What It’s Like
What It’s Like … to Achieve Incredible Professional Success
Heidi Roizen: role model, venture capitalist and founder of SkinnySongs
-Julie Ryan Evans
Heidi Roizen has a resume and a list of accomplishments that would be the envy of business-school students and seasoned professionals alike. After getting her MBA at Stanford, she cofounded an extremely successful software company, T/Maker, and then held a VP position at Apple and became a venture capitalist. Roizen has been known to pal around with power players such as Bill Gates and venture capitalist Ann Winblad and is one of the most well-known and respected names in Silicon Valley.
Most recently, she started her own business, SkinnySongs, which provides a collection of catchy, get-stuck-in-your-head, motivational songs for weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. (Click here for The Bettys’ review of SkinnySongs). Betty recently caught up with Roizen to find out what it’s like to be in her shoes.
What is it like to achieve such incredible professional success and to be such a role model for other women?
Gosh, you make that sound good! Honestly, I was lucky to have been born and raised in Silicon Valley so that I was here in the early ’80s and able to participate in the personal computer revolution just as it was taking off. It has been very gratifying (tough on some days, but also incredibly rewarding) to start a company from scratch with my brother and end up as CEO for 14 years. We built great products and a great company; many of my former coworkers are among my best friends. Now it is a real pleasure to meet and talk to the next generation of women entrepreneurs – I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible with all the technology that has been created.
Please describe your typical day.
I get up at 6:45 a.m. and serve as the alarm clock for my two teenage daughters and my husband. He and I have our quality-time, five-minute coffees together, then he leaves for the hospital (he’s a doctor), and I drive my older daughter to school. When I get home, I almost always have an 8:15 ‘walk and talk’ meeting with someone – every day, about 2.5 miles with a little hill. I also have a weight-lifting meeting scheduled every day. I figure people do business over lunch or cocktails, so why not over barbells and sneakers? Sometimes people are a bit surprised when I suggest doing so, but they end up loving to do meetings that way. Who knows, maybe I’ll start a new trend! Anyway, then the rest of the day can be conference calls, e-mails, meetings related to my SkinnySongs business or my corporate director duties, interviews or even crazy stuff – like, today I donned a wet suit and went out on the San Francisco Bay on an AquaSkipper – a fitness device I was a guinea pig for, for a local tv station. Every day is different, which is what I love about the job I have. Finally, at about 6 or 7 p.m. I break, and then it is family time again till bedtime. I try to throw some reading in there (maybe an hour a day) somewhere, usually right before bed.
What drives you?
I’m a doer by nature; I have a hard time sitting still. I love to meet new people and learn new things. I am also success-oriented; I like to have a list of things I want to accomplish and then check them off! I’m not great at vacation.
What inspired you to start SkinnySongs?
Necessity is the mother of invention. I had hit an all-time weight high and was desperate to find some motivation that would keep me on track as I embarked on a weight-loss and fitness regimen. I was heading to a meeting one morning and steeling myself mentally to resist the chocolate chip cookies that I knew would be in the center of the conference-room table. As I turned on my car, the CD player came on, with some ‘chick empowerment’ music I had put in there – things like Carrie Underwood and Pink’s amazing song “18-wheeler.” That’s when the idea struck me: Music is such a powerful motivator, so why can’t there be music that would motivate me to do what I needed to do – avoid those cookies and hit the gym? I went looking for it but couldn’t find anything that was what I was looking for – upbeat, radio-quality, sassy, hip music that would be as fun to listen to as Carrie Underwood or Pink but with lyrics that would be positive and motivating. So I just had to do it myself!
Can music really motivate us back into our skinny jeans?
Well, it worked for me. I’ve lost more than 30 pounds and went from a size 14 to a size 8. But more important, I am getting fan mail from people almost daily who tell me that it has helped them. In particular, the song “You Da Boss” gets a lot of fan mail. It is about conquering your relationship with food and being Da Boss; it’s for all of us emotional eaters out there.
What is it like to be a woman in the male-dominated venture capital industry, and has being a woman affected your career – for better or worse – over the years?
I think there are times gender is an issue – and frankly, in both directions. Sometimes, yes, there is discrimination. But sometimes you stand out precisely because you are a petunia in the onion patch, so to speak. I believe my software company got more coverage than it would have had I been just another guy. Luckily, Silicon Valley is by and large a meritocracy, and in the software business, the customers certainly didn’t care if I was a man or a woman.
Who are some of the most interesting people you get to hang out with every day? And we have to ask … what’s Martha Stewart really like in person?
Hah, every day? That would be my husband, who is an orthopedic oncologist and former special forces guy; he’s pretty interesting! I have a group of great female friends – including venture capitalist Ann Winblad – who are great sounding boards and mutual-support-society members, plus workout buddies. I have gotten to know well some of the captains of tech – folks like Bill Gates, Scott McNealy, Bill Campbell – who are all terrific people and have become friends of mine. And last but not least, Martha Stewart was very nice and very gracious when I was on her show, a class act!
How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
My first tip is if you are doing something you love as your work, you get more personal benefit out of that than you would otherwise have to find in your spare time! And you meet other fellow travelers who also become, at least in my case, lifelong friends, so the line between your professional life and your personal life becomes pretty blurry. I do try to block time for exercise, to make sure it gets done – as I said above, I often multitask that, so it is also work time. Finally, I try to step away from the computer by 7 p.m. and not revisit it, so I am not distracted from my family. There’s always more e-mail, after all….
1. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional puppeteer.
2. What type of kids did you hang out with in high school?
A wide variety. I was a cheerleader, so I hung out with my squad, but also with the fellow math and science gearheads.
3. What women from the past do you most identify with?
Dolley Madison, Estee Lauder, Grace Hopper.
4. What’s your workout?
2.5-mile walk every day; 45 minutes of weight lifting every day.
5. Cat or dog?
Two dogs – mutts.
6. What do you do when you want to completely tune out?
Watch Entertainment Tonight, take a bath, read People magazine, read a great book.
7. What book is sitting on your shelf waiting to be read?
Just started The Snowball – the biography of Warren Buffett.
8. If you could have dinner with any two people, who would you choose?
Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.
9. What is the one thing you want or do not want the next generation of girls to encounter?
That they grow up knowing they can do and be anything they want, no limits because of their gender.
10. If there were one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?
Such a hard question! More free time.