from the friend at work to then being their direct boss. And making sure that you sort of make it clear that you still can be a friend to them. But now you also have a responsibility that I might have not previously had in your relationship.

 

Wei Zheng: What helped you in that transition? Did you have mentors, people you can talk things out with or some other ways of support in that transition?

 

Annie DeStefano: Absolutely have mentors. I have been really fortunate to have had many kind of key mentors that I still have throughout my career that I’m able to call up or email or jump on a FaceTime with and just talk through situations that I’m facing professionally. And having their executive experience and their mindset available has been incredibly helpful for me to grow as a leader and to take their advice to learn from them. And most importantly hear things that went wrong for them and situations that they would have changed or navigated differently and kind of learn from the mistakes of your mentor too, because everyone has mistakes and stories to tell. And being able to learn from their experiences in the past and where they think they would have handled something differently helps inform how I grow as a leader and think about situations as well.

 

Wei Zheng: Do you have an example of either a success or a failure, where you learn something from your career?

 

 

Annie DeStefano: And failure is just such a scary word and a strong word

 

Wei Zheng: Or challenge

 

Annie DeStefano: It’s not one we should shy away from for sure. I think being in a role where I’ve had roles that I’ve had direct management oversight and then roles where I was a senior member of the team and as senior leader on the team, I didn’t directly have oversight over a person and there’s probably been situations in the past where I should have kind of leaned in a little bit more to knowing that my role wasn’t their direct manager. I think that it could come off to people if you start meddling in their situation or their business or trying to solve a problem for them but you are not their direct manager. Giving them feedback and not a constructive or thoughtful way as a peer versus their direct manager could cause conflict and people can be taken off guard by that. And I think there’s been situations in the past where I should have been more mindful of the fact that they may not want to hear directly from me and it’s better for them to work through something with their direct manager. But I can help as a senior member of the team improve whatever their challenges that they’re working through but not necessarily have to be the one that’s sharing all of the direct feedback with them being respectful and mindful of their existing management structure and their leadership chain is important too. Especially if you’re a senior person on the team that can influence decision, but you’re not necessarily the only one you know that formally is making the decision or has direct oversight.

 

Wei Zheng: And recently in 2019 you were awarded as an NYC inspiring thing tech female in the category of network building. Could you tell us about it a little bit? What do you think when you do board?

 

Annie DeStefano: That was a really exciting opportunity for me in 2019. So, just some context, the New York City fintech women group is a membership group that is focused on bringing together women as well as men in the fintech ecosystems. A lot of the members of the group are operators at fin tech companies or finance firms. They might be start-up founders themselves, investors, people that are cheerleaders and advocates of the fintech industry, but not necessarily in the industry It’s really a group that’s grown from a few members to thousands of members that are involved in events programming as well as recognition of people in the ecosystem. So, the award was probably unexpected, at least from my point of view, but it was really exciting to be recognized and humbling to be recognized by peers in that fashion, in particular the networking award. It kind of reminded me about the importance of network properly. And what I mean by that is not building relationships because you need something from the other person or only reaching out to someone, because you have an agenda or something that you need from them but truly taking an invested interest in what is going on in that person’s life and how you can be helpful to them. I always try to give first before I take and I think that’s helped me actually build really strong relationships in the ecosystem and professionally where people know if they hear from me, it’s not because I want something from them. I don’t come out of the woodwork when I only need something from them, I’m actually genuinely reaching out to them to see how they’re doing. So, I think the network building aspect with that recognition really meant a lot to me and it’s something that I hope to continue to do. And more importantly, use that network as a way to mentor younger women and women starting out in their career within the fintech and finance.

 

Wei Zheng: Could you have any given example of your networking building experience or strategies or how do you go about network building? Do you have particular goals in mind, or do you just pick up any events that come to your desk or what are your strategies?

 

Annie DeStefano: It’s been pretty organic. I tried to just make myself available and open minded to opportunities and conversations. One distinct strategy has been to leverage social media. There’s a lot of noise on social media, but there’s also a lot of benefit to using the platforms as well. I’ll get messages or reach out to people myself on Twitter and LinkedIn and it’s actually helped me grow my network quite a bit. It’s been really beneficial during the times we’re going through now with COVID because no one is meeting in person. I share my thoughts on fintech or share my thoughts on technology. It’s opened the door to conversations with people I would have never normally met and then it’s easy enough to hop on a zoom or call to build a relationship from there. A distinct strategy is figuring out what medium is the right one for you and how you might have to adapt your approach to changing times. I like to use social media. Especially with everything going on now virtually and it’s helped me get into the door and a lot of conversations with people I might not normally meet.

 

And I would say the other strategy is, it has to be honest. You have to be networking not to get ahead or not to push your agenda. I think you can be thoughtful about having distinct requests of people or asks of them once you build the credibility and have a relationship with them. But if you start the conversation from that place, people see through that and it really kind of cheapens your effort. So being mindful of not jumping into what you want from someone saying ‘how can I help you’, or ‘how can I provide value to you’. Just trying to build an honest relationship with someone so they don’t think you’re always going to reach out when they hear from you or see your email come into their inbox not be like, ‘oh like Annie wants something else. She’s always reaching out to me for something. Here we go, what’s this going to be.’ You don’t want to build that precedent with someone that you’re building a relationship with.

 

Wei Zheng: Do you have an example of your principle of giving first. Just as we speak, you are giving me first. I just reached out to you and you very kindly agreed to give your time and share your wisdom with us. Do you have another example where you start to connect with someone, and you try to give something first?

 

Annie DeStefano: I was introduced through a previous employer to someone that I worked with on a contract and they introduced me to one of their friends who was a woman looking to change her career path and was thinking about what her next career journey might look like and wanted to have lunch. So, we had lunch together. I shared my thoughts, made some introductions for her, tried to help expand my network and open my network up to her. There wasn’t really anything I was looking out of that conversation other than building relationship and seeing how I can be helpful. Unbeknownst to me, she had a close friend that was starting a fintech company and months later, she said to me, would you like to meet my friend. She is starting a fintech company and to this present day, that’s actually turned into one of my closest client relationships that introduction she gave me. I helped give a little bit of my network to her. You don’t know how people are connected to one another and who’s someone that you’re helping who they know and sometimes the immediate kind of reciprocation of helping someone, it might not happen right away, but you just never know down the line, who they’ll come up with and want to introduce you to. That could be a really close connection for you going forward. So, it was a just a fun situation where I was able to expand my network. She was able to meet people in my network. And then she ended up introducing me to someone that’s become an extremely close client of mine.

It was an awesome scenario all around for everyone.

 

Wei Zheng: Your job currently is a vice president of relationship management. I assume network building is part of your job as well. Do you use any disciplines in your work or non-work related aspects of network building? For example, some people spend a certain percentage of their work time developing new network connections or some people have different layers of goals and target groups to network with. Do you have any principles you will work on work with to build your relationships?

 

Annie DeStefano: I relied on serendipity, for lack of a better word in the past where I would go to a conference or an event and you have people that you know there and you start conversing with and you’re at a cocktail hour or dinner and then they introduce you to other people that are at the event. It’s just a very kind of fluid situation and you happen to just have a group of people in the same place at the same time We of course can’t do that anymore. At least we’re not doing that right now. So, I have sat down and I’m trying to think of how I need to be much more deliberate and make sure that I’m as I said earlier, nurturing the relationships. I know that I cannot count on the fact that I’m going to see this person at a conference in October and we connect there. It’s just not happening and rightfully so, because of health and safety reasons. So, I have been trying to make myself schedule my catch ups and look at my calendar. Tomorrow will be the first of the month, look at my calendar, go through my contacts,

look through my old meetings and see who am I not talked to in a while and reach out to them in August to set up time with them and catch up via zoom or a phone call or just via email. Make a deliberate effort to schedule that because I can’t rely on the idea of serendipity, and just bumping into someone anymore. So, I’m trying to audit my past meetings and time and see who I have not reached out to in a while and reach out to them and see how they’re doing. See if there’s anything I can help with and try to be deliberate about my outreach going forward, knowing we’re operating in a new model professionally.

 

Wei Zheng: You got a Bachelor of Science degree in business and Technology from our school which we’re really proud of. In what aspects did this your educational background help you and which aspects, potentially, you have hindered you talk about being dynamic and where did you get that and maybe other qualities?

 

Annie DeStefano: It has absolutely helped me in my career. The whole intent of the business and technology program when I enrolled was to prepare students to be business leaders that not only understood the fundamentals technically and financially as the core spine that you need from an execution standpoint to be a technical and business leader, but also, groom us to be able to be communicators that could talk the business side and the technology side. Having that combination has helped me in my career where I can communicate with executives, share a little bit more of a 40,000 foot view on something. But then also, jump down to the 1000 foot view and get in the weeds on something that might be technical or analyse a problem or due diligence on something. To be able to oscillate between the 40,000 and the 1000 and be dynamic like that is so important in the business world these days. Everything is changing rapidly. Nothing is staying the same. So, being able to go with the times and evolve and then be able to communicate that with executive is exactly what the business and technology program prepared me for to do professionally. And I think the technology aspect helps me build credibility with clients, with engineers, with product managers I might be working with. Just knowing that I can dive a little bit deeper into a topic or asking the right questions. If someone is more technical that I’m talking to does help build credibility in the relationship and the business dealings.

 

Wei Zheng: Does the technology focus for your educational background ever hinder you in any aspect or limit you?

 

Annie DeStefano: I don’t think it limits me. I think that you have to create your own story and narrative out of it. I feel like people might get caught up on am I more business or am I more technology and do I just have to go down that one path or is being more technical hindering me from having front office roles at a company or something that’s more sales or revenue producing. Those are all just kind of labels and it can hinder you if you let it hinder you but if you use the combination of that education to your advantage, you can be an unstoppable secret weapon for companies where you can do everything. You can talk the technology, but also, talk the business strategy and operations. I don’t think it’s hindered me. I’ve made a concerted effort to talk about my background and share you know my learnings and continue my education to not pigeonhole myself into any one thing. I always try to iterate on all the different things that I’ve been taught, and not just label myself as kind of one side or the other. That is where it can hinder you if you pigeonhole yourself too much because that will put you at a disadvantage with how quickly business is changing these days if there’s sort of only one skill that you’ve been honing based off of your education.

 

Wei Zheng: You mentioned telling a story or narrative of you. Do you have sort of a short narrative you give people when you meet someone new. And how would you introduce yourself and you only have like an elevator pitch where you have very limited amount of time. How would you tell your story?

 

Annie DeStefano: Just being honest about the fact that I have done work that spanned operations, product, finance at large and small organizations. And hang upon the type of organizations I’ve been at just by size and by industry and all the different roles that I’ve had within them. Positioning myself as operator, strategists and banker. That’s what I’m doing now in my current role. Sharing that variety of experience with people and also, knowing who your audiences is. If you’re talking to a specific audience like a more executive audience, talk about the more higher-level strategic things that you’ve been a part of or projects that you’ve worked on. Tailoring your introduction and your pitch to the right audience and connecting with them that way.

 

Wei Zheng: How do you prepare for conversations like those, talking at high levels versus low levels. What do you do to help you prepare for those conversations on a daily basis?

 

Annie DeStefano: On a daily basis, it’s probably just doing your research and diligence on a certain company or whoever you might have a meeting scheduled with takes a few minutes before the meeting. Don’t just rush from meeting to meeting. Try to take a few minutes and look up the person on LinkedIn, like understand a little bit more about who you’re about to talk to and just do a little bit of mental preparation of okay like this is these are some things we might have in common. I should bring up these items or I see that this person had a master’s degree from Stevens, I should share more about my background Stevens. Take the time out of your day or your week to know who you are talking to for the next few days. What meetings you have scheduled and looking into the people that you’re talking to a little bit and just be prepared. Rather than going into the conversation with no sense of their background. Be prepared if you have a very clear request of the person that you’re talking to. Be very clear with what you’re asking of that person and prepare for that while you’re chatting with them. I think preparation doesn’t have to be a very long drawn out thing. it could just be taking a few minutes to orient yourself and mentally prepare for the conversation and have a few brief data points that you could hit on when you’re talking to someone.

 

Wei Zheng: I assume in your current job you interface with a lot of founders and management teams of venture backed fintech companies. And I assume they have different products and innovations. What do you do to keep up with up to date technologies or enough knowledge that you can have an intelligent conversation with various companies?

 

Annie DeStefano: It’s a constant battle to keep up with the amount of information that’s out there. I use a lot of resources online, I religiously read Twitter.

For better for worse, but I do. I’m always on Twitter, just following certain thought leaders and fintech investors, companies that I work with, or want to work with., technology leaders, business leaders, just reading what’s going on and what they’re saying on Twitter. It does seem like it can be a wealth of information. Sometimes I also, do sign up for and follow a bunch of newsletters. So, recommendations from colleagues of mine as well as newsletters I found myself. Trying to make sure that I maybe spend the top of my week going through the newsletters I get and looking at the headlines and understanding but it’s a battle to keep up with the amount of information that’s out there. Social media has helped me distil a lot of it. Sometimes if I’m catching up with someone I just ask them like what they are reading these days, or what’s been a great resource for them to stay up to date with technology and banking and finance and fintech and more often than not, people have recommendations for you that are helpful. It’s a little bit interesting because we don’t have our commute these days. That could be time that you use to listen to a podcast or listen to a newsletter recording and now you have to carve out that time a little bit for yourself. Twitter has been the most efficient way I stay up to date with what’s going on and try to learn new things.

 

Wei Zheng: Could you give us an example one or two examples of the leaders, you follow and the newsletters, you read regularly?

 

Annie DeStefano: I follow a bunch of fintech investors and sort of influencers. A name that come to mind is Frank Rotman, he is a investor QED, which is a fintech firm and he has just really interesting commentary about the space and he’s just an incredibly dynamic leader with his background and he’s a veteran in the fintech space. I also follow some consultancy type of brands in the ecosystem. There’s one called 11 FS, and I know some of the folks that work there and they put out a bunch of great content. on fintech. I’m always following what they’re putting out. They put out videos, they do breakfast interviews, all virtual. They are always doing recaps of what’s going on in the fintech world. I follow them on Twitter. From a pure business leader standpoint, there is a woman, Cat Cole, she’s the CEO and president of focus brands, which owns a lot of

brands that we might all know like Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon and other kind of quick service chains and she puts out a lot of great leadership and business content. On Twitter and social media as well. Those are just three names that are top of my mind that I always feel like I get really good bytes of information from and then one newsletter that I would share is a subscription newsletter called technically. It is on a platform called sub stack and it is a newsletter that basically distils extremely technical topics into basic terminology. So if you’ve been wondering about what does an API mean and you want to understand more about what an API is, this newsletter takes topics like that and really distils it into kind of the basic brass tacks of what something might be. It’s a really good newsletter to read. If you want to get smart about technology topics, very quickly, and someone you know did all the homework for you to make sure you understand the headline basic understanding of technical topics.

 

Wei Zheng: In the technology space, women are underrepresented. What’s your experience like as a woman in the tech space? How have you been navigating these under-representation problems of women?

 

Annie DeStefano: I’m really passionate about women in technology and women in fintech. The truth of the situation is that we’re sitting here in 2020 and the stats are still pretty abysmal, in general, from a diversity-inclusion standpoint in these industries. There’s a lot of work to be done and I would have hoped to see more progress in 2020 but that’s kind of not been the case and hasn’t moved as fast as I would have liked. I’ve navigated situations where I can sometimes be the only woman in the room or the only woman on a call or a meeting. The best piece of advice I probably ever got in thinking about how to overcome some of the imposter syndrome, you might getting in those situations is from a woman that was a senior that I worked with in the past. She said to me very early on, in my first or second week on the job. She was like, ‘Annie, make sure you have an opinion on things like, don’t worry about being right or wrong, just have an opinion.’ And I think about that to this day if I’m the only person that might have my viewpoint in the room or be the only woman in a conversation. That doesn’t stop me from having an opinion on things and if anything, I have to have a stronger voice and really share my viewpoint. It doesn’t mean to have an opinion that you’re being combative or causing any issue or conflict. It just means that you’re using your voice for the conversation. I think it’s really important, in particular for women that may not find themselves in a situation where there’s anyone that they can look to as an ally, whether it be a woman or a man and just use their voice in the conversation and have an opinion and viewpoint on things. It’s okay if you don’t, but take the opportunity to say, ‘hey, I’m not really sure about this. I would love to hear other people’s opinions or thoughts’ but make it clear that you know you are a voice at the table for a reason and you have something to say. There’s a lot of work to be done in the space, but I’m really excited about some of the organizations I’ve been involved in and work that we’re doing and working with women junior and senior to me to bring about real change with some of the representation in different industries.

 

Wei Zheng: I’m actually currently leading a few initiatives at Stevens to provide resources for women’s leadership development in tech industries. You have been very supportive of advancing women in technology as well. I see you’re a mentor of Girls Who Code and you have been supporting these diversity and inclusivity initiatives as well. What are some important things or practices programs that you find particularly effective in accelerating women’s leadership development in tech industries?

 

Annie DeStefano: A lot of programs is larger companies have the resources to put on themselves. That’s always helpful to get involved if you know you’re on an internship at a corporation. See what offerings HR is providing for different networks and, in particular women’s leadership type of initiatives within a company. I’ve taken advantage of that in some of my past roles and with past employers and just getting involved in some of the external networks out there. There were conferences, but now they’ve gone virtual, but New York Women in Fintech is one example. There’s other kind of more nationwide groups. There’s mentoring virtual mentoring groups. You can sign up for that. They are bringing together women from different industry at similar points in their career. It’s easy to have access to these groups now because everything’s online and you can just sign up virtually. So, trying to bring together those groups is something that I’ve been focused on in my role and just taking advantage of online programs and sort of small circle mentoring groups which seemed to be really popular these days. It’s also important to enlist the help of allies with all of this because we’re talking about women in tech and specifically you should find men that are allies and bring them along for her journey and say I need you to back me up in the room, or I need you to echo. You know my voice in conversations and be an ally to me. I think that’s so important to have allies in this and to not isolate men from this effort, just because it’s advancing women in tech or women in fintech. Bring men along as allies too and they want to help more often than not, they want to support your efforts too and would appreciate you thinking of them in that fashion.

 

Wei Zheng: That’s an interesting idea. Because usually, we talk about women supporting other women in terms of amplifying their voices, giving them proper credits and all sorts of things. And you brought up the idea of asking for allyship from men, do you have an example of how you have approached a man in particular to ask for Allyship. How did you ask and how did work?

 

Annie DeStefano: I’ve worked in passed roles with a senior executive who was more on the technology side. Of the work we were doing, I would just drop by his office, we would catch up. we would talk about what’s going on. He would ask how I’m doing and  I would ask just for his general support. You don’t have to have anything other than just have a conversation to say I’d really appreciate if you support me in this project I’m doing or in this upcoming meeting I’m going to be presenting in. I’d love to have your support in the room, and lend your voice to the conversation and people get it. They know that you’re looking for their mentorship and guidance. Going to them asking for their feedback on some of your work product and the process, for example say the name is Joe like ‘Hey Joe, I would love your feedback on this presentation I’m going to give at the meeting that we’re both in next week’ and by doing that you’re building an ally in the process. They’re part of the process with you in refining your work product. So, they’re going to lend a voice to supporting you when you’re sharing your viewpoint in the room with a broader audience. I think a way to do it is to bring people into getting their thoughts and feedback on something that you are preparing for meeting or project deliverable helps in building that ally ship.

 

Wei Zheng: One potential risk of doing that in my previous research there is for women to asking for feedback from especially from men. Sometimes you could be interpreted as needing help or not competent enough or wanting to be saved. What are some ways to avoid that from happening while still seeking feedback from potential allies?

 

Annie DeStefano: I feel like not asking for help or not putting yourself out there is just not constructive to helping yourself in your career. Everything is collaborative these days and if I don’t think showing vulnerability is a bad thing. I think you could show strength and vulnerability, to be honest and saying that because I’m asking for your feedback on this or your help, you’re bringing them in to your orbit and your ecosystem. And then you start collaborating with them. It’s not like you’re just passing it off to them and saying I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing. You’re trying to make a concerted effort. And I think people respect seeing your process and understanding your line of thinking and if that means asking for help, it also, creates a dynamic where they respect you more and see your strength. Because you are thinking thoughtfully and critically about what you’re doing and the effort you’re putting into your work product and what you would like it to look like on the other end. I don’t think vulnerability should be viewed as a bad thing. I think we’re actually seeing now in business with what’s going on in the world where I’m having probably more vulnerable conversations with clients and colleagues than I ever did because of what’s happening with the world these days. And it’s helping to build stronger relationships, having that ability. No one knows all the answers and I don’t think anyone should think that by asking for help. Or not knowing the answer that they’re any less off as a professional are showing weakness. I think it could be showing weakness by not asking for help in a way

 

Wei Zheng: During this time of Colvid and all the disruptions and changes, what are some ways you take care of yourself?

 

Annie DeStefano: Every morning, weather permitting, I go for a three to four mile walk and I do that before my day gets started. I don’t wake up and immediately jump into email. I might check my email on my phone. Make sure there’s no urgent call or text or something. But my meetings don’t start until nine or nine-thirty. I take a few hours before all of that to just have time for myself like take a long walk, listen to podcasts, maybe I didn’t get to call family, catch up with people in my personal life and just use that as time to strategize and clear my head. I think just jumping right into your work these days is not sustainable, because we’re in a marathon. It’s not a sprint right now and you have to create the space for yourself. And I put blocks on my calendar of times I’m not going to take meetings, unless we really need to book something at that time. I tried to have that morning ritual and routine and try to put a little bit of a deadline of when I’m going to close up email for the day, close the laptop and have the evening to myself, to have dinner with my husband and maybe check back in later but sprinting through a marathon will never work. The rest stops, where you can take the water break when you can like you would in a race.

 

Wei Zheng: Just out of curiosity, what podcast, do you usually listen to?

 

Annie DeStefano: There’s one called Saastr and they do conversations with business leaders at high growth firms. I’ve listened to some really interesting conversations with business leaders and they seem to focus on SAS based business models.

 

Wei Zheng: Thank you so much. That’s all of my questions. This was a really interesting conversation.

 

Annie DeStefano: I really appreciate it. Thank you.