I had the pleasure of receiving an early copy of It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage, the debut book by Arlan Hamilton. If you don’t know who Arlan Hamilton is, she’s a world renowned venture capitalist and the founder of Backstage Capital, a venture firm that has already invested in over 100 companies dedicated to supporting
underrepresented underestimated founders. I’ve been following Arlan’s work for a couple of years now and believe that she is the real deal. Reading and listening to her story of sleeping in SFO to now traveling around the world (before COVID-19 hit, of course) keynoting conferences, leading panels, and raising millions for her fund, has made her a huge inspiration to me and plenty of others!
One thing that stood out to me about It’s About Damn Time was how clearly Arlan’s voice shines through the pages. I’ve watched multiple videos of talks Arlan has given and have listened to nearly all of the podcasts she’s spoken on (check out her podcast, Your First Million). Reading this book felt like I was in those rooms listening to her conversations and at times felt like it was 1-on-1! This is the first time I have ever done a book review and I am eager to discuss the main insights I received from the book and how Arlan’s story resonates beyond the world of venture capital and directly to grad students. Let’s get it started!
Arlan had so many gems throughout her book, so it was a bit tough to choose the most memorable ones! Here are three quotes that stuck out to me the most and have made me reflect more deeply about my journey in academia:
Chase what inspires, invigorates, and refuels you. If you do that, success will find you. It will chase you in return.
In grad school, it can be easy to fall into the “trap” of being stuck in a research project or field you’re not passionate about. During my first year, I found myself in a situation where I was content with my research but I wasn’t fully passionate about it. I came to realize that this wasn’t what I wanted to do and took time to find what really inspires me. Since this shift in my research goals, I’ve found myself to be invigorated by all of the possibilities that my research holds for me and definitely feel “refueled”. I’m involved in a variety of research projects that I know will be successful and am eager to expand my domain expertise even further.
I will not shrink myself to make someone else more comfortable. I deserve to be in the room.
This quote reminded me of impostor syndrome, something that many grad students struggle with. Feelings of impostor syndrome are exacerbated even further by other factors such as being from an underrepresented group, experiencing microaggressions, and self-doubt. As the only Black woman or even the only Black person in many spaces I occupy, I do find myself “shrinking” at times. I’ve learned that not only does this make me even more uncomfortable, it heightens my sense of feeling like an “impostor”. It’s a tough journey to navigate, but I find that being in affirming spaces is one way I’ve been able to combat this.
When you expand people’s perception of what is possible, you enable them to think bolder, dream bigger, and achieve more.
I believe that part of my responsibility as a grad student and as a Black, Nigerian-American woman pursuing a PhD is to inspire the next generation of underrepresented students in computing and related fields. I know that my presence and the space I take up enables younger students to do exactly what Arlan said: “think bolder, dream bigger, and achieve more”. I spend a lot of my time mentoring students and have benefited from mentors and older graduate students who took the time to do the same for me. It’s only right that I pass it on!
I hope this review was helpful to you and maybe even persuaded you to learn more about Arlan Hamilton and her amazing journey! You can buy It’s About Damn Time directly from Penguin Random House or through other retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Thanks for reading! You can catch up on my previous posts here. Feel free to share this post and follow me on all social media platforms @CollegeSista! Have questions about applying to grad school, life as a graduate student, or Cornell in particular? You’re welcome to contact me on LinkedIn or through email!