Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors, is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one”.
"Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder."
Episode #35 - Shira Eting, Investor at Vintage Investment Partners
Shira is a daughter to a father who is a pilot and a psychoanalyst mom. She was born and raised in an atmosphere where freedom of choice is present and a message that everything is possible - gender doesn’t play a role.
When she was 10 years old - she remembers the first woman who graduated from the Israeli Air Force Flight Academy - a significantly meaningful moment in her life.
Growing up - she did her “Shnat Sherut” (volunteer service year) at Kanot - another milestone that emphasizes her values and some of the choices she'll make later on in life. During her time Volunteering - the bubble exploded. She saw many young men and women who were very talented - but denied opportunity due to their life circumstances. It strengthened a few building blocks of her social activity path - to think of others, to volunteer and to be resilient.
Being a woman pilot at the IAF
Alice Miller paved the way for women to serve as pilots in the Israeli Air Force. Back then, as an 18 year old girl - Shira wanted to prove that she has the same skills and attributes for success just as the boys have. Over the years - she saw and felt first hand the gaps in the perception and reality - as women are a minority, there are logistical & operational gaps, soft skills gaps and there is a way to bridge those gaps.
So how did she cope as a woman?
- She had a lot of support from her family and friends
- She asked herself - “What does it take to succeed?” And the answer was - “I need to be more like a man. Men don’t cry, men are very assertive” - she wanted to be one of the guys.
The grown-up Shira knows today that men are men, women are women, and instead of making us be like them as the rightful standard - both in the IDF and society - we need to enable women to be themselves, as long as we’re not compromising the end result.
Shira took a lot from her service as a helicopter pilot:
- Her inner confidence which is rooted in her professionalism in everything she does
- Accuracy - doing things all the way through and in the best way possible
- Debriefing - both the good & bad results
- Start with our strengths - the things we know we’re good at
- Resilience and grit - Shira spent 8.5 years in the IAF
Out of her comfort zone
8.5 years of military service - and Shira had to choose whether to leave or stay. Leaving - meant letting go of her dream to be a commander, and moreover - she had no idea what she was leaving for. She had a lot of unanswered questions.
What helped her?
- Going to therapy with a psychologist
- Acknowledging her blind spots, something which some people who are driven by their ego don’t do, as they are blocked by their arrogance
- Enabling herself not knowing and learning how to be humble about it
- Shira has a metaphor she likes to use: I have a very strong right arm - now I have to strengthen my left arm
First step in strengthening her left arm - was going to learn sustainability at Oxford. It was eye-opening. Everyone there was brilliant. Everyone had better English. Once again - Shira asked herself - “What do I need to do to be better than them?”
This ability to have a clear view on the situation, being able to reflect to ourselves on our deepest fears - is a virtue that Shira has been caring for since her flight academy years.
She applied to McKinsey in London, but wasn't accepted. She came back to Israel. She wanted to focus on sustainability - but understood she misses the economic angle. And the same question came to mind - “What do I need to do to be better at it?”
She went to Milken Institute in Israel - to learn economics - but from a more mature perspective, where she knows she can’t know it all, yet she wants to be better. At this point, Shira emphasizes the risk of getting out of focus - when we're going too wide in our ‘not knowing' feeling, trying to grasp too much, instead of accepting the fact that we won’t know everything - and that’s totally OK.
Shira applied again - this time to McKinsey Israel - again, strengthening her left arm. She was there for 18 months and it was an amazing school for her. The horrible disaster at Nahal Zafit happened, and Shira felt an urgent need to help. The stars aligned, her way to give back - Shira joined Mechinat Bnei Zion as a CEO, to lead the organization, re-build the place, bring methods from the IAF - all connected to her own experience as a younger woman at Kanot.
But it was too early, too hurtful, and she understood she cannot bring her vision into these complex circumstances. As much as she wanted it to work - she could understand the pain of the others who didn't. With zero energy, she had to listen to herself. It's time to leave. Shira found out once again that she has the strength to make brave decisions. Her picture on her phone - “be yourself” - was a clue to what will come next.
She then joined Vintage investment Partners - a $3b investment fund that invests in funds and companies. She needed to feel grounded, stable. Working in one of the largest funds in Israel - Shira makes investments in venture funds and companies, working with amazing people, focusing on health and sustainability. It’s a great school for her, and once again - she embraces her blind spots and sees it as a growth engine.
The “Be yourself” pic was vivid. Shira was single for 2 years, frustrated by her friends getting married and having children. Then she met Shani. She decided to listen to herself - and in a brave way - she shared it with her parents and friends.
Shira knew deep down inside her she was interested in women, since she was a young girl, but she didn't make room for those feelings. Being ‘part of the boys’ during flight academy, reaching the highest achievements - it was always convenient not to dive deeper with herself. Only when she hit the lowest of lows - she found herself.
Shira and Shani are expecting a baby girl. The mature Shira, who instructs future pilots and lectures to young entrepreneurs - focuses on the following, all are part of her own life journey:
- Always believe in yourself - and have a vivid picture of how you can succeed
- Debrief your actions - both good and bad results
- Keep on your resilience in the path life takes you
- Listen to your own voice and live according to it.