Fitting In and Standing Out Navigating in an Alpha World
Robin Richards Donohoe, Co-Chair, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

Teaching Guide for Women Inspired Program


In today’s world, highly talented women continue to face challenges that limit their success, career potential and general life satisfaction.  In partnership with the GSB Women's Task Force, the GSB Alumni Relations Office makes these resources available to spark thinking and discussion on important topics of career navigation, leadership through awkward dynamics in the work place, work-life balance, and diversity. 

These resources are designed to challenge you to grapple with the forces driving your own internal compass and gut reactions as you watch, discuss, and share a combination of both the Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes.

Women Inspired Program Vignettes

This content is designed from real stories and perspectives of diverse women with the simple assumption that career satisfaction and life success are driven by the ability of a woman to make consistent value judgments and decisions that are driven by an inspired perspective of oneself and ones life vision.  The vignettes and cases are structured to spark personal reflection around one's own values and decision-making process, which will lead to transformative learning of practical ways to address challenges.  The video case resources are made available to all alumni and the content is designed to be experienced individually, in a group discussion or with a professional coach.

The collection includes two different types of videos: Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes.  The Capstone Perspectives feature a woman’s perspective, experience or advice on a particular topic or theme.  The Video Case Vignettes focus on a particular challenge a woman faced, decisions she made, and what she learned from the experience.

Video Case Vignette Format

These case vignettes feature leaders who share their experiences and insights to help you understand the opportunities you have to hone your own thinking and career design.  The case vignettes are broken into 3 clips: the background and challenge; the decision or action taken by the leader and the results of the case with lessons learned.  At the end of each clip, take time to consider or discuss how you might handle the dilemma, whether or not you agree with the action that was taken, or what you might do differently and why.  Take heed of the lessons learned and see what advice you can take from leaders who have gleaned important insights from their experiences.

How to Make the Most from the Video Vignettes

Try to watch a combination of Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes from different leaders.  In many cases, you will see that leaders may handle the same question or challenge very differently.  Consider which approach or perspective works for you.

As you watch the videos, reference the scrolling notes next to the video, which includes a brief background on the leader, a summary of the vignette, take-aways, and questions to consider.  For every vignette, ask yourself whether or not you agree with the leader.  Try to understand what values or frameworks are driving your reactions.  If you have not yet faced a similar challenge, consider how you might use the challenge to prepare for what may lie ahead.  You may also recall a very different challenge you have faced that brings you to a similar conclusion as the challenge in the video.

As the leader shares her challenge, imagine yourself in her shoes and how you would handle the situation.  Pause the video to consider and/or discuss the challenge, how it is handled, and the lessons learned.  Think about what you might do differently or what was done well.  Use these stories and insights to consider the values and decision making processes that drive your own internal compass.

Take time to reflect on your own situation, goals, values, plans and future.

After you watch the video, ask yourself the simple question:

What will you continue doing? Start doing? Stop doing?

Additional Readings and Resources


Video Vignette: Navigating in an Alpha World

Featuring: Robin Richards Donohoe

Summary: A Venture Capitalist deals with an industry leader who belittles her in front of colleagues.

Background on Leader: Robin is the Co-Chair of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and has over 23 years of experience in domestic and international venture capital.  She is a founder and managing director of the Draper International and Draper Richard Funds.  Prior to managing the Draper funds, she served for four years as Managing Director of Seaboard Management Corporation, a VC firm based in Atlanta Georgia after working in the Czech Republic for a VC fund and in Paris for an investment bank.  Robin serves on several Boards and has her undergraduate degree from University of North Carolina and her MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Takeaway: Take the high road and think creatively about how to manage your career in an industry that may not be ideal for balance.

Considerations and Questions (Segment 1):

  1. What is your interpretation of the behavior of the VC host at the party?
  2. How would you respond to this public comment on the spot?
  3. What considerations would you have about managing your image in the “Alpha” community?

Considerations and Questions (Segment 2):

  1. What is your reaction to the response of Ms. Donohoe?
  2. What advantages would you leverage in a situation like this to establish yourself as a “deal maker”?
  3. Do you agree that it is best to take the “high road” when facing a “bully” and why?
  4. How can you gauge how people may see you when your status changes?
  5. Do you agree that she should work hard to “prove” herself?
  6. What did she do that redefined “success”?

Considerations and Questions (Segment 3):

  1. What is your definition of success?  
  2. What does she mean that success in her industry “had been written by males?”
  3. How much are you influenced by your industry to define success?
  4. What research and thinking can you do in advance to choose an industry that will grow with you through your life?
  5. How can you build a career that puts you in a position to better control your career even if you are in a male dominated industry?
  6. How do you imagine your future?

Key Take-Aways

When your personal situation changes, your status in the industry and professional commitment will be challenged, especially in competitive, male dominated industries.

Be prepared to signal you are on equal footing and reestablish the respect you need to be effective, especially when confronted.

Consider how your goals and definition of success may change as your personal situation changes and your life evolves.  Plan ahead to chart a path in your profession to accommodate new priorities.

As early as possible, consider your industry, size of firm, the values of your boss, the importance of working hard in advance to establish your reputation, and options for flexibility.

Seek out a great mentor who can support you through struggles and help you define your own definition of success.