And she’s okay with that illusion.
“I’m great with the world thinking I’m pulled together,” she laughingly told me over Skype. “But, really I’m just like any other mom trying to make it all work.”
“It all” for Valdes is a day that typically starts before dark. She’s up at 4:30 so she can head into her office with Fortify Ventures by 5:30. The commute is anywhere from 1-2 ½ hours depending on traffic, but her husband’s teaching and coaching gig keeps them in their current location, close to family. There aren’t many phone calls to make that early in the morning, so in her head, Valdes makes lists of all the things to do that day. Around 6:30 she talks to her 2 kids—ages 5 & 3–before they head off to school.
When she finally gets into the office, the day could go a thousand different ways. As a General Partner at Fortify, Valdes oversees the accelerator, The Fort. She also plans events, participates in investor relations, and works on deal sourcing. Despite meetings throughout the day, she also joins us all on the quest for inbox zero. She tries to leave the office by 3:30 so she can be home by 5-5:30.
Jonathon Perelli, Managing Director of Fortify, knows he has a stellar partner on his team. He confided over email:
Carla Valdes is the hardest working unsung hero I’ve ever had the opportunity and pleasure to work with. Her enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is contagious and she has a passion for startups that is second only to her passion for her children. Carla’s impact goes well beyond the Fortify portfolio and Washington, DC region. She is a firecracker whose strong heart and sharp mind are fantastic assets and having her as a partner has been a blessing.
After a full day, Valdes does the evening dance we all know and love to hate. Dinner (healthy, if she’s lucky), baths, story, bed. She often falls asleep with or before her kids, alarm set to do it all again the next day.
Yup, it seems like she has it all. But, like any of us, Valdes can point out the things she’s missing.
When I spoke with her via Skype this week, she had the luxury of working from home and was at a local Starbucks for the afternoon. This rare break from the killer commute was only possible, though, because her kids were at the beach for the week. With the kids gone, she and a few interns were working out of her house, and she was excited to feel so productive. But…
“You always have parental guilt,” she pointed out. “The kids are at the beach, and I’m missing the fun. But if they were here, I would feel guilty they weren’t at the beach.”
Parental guilt aside, Valdes doesn’t plan to quit any time soon. Like many moms, she knows if she didn’t work, she would go crazy.
For women that feel the same way, Valdes has a few tips:
- At work, don’t be too nice. It took her awhile, but she finally realized that the polite behaviors—offering drinks, stepping out for a call—made her seem like a secretary. While these behaviors come natural to many women, it can make others second guess your role in the deal and not take you seriously.
- Let the men think you’re pulled together. Valdes thinks the whole conversation about women and work is good for women to have in small circles. It’s good to know we’re not alone in our struggles. But, as far as anyone else needs to know, this whole thing is effortless.
- Forget what you think a perfectly balanced life looks like. It’s like when you give a speech. You may think you bombed it because you forgot this point or didn’t put in that punch line. But the audience doesn’t know what you meant to say. Give yourself a break on those things you think you should be doing and focus on the things you have done.
- Get some “me” time. Valdes admitted she’s actually not the best at this herself. Still, once every month or so, she gets a pedicure all by herself—no kids allowed. “Even if the laptop’s on my lap!” she laughed.
In the middle of a national conversation about work/life balance, Carla Valdes just does it, with a lot of grace. She knows it won’t be perfect, but that’s okay.