26 Oct 2005   |   Network News

Multiple approaches to resolving problems

Adriana Vermut leads the San Francisco office for SpaceVest, a tech transfer-focused venture fund.

Adriana Vermut, venture capitalist

Adriana Vermut leads the San Francisco office for SpaceVest, a tech transfer-focused venture fund. SpaceVest currently has $270 million under management and works closely with universities to bring innovative technologies into the commercial market.

What’s your favourite thing/least favourite thing about your job?

What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to evaluate new and diverse technologies and companies each day. In my position, I have an opportunity to see multiple approaches to resolving problems. Many times I see the approaches and solutions to these difficulties before they are introduced to the broader market. I sometimes wish I could work within the companies we evaluate and invest in. It would be exciting to be on the frontline with the entrepreneurs implementing strategies to commercialise the technologies being developed.

How is science business - i.e. the business of science - changing for women?

I define the business of science and technology as everything revolving around the invention, creation, implementation and marketing of technology. Technology is no longer limited to large enterprises with multi-billion dollar budgets devoted to the development and implementation of technology. It has become increasingly accessible and understandable to the average consumer and is coming from a greater variety of companies than in the past. This unchaining of technical development from Fortune 500 enterprises has opened the door to the field of technology for women.

On the other hand, the transactional side of the business of science and technology, which I am closer to in my role at SpaceVest, is still primarily male dominated. Naturally, the investment side of the equation is still based on orthodox business patterns. However, the younger generation incorporates technology more seamlessly in its approach to intellectual challenges. And, in my opinion, technology levels the playing field and transcends gender barriers within business. Today, it is increasingly important to be excellent at what you do and perhaps less important to be part of a previously established business network.

What are the top three trends affecting women in the business of science?

  1. Accessibility to technology provides more opportunities for women to participate.
  2. Flexibility of schedules allows women to integrate a professional career with family oriented responsibilities.
  3. Today, industry is looking for diversity from both a cultural and a gender standpoint.

What advice would you give to young women looking to make a career in the business of science?

The business of science and technology has many entry points whether it is from the pure application of science or the commercialisation of technology. Women with degrees in science and technology are no longer limited to careers within laboratories. I encourage women with technological inclinations to leverage their rigorous training and discipline to seek non-traditional career paths. These women are sought after in start-up companies as well as in institutions focused on technology transfer and commercialisation. Based on my experience in working with early-stage technology companies, this is an ideal place to maximise and expand both business and technical skills. You have to be creative, flexible and highly motivated to thrive in such environments – but the experience is worth it.

What are the big ideas that affect your work at present?

The overarching idea that drives my work today is change. At SpaceVest, we get very excited about a company that is presenting a solution to improve the way things are done. I like to see old, unproductive methods and technologies give way to newer, more elegant solutions. SpaceVest is in the unique position to serve as an agent of change by funding growth and enabling entrepreneurs to realise innovative solutions to given problems.

Are there any differences in the ability of women to get ahead in different science-based industries?

A primary challenge for women in science-based industries is the need to feel comfortable working in a world traditionally led by men whether it is at the purest levels of science or on the business side. Through strong interpersonal skills and an ability to connect to people very quickly, I have been able to overcome this barrier. When SpaceVest invests in technology companies, we are really investing in the people managing these companies. It is crucial to connect with the entrepreneurs on a personal level and to be able to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses fairly quickly. I think women have a clear advantage on this front.

In the end, however, it is your individual skill set and not your gender that is going to make the difference and enable success. Sometimes it seems as though you have to be twice as good to get half the recognition, but the opportunities are definitely out there.

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