In Conversation with Lucy Tan: Navigating the World of VC and Motherhood at Square Peg

In our latest interview, Lucy Tan, Principal at Square Peg, shares her insights on blending a dynamic career in venture capital with the adventures of new motherhood.

From rigorous calendar management to embracing the support network, Lucy walks us through her strategies for balancing professional responsibilities and family life. With a background in consulting and a passion for edtech and fintech, she talks about how she stays abreast of industry trends while managing her demanding role. Her story is an inspiring example for working parents navigating their own journey towards work-life harmony.

Hey Lucy, it’s great to have you with us! With your busy role at Square Peg and a background in consulting, can you walk us through a typical day in your life and how you keep everything organised?

I run my entire life off of the work calendar (just so that it’s one consolidated view). I block out time for sourcing, portfolio work, diligence, writing articles, and so on. If the time isn’t blocked in the calendar, it’s just not going to happen. So I’m pretty rigorous about calendar management!

A typical day will look like 3-4 founder meetings, 1-2 catch-ups with other VCs, some time with the Square Peg team – for example, when we discuss our weekly pipeline or when we do diligence calls together –  and some time with our portfolio company founders, both informal or board-related. 

Congrats on becoming a mum! That’s a big shift. How are you finding the balance between being a parent and your professional life? Any tips for other working parents out there?

I’ve loved becoming a mum for the first time, and I’ve found that it’s also given me a deeper appreciation for my work and the time I get to spend with exceptional founders.

I’m finding that my Saturdays and Sundays have changed and they are much more intense than they used to be, particularly as on weekends I transition into full-on mum mode. I now welcome Mondays and the working week as a bit of a reprieve from a super busy weekend! 

As for my tips for other working parents: don’t be afraid to accept all the help that’s on offer! I was grateful my mum was able to come down to Melbourne for three months and help me out, and I’ve also set up a bench of babysitters I’m able to call on. I’d also recommend making friends with other parents with kids around the same age. ANY HELP is amazing and welcome. 

Working in venture capital must be intense. What are your go-to methods for unwinding and keeping a healthy balance between work and your personal life?

It goes back to diligent calendar management. If there are things I want to prioritise in relation to my own personal health and well-being (for example, exercise classes), I make sure I block the time out for those activities so the time can’t be booked over. If there are non-negotiables I have to do as a parent – for example, taking my baby to a doctor’s appointment, or picking her up from daycare – those are also slots I block out and plan for well in advance.

You’ve experienced the worlds of both consulting and venture capital. How does your decision-making process differ in these areas, and where does finding balance fit into this?

In consulting, you’re not the decision-maker. You’re the adviser to the decision-maker and it’s your job to come equipped with the facts and expertise to make a recommendation or lay out all the options. 

In VC, you are a decision-maker when it comes to the point of investment, for example, whether or not you have enough conviction in the opportunity and the founding team, to want to write them a multi-million dollar cheque. Of course, it’s not solely on you as we have rigorous investment processes and we can leverage the full team’s expertise to diligence an opportunity, but ultimately if you’re the one leading the deal, it has to be you banging your hands on the table to get it across the line.

That being said, once the investment is made, you actually switch your mindset again and it’s more similar to consulting where you’re not the decision maker. You become the adviser again, only this time it’s to the founder rather than an ASX 100 executive.  

You’re passionate about edtech and fintech. How do you keep up with all the latest trends in these fast-paced sectors while managing your workload at Square Peg?

Typically the way we approach thematic work is to form a small group that’s all interested in the same topic. On edtech, it was me, James Tynan and Katherine Han. In fintech, it was me, Dan Krasnostein and Casey Flint. We set up a regular cadence where we each bring the things we’re reading on that topic, the founders we’ve met building in that space and our evolving theses. Then at the end, we may produce an article or two for our blog that summarises our theses. 

And lastly, what’s your golden piece of advice for others, especially new parents, trying to find their footing in balancing a demanding career and family life?

I think just be honest with yourself about the trade-offs you’re making and embrace them. For me, I got massive FOMO during my maternity leave and I know I’m hardwired like this so I just have to be honest with myself about that. I didn’t want to come back in a part-time capacity and feel like I was missing out on deal flow or couldn’t be relied on during fast-moving diligence.

But in coming back to work full time 4 months later, I have to accept that 1) my partner and I need to do a lot of planning to figure out how we split baby duties, and 2) I’m probably going to get sick a lot in the first couple of months as my baby adjusts to daycare (this has turned out to be true… I’m still going through it).

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.