An Evening 'In Conversation' with Katie Leviten
Not living with regret, not being closed to job titles, and ensuring a work-life balance were some of the key highlights of our virtual ‘In Conversation’ with Katie Leviten (Class of 2006) on Monday 22nd February.
In an interview conducted by fellow alumna and journalist, Amber Haque (Class of 2010), the venture capitalist was welcomed by Head Mistress, Helen Jeys, and candidly spoke to an audience of over 100 people about life after Manchester High.
Amber began by asking Katie about her early career highlights following completion of her A-levels and subsequent degree in Human Sciences at Oxford. She admitted, “I really did not know what I wanted to do for a career – the only thing I did know was I wanted to have a career with no regrets.”
It was following a lecture with Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, James Caan, that she got her first break. Always the opportunist, she asked him for an apprenticeship (which she got) and within three months had secured a promotion. Still unsure of the direction she wanted to take her career, she then enjoyed a stint working on ‘The One Show’.
Katie explained “I had always been fixated with television and wanted a role in the BBC so this was an exciting opportunity!” However, still unsatisfied, she began to explore other career options within finance, applying for a role within fast SME company Innocent where she worked as a category manager. It was this move that led to Katie being asked to come on board at JamJar, the brand new Venture Capital Investment fund that the three Innocent founders set up.
She said, “It wasn’t until I became a partner within JamJar Investments that I really felt that I had found a role and career I loved.” She continued “It is the people-side that inspired me - people are central to my work and as a venture capitalist you invest in them and their good ideas. They are crucial to successful business and business growth.”
The virtual audience were keen to pose questions to Katie about what makes a person stand out in a pitch; the effects of the recent pandemic on the profession and the experience of being a woman in a male dominated environment.
In true Man High fashion, she was quick to point out that she did not see any barriers in her gender and that being in the minority was actually very “powerful”. Katie also spoke passionately about work/life balance and the importance of down time and holidays. “People are more creative and productive when they have had rest and time away from work.” This has become more obvious to her since she became a mother and she now extolls the virtues of venture capitalism as a flexible profession for working mothers. Indeed for Katie, she hopes that one of the positives to come out of Covid-19 will be that other industries will also adopt a more flexible approach to working as well.
Amber concluded by asking Katie to reflect on her time at Manchester High School for Girls and the impact it has had on her career. “I like the fact we were always encouraged to to ask questions and have healthy debates on all kinds of topics,” she replied. “Some of my favourite memories include the amazing teaching and teachers but also the lifelong friendships I have made.”
For one of those former teachers, Mrs Jeys, the evening was truly inspiring. She said “I was delighted to have spent the evening with two members of our school community who have gone on to become strong women in their fields.”
If you missed this event, you can watch the full recording here: https://youtu.be/3xW0OGegoKA