Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” Bostonia brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations.
They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.
Christine Mastrangelo (CGS’00, CAS’02) parlayed her English major into a hybrid career mixing business and social justice. As a partner and chief of staff at Boston venture capital firm Cue Ball Capital, she helps launch and support women-led and women-focused enterprises. “I fell into working in venture capital a bit by accident,” she says. “I was originally teaching creative writing and doing some content creation work, but my family’s entrepreneurial history and our firm’s values of embracing creative and expansive thought have made a solid foundation for me.”
Before joining Cue Ball in 2008, the fiction writer and mother of two taught writing at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Franklin, Mass., worked for ICON Architecture as a support staffer for its business manager, and wrote for Papercut, a digital fashion, culture, and current events magazine.
Mastrangelo runs a Cue Ball summer internship for BU students interested in venture capital and entrepreneurship (for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mastrangelo: One would think my educational background would not be relevant, but business-building and entrepreneurship very much utilize the creative faculties. I would argue that one cannot be a sound investor without being multidimensional in her thinking. When creating my own point of view of whether a business has long-term, sustainable durability, I think about the problem they are solving, how this resonates with their customer and audience, and if this is expressed in the most efficient and effective way—from the metrics that drive the business model to the expression of its branding. I am happy that my studies of the humanities and literature at BU lend to my work now.
It does seem like the field is competitive, but I would tell new grads to worry less about that and focus more on the fit of the firm for the overall goal-setting for their careers, and the space the company may give them to play with that. What can the company offer you, and are your values aligned?
I look for intellectually curious people, those who can hold an engaging conversation on multiple subjects and who are motivated to make a difference outside of their general job functions to truly grow. Deal breakers are inflexible thinking and a siloed work ethic—I very much value collaboration.
I like to understand a person’s story—where they came from, what has driven them, and the path that led them to connect with Cue Ball. I like to know what resonates with them about the firm, either our thought capital or our portfolio. I will also try to gauge them as a whole person—what was the last book they read, what do they do for fun.
A common mistake I have come across is when an applicant becomes too structured and rehearsed in their answers. I like to be as conversational as possible and can tell right away when someone is telling me what they think I want to hear, which may have the best intention, but comes off as inauthentic.
I tend to have the same conversation with folks—this is the time you are formulating your own point of view—not just what you can add for value for your team and firm, but your own perspective on life, the workplace, culture, and who you are. Be as conscious as possible about what you want to learn, what your values are, and what makes the kid inside you joyful. And make sure that comes to fruition at work.
I’ve felt the most successful in my career when I am the most mindful about the type of person that I am—not just at work, but with my family. When I am not self-reflecting or am becoming too automatic with all that I’m juggling, that’s when I lose momentum and inspiration, and look back and wish I could have done things differently. One time, I was on autopilot and not fully present due to all I was juggling, and I very quickly became overwhelmed. The great thing is that it forced me to reset, but if I had been more present and aware, I would have been able to understand that more things are in my control, as opposed to feeling run by them.
My husband has definitely influenced my career the most. He has always been the one to say that he believes in my capabilities, which has led me to really think about the difference between abilities and capabilities. Anyone can nurture and work toward expertise around a certain ability, but to think about what you are capable of, in terms of pushing yourself and expanding—that has always been enlightening and motivating to me.
My parents have inspired me as well. When they immigrated to the United States, my mother came before my father. She secured a job and an apartment, and when my father arrived, he received his master’s degree and started his own business. They provided my brothers and me with the values and drive to achieve anything we thought possible.
Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for Bostonia’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at email@example.com.
Read other stories in our “Jump-start Your Job Search” series here.