Why this CEO Eats No for Breakfast | Business Casual
I got told no a lot. Like thousands of times I have a spreadsheet tracking every single rejection I got. And so eating dough for breakfast and having it be something you conquer versus something that is done to you, I think is such a hopeful mindset. Business casual for Morning Brew.
This is business casual where we chat with people you know, and some you may not know yet and share stories that might surprise you about the trends and tech shaping business and your life right now. I'm your host, Norah Allie. Now let's get down to business. Today I'm sitting down with Heather Palapa. It's difficult to describe Heather in just one sentence or with one label. When her team reached out to our business casual team, they describe her as a feminist, a lifelong politics enthusiast, a daughter of immigrants, a mother raising feminist sons, and a friend of yours.
Well, Hip and I hadn't actually met before this conversation, but we followed each other on socials enough to feel like we knew each other. I was looking forward to chatting with her because Heather is a self-described multihyphenate. She does lots of things. I do lots of things, and it's becoming more common to do lots of things. Instead of choosing one job or a career path. In addition to being the CEO of Roshan Pharmaceuticals up and running a fund focused on investing in women founded companies, HIPA is also the author of We Are Speaking The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris.
In it, she discusses lessons about life, work and overcoming adversity through the lens of Harris's ascent to vice president of the United States. We covered lots of ground, and Heather is full of approachable advice on how to thrive in work and in life. Our conversation with Heather is right after this.
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Get started with real visions investor psychology course at real vision dot com slash business casual. That's real vision dot com slash business casual. Heather I feel like we've commented on each other's tweets a lot. We know of each other in the world of the internet, but this is our first time meeting face to face.
So thanks for joining us on the pod. Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. I want to start with the multi-hyphenate thing, which I know you're probably tired of talking about it, but it's becoming more common now. Is doing a lot of different things not necessary.
Choosing one career path. Is this a phrase that you chose for yourself? Is this a part of your branding intentionally to be able to describe all the different things that you do? Yes, but it was a very lazy intention because I did not know how to describe myself otherwise. And I was really tired of just listing everything. So I was like, I'm a multi-hyphenate and I do a lot of things. I am a multi-hyphenate.
I am an entrepreneur, author and speaker, and everything I do is to advance the lives of girls, women and those who have always been traditionally underrepresented. That's a that's a good personal mission to have. How did you come up with that? And do you think it's important for others to figure out what that personal driving force is so you can help use that to inform the decisions you make in your career? AI comes from my own experience, which I think is probably consistent with a lot of people who have mission driven or purpose driven brands where I remember just being othered for most of my life, being one of the only Indian kids or South Asian kids in my class, let alone my school and work. Being one of the few women when I was in tech and life sciences, and often being the youngest and definitely being one of the few people of color and knowing how one I felt and being othered. But also to recognizing when people took the time to sponsor me and champion me and speak my name in rooms that I wasn't in to also learn to pay it forward and to do the same for others. And I think that's how we build a more equitable world in a more fair world versus the world we have right now.
And so to me, that's what gets me out of bed this morning, is how can I help make the world better today? I think that's that's amazing. So you are obviously raising a family. You're the CEO of a pharma company. You're a partner at a venture firm. You're a keynote speaker. You've written two books.
You have a substack, you have a website, the list goes on and on. How do you compartmentalize on a day to day basis? How do you decide what you're going to tackle in a given day or even in a given hour? And I ask selfishly, because I struggle with this doing a bunch of different businesses, what helps, what helps you? I'm like a big fan of the Pomodoro method, I think. Do I have my clock? I have my clock. Let me show it to you. So can you describe it to our listeners? Oh, love. I love a little time Cube.
So it basically is working and friends of 25 minutes on five minute break and in those 25 minutes you close out absolutely everything else to just focus on that one task. I actually don't use a time cube. I use the forest app on my phone because if you exit out of that app while the timer is still active, you kill a tree, which apparently that kind of very aggressive consequences. Look like a direct consequence. Very. It works for me.
And so it means I can't log on to Instagram or I can't log onto Twitter and putz around and like waste an hour of my time when I could have been focused. So I really have to be punitive with how I work because left to my own devices, I am my own worst enemy and I know that about myself. The second at a more macro level is in how to decide all the things to do. I will say there are definitely chapters for different things taking a priority. You know, truth be told, with investing, we're kind of winding that down. We have an incredible portfolio of companies and we've made investments from extremely early stage.
First check in to joining SPVs at a much later stage, kind of at the pre IPO or acquisition range. And that's been a wonderful experience for us. But it also is like having done it now for seven years for like I think this chapter is closed and I think we're ready to focus on other ventures.
So nothing is I'm not doing all of these things at the same time. And so it's okay to close the chapter or close the book on certain jobs that you've held so you can say out to other opportunities or you can create space in your life to be able to say yes to a dream. Huge opportunity down the line, which is sort of in the mindset I am now certainly with the pharma company. We licensed the product last year, effectively an exit, but our team is still responsible for development. So I'm still all in until we have filed that product with FDA. And at which point I can take a little step back from the day to day of Russian pharma.
This idea of knowing when to close a chapter or sunsetting something you've put a lot of passion into for a long time. I think this can tie into those listeners out there who maybe are thinking about quitting their job to go start something. Does it make sense for me to to quit and take that space and figure it out? Or do you need to have the next thing lined up before you sunset that chapter of your life? Do you have any advice on that? And what has sort of worked for you when going from thing to thing. As far as which is the right option? You know, that really depends on the person. That also depends on the opportunity.
So we've heard that typical financial advice. You should try to have six months of expenses saved and liquid in case of an emergency. You know that emergency can be your own self and wanting to do something new. Now, I will also say it is important to understand what is my plan after those next six months, or whether that's lining up or having a plan to aggressively acquire some freelance clients or consulting clients so you can transition into a next thing.
That's one option for some people. They don't feel comfortable moving on to the next until they have that next thing locked and loaded. And that's wonderful. But also take some time off between each of these chapters because you also need to recharge. We are human. We need to rest and we need to give ourselves space to just be before jumping into something new. So I would actually just ask yourself, who who am I? What do I feel comfortable with? What excites me versus what freaks me out and really take the time, whether it's a journaling or talking to someone, really understand the kind of person you are before you make the decision of what to do.
But I do think there's nothing wrong with closing a chapter or sunsetting one thing. We're never meant to just we are. I talk about in the book that we are some of our multitudes and I think our core I view career very much as a part of that. And you don't have to be just one thing for the rest of your life and you can, if you have the desire to and you can figure out the capacity to do so, juggle multiple things at the same time. I see physician friends of mine who are also incredible online content creators.
I have entrepreneur friends who are also active speakers and have podcasts. I have friends who work in tech at really major companies and are all active in non-for-profit service. So there are a lot of ways to design the life you want and based on what you're also capable of at that moment. So what are my favorite things to do is to just sit with a blank piece of paper and write a letter to my present day self from my future self. Like usually this hat that is like on a yacht in like the Mediterranean, sipping on a aperol spritz and just having taken a swim in the Med and just like living her best life. But that's kind of what I who I write it from.
And, you know, one day that will come true. But that's sort of a really great exercise to say if that's the end goal and that's the vision and that's who I want to be one day, what can help me get there? And that's from book finances perspective, certainly, but also from an impact perspective, like where can I be the most impactful? Where can I be the most useful? And what career is out there aligned with that. Mhm. And I like that your future self, you didn't define her as having a particular job or role. It's the life that you want to be living and it's, it's like you've been sitting on my therapy sessions because the question of who am I is literally something I'm working on with my therapist because it is so tied to to career and job and everything.
So I have I'm now going to do that exercise that you mentioned future Nora writing to present day Nora hit that your book my most recent book is called We're Speaking The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris. And you discuss lessons about life and work and draw on lessons from VP Harris's rise to vice president of the United States. Why did you choose to use her story as the lens through which you wanted to tell this? So Vice President Harris has been a long time hero of mine, and I'll even say mentor, mentor from afar, from when she was attorney general of California. I am very weird in that I get randomly obsessed with things like and I have to go all in and study and analyze it. And it's everything from like the Philadelphia Eagles to F1 to romance novels.
But the Great Recession of 2008 was one of those things where I just was looking at like, How did we get here? How do we make sure this doesn't happen again? And how are we managing the fallout and what are the big parts of the fallout? That fascinated me was the negotiation between the largest banks and the federal and state attorneys general. And when I heard about this attorney general from California who joined the negotiations late because the there was a recount from the election, Kamala Harris walking away from the larger negotiation table because she was so unsatisfied with that number. And it would just be a drop in the bucket of what was actually needed for meaningful relief. I was just like, Whoa, that one was pretty cool. But never having seen a picture of her or even thought to Google her passport a couple of months later, I'm sitting, I'm on a business trip.
I'm sitting on the bed answering emails, have CNN on in the background. And this woman who looks like she could be like my cousin, what strikes to a podium with such confidence and such power and starts talking about the negotiation and the settlement agreed to for California homeowners? And that was at then Attorney General Kamala Harris. And in my mind, I had just pictured someone much older. But, you know, the gray hair, old hat that I typically view political leaders as I had no idea she was that young in such a powerful position. So then my obsession with the financial recession stuff flipped it to Kamala Harris.
And I really perfectly normal. And I really studied who she was, how she got to where she was, her career, but also the way she spoke, the ways she seemed so at home in her clothing. And it wasn't that all of a sudden I was getting sleek blowouts and wearing pantsuits and pearls exclusively, but it almost kind of gave me a blueprint of how do I adapt what works for her, for myself. So in a weird way, I have been writing this book for nine years, but when I was approached to write this book from the publisher Little Brown Spark, a week after the election had been called, I was like, I cannot say no. And then I said, Well, how quickly do you need it? And they're like, How? Two months? And I was like, Yes.
But again, I think if it wasn't for the fact that I had an I had kind of written so much of this granite in like a very scattered notes shop document in my iPhone. For the past, you know, nine years, it would have been a lot harder. But I am so proud of this book. It is the book I myself have needed. And it was very intentional for me to not just make it about career, but also make it about equally about how to have a fulfilling personal life and home life. And I think in so many books they either trust one or the other.
And that's not how our lives are. We have one life and there are times where we have to compartmentalize and there are times we have to integrate and navigate through integration of work and family. And I never saw a blueprint for that of how having a strong family life can really help your career and vice versa. So it was intentional for me to talk about both in this book because she's also very devoted to her family, a phenomenal friend to all her friends. I lost track of how many godchildren she had when I was researching this book.
And, you know, even about her style, you know, as we see now, there's a lot there was a lot of reporting about it, especially around the inauguration. But again, only women have to deal with this. So it's important that we frame it from something we have to deal with, too. How can this make me feel more powerful? How can this make me feel better in my skin? How can I use this to my advantage? And that's what so many of the Kamala isms in this book are about. We'll get to some of the some of the Kamala isms in a second.
But you've created this comprehensive guide to your pointed dresses, not just work, but also your life and living a fulfilled one. So when you get these random obsessions, as you call them, is there usually an end goal that you think your obsession with the financial crisis and then with Kamala Harris would turn into a book? Or was that just a happy accident almost when you when you got approached? I would say it's an extremely happy accident that feels a little bit like fate. So I'm very grateful for it. No, there's no end goal with any of my obsessions.
Like I've been obsessed with Taco Bell since I was like a seven year old girl, and my mother had to bribe me to get to do well in my Bharatanatyam classes in order to get to start a legit. And then I had the opportunity to work with Taco Bell on a and a really impactful series of summits that they hosted for executives and franchisees earlier this year. So it's funny how things work out, but certainly, like, I have no desire to go work in the Philadelphia Eagles front office.
I'm very happy to be a fan. Similarly, no desire to own an F1 team or work in F1. Happy to cheer on Williams and Alex Albon from the side and hate how much I like Lewis Hamilton and how good he is, you know? So also I will never write a romance novel, but I am the world's biggest fan of the genre and will tell you all everyone to read them. And I think that's that's okay. Not everything has to become a business or a major project act some things in your life can just be for because they bring you joy. But you never know.
Your love for Taco Bell could turn into a business endeavor. You just never know. So hit the getting to the Kamala isms. What are some of the most unexpected or underrated Kamala isms that you'd like to highlight? I think eating for breakfast is one I have come back to the most, especially as an entrepreneur who how to raise money and negotiate a major deal. I got told no a lot. Like thousands of times.
I have a spreadsheet tracking every single rejection I got from either from an investor, a fund or a potential partner. And so eating dough for breakfast and having it be something you conquer versus something that is done to you, I think is such a hopeful mindset for especially women or people who are underestimated to internalize and adopt for themselves. So for me, I kind of had a learned how to flip that, to say, how many no's can I get today to fuel me to send those pitch emails and ask for introductions? You know, I get told no a lot by my children.
I think it's a very helpful. Motherhood is like the best preparation to be an entrepreneur ever because you learn how to really manage your time well and get used to rejection very well. But that requires a different like headspace on how to deal with the nose of irrational, tiny humans who don't know why they're saying no. They're very impulsive. So that forces me to be a little bit more patient and a little bit more mindful. With that, I know I'm going to hear no 8 million times this morning.
So what can I do to get myself in a good headspace, to keep my cool and to what can I just have ready to, like, push through the nose and get them to school on time. And it sounds like there's there's not just lessons for entrepreneurs in motherhood, but just management generally. What is some advice you have for others who are just starting on their fundraising journey and might be daunted by it and might also hate it because it is one of the scarier parts of entrepreneurship? I think preparation is a really big step, first step. So don't just pitch willy nilly, do your homework to create a really targeted list of individual investors and funds that you think are the right fit for you. Ask fellow founder friends if you could practice your pitch on them and ask them to be brutally honest and give you all the all the data. I will say that can also be very subjective.
So take everything with a grain of salt and well-intentioned advice doesn't sit right with you. Really dig in to understand why don't be in such a hurry to change your deck based on the feedback of one person. But if you've heard similar feedback from 3 to 5 people, that's a good enough amount of data for you to say, huh? They have. Maybe they have a point.
Let me think about how I can repossession this and then I'll finish with Don't pitch your dream investor first. Get a few practice sessions under your belt maybe get to the that the group that you're like, I'm not thrilled about them but they could be a good fit and get some of that practice under your belt before you go after the one you really want to land. And also work your network. Work your network to get as many introductions as you can as unfortunately funds are starting to change, but unfortunately that's still kind of the M.O.
for successfully landing venture. And then the last thing I'm going to say is make sure your business really requires venture or outside investors. Sometimes not all businesses need outside investors like that. If you're not building a rocket ship, you are going to have a very hard time raising from those types of institutions. So also consider and educate yourself on other kinds of capital that is out there because that might be a better fit for your business. So understanding why am I fund raising and is venture or angel investors or family offices really the right fit for the business I am building? Can I comfortably project what they need to see and do what I need to do with the capital I'm raising and I'm comfortable giving up that much for my company.
Mm. I think it's become so glamorized, this idea of raising funds because then you get published in TechCrunch and you can post it on your social media. So that's, I think that's really excellent advice is make sure it actually makes sense for you and go through dress rehearsals with you are maybe not top choice of investors so you can get to that that top person eventually hit that. In your book, you also discuss finding your North Star and using that approach to guide your decisions in life and work. What has been your process and in identifying your North Star and what do you mean by that? So my North Star is a little clunkier than some people's is. It really is to help people and women, namely save time and energy on the things they have to do.
So they have more time and energy to do the things they actually want to do. And that was sort of the underlying thesis of his on the go. It has been the what spurred five smart reads. I had noticed that people were getting myself included, incredibly overwhelmed with the news, and there wasn't an opportunity to just get a sense of a nice snapshot of what was happening that you weren't seeing on the front page or trend on Twitter or in the clearance of cable news. Are you able to say, I'm going to read this, I'm going to get some I'm going to learn about what's happening in the world that I wouldn't otherwise have learned.
And then I'm going to go on with my life and just feel a little bit more informed. And that was the impetus of that. My pharmaceutical career obviously has been an incredible opportunity to work on life saving drugs that will save people's lives, I hope, and the types of drugs that we've worked on, which are five of IPI two. So they're improved versions of existing drugs.
You know, that's to save money for people who otherwise can't afford it and try to help shift the health care system in the direction I think it needs to be and which is on impact and value, not necessarily profit margin, which is my one little drop in the ocean of health care policy and trying to shift it in the direction I think it needs to go to. So that has been, you know, what has driven me in everything I've done. And I think that's also the same for my investing journey.
So it doesn't have to be super eloquent. And if the idea of a single vision is really intimidating to you, consider a North constellation. What are a few things that you find hope in that you want to be known for or written on your tombstone or in your obituary? When you've passed that you are known for? Consider that and consider words or even goals that fit that and paint a beautiful little picture for yourself in the sky for you to focus on. Because at any given point, you could focus on one of those stars that make up the constellation but know that, you know, life changes and so can't our direction and so can our goals or the impact we want to make.
So a constellation might be a more hopeful mindset for you than a North Star. I've never heard that before in North Constellation. I love that. And as you're trying to figure out what your North Star is, you're north constellation. There's a lot of choices you have to make.
We talk about imposter syndrome a lot. Of course, and you talk about this notion of borrowed confidence to harness strength and confidence at work and in life. What do you mean by borrowed confidence? So this is a term that my friend Dara came up with and she put it on an Instagram story and I was like, I'm going to need more.
I think you need to like, this needs to be a feat post. This could be adult book, just throwing it out there, but it is this notion of how you view yourself is often defined by one little thing that didn't go according to plan. Meanwhile, you ignore the great body of work, all of your accomplishments, all the great things you have done, all the people who respect you and value you in your personal and professional lives that really do define who you are. So when you're feeling low and you're letting that one or two things bear down on you, borrow the confidence that other people having you to get, shift your mindset into a more empowered tone and a helpful tool of doing that is creating a hype file. So I have an photos album that are screenshots of emails and demands and messages from folks who I've told and taken the time to tell me how something I did helped them or how they see me.
And it is such a beautiful thing to visit on a regular basis to remind myself of who I am and not to find myself by one thing that didn't go as planned or a mistake I made. And so I think everybody should have a high file. I am notorious of sending my friends text messages like Start with for your high file and literally just sending them a love letter, text or email.
That's lovely. I used to do that back, back in the day when I worked at on Wall Street and I was very stressed and there's more downs than ups. And I had a I didn't call it a height file, but it was nice comments I saved in a folder and I totally forgot about that.
So thank you. I will restart keeping a high file. You also talk about just developing your own unique voice and style in the workplace. And it's a, you know, a challenge no matter who you are. But you posit that it's particularly important for women in the workplace. Why is that? And what do you mean by coming up with your own personal style? I do not mean to reinforce kind of sexist dated tropes, but when I say this, it's really just to call out the truth.
No matter who you are, we will all be judged by how we look because that is the first impression we make to anyone. And we are also doing that judging no matter how much we say we look at a person's character and not how they look. That said, there is a way to define this on your terms and say, what do I want people to know about me? Based on that immediate appearance? So something Stacey Abrams had mentioned that I thought was really powerful, as she said, I do not look like your idea of a politician. I am a tall, heavier black woman with a woman with natural hair.
She goes, Now I take the time to make sure my clothes are tailored to my body type that I wear, what makes me feel comfortable. And I go in and I have my hair styled and cut frequently. So it looks neat and it but it's also true to who I am.
So I would say shift this from I have to look a certain way to how do I want to show up? What do I want people to know about me based on what I choose to wear and how I choose to style my hair and do my makeup and the accessories I wear. And I think when you flip the script of this is how someone will perceive me and judge me by to This is my armor and this is my war paint. It kind of can help you say, Well, who am I? Who do I want to represent to the world around me? And so for me, I kind of joke that you get like anyone gets three versions of me, which is like polished boss ass bitch, like decked out in like a tailored dress.
Like very much like the GM from Rebecca, from TED Lasso, who is my icon as well, like a schlubby teenage boy where I'm wearing ripped jeans and old t shirts and a baseball hat or, you know, the future. Me on a yacht and all morphe like a crazy caftan and big jewelry and some kind of pair of ridiculous shoes that are always flat because I'm just not doing heels after the pandemic just now. But these these different versions of yourself, I think that's why, in part, you've been able to grow your your social media is your your real self.
It's not just this polished version of you just just last week. So this is where we want to know what your moonshot idea is. It's your wildest ambition, your biggest dream.
It is your chance, HIPA, to shoot your shot and put it out there. My biggest dream is to be a host on The View because I. I have had to create really all the platforms and many of these opportunities for myself. And I would just like to be a part of something that is established, that has incredible reach. And also, I love discussing everything from the serious to the frivolous.
So I would love to be one of the wise women who sits at that table every day. And that would be that's me. You know, my shot. So any producers anyone's listening. Yes. Or make your own the view.
If that doesn't have to be the view can be hit does view or Pippa's happy whatever. I'm not good at coming up with names for things. Okay. I love that. So hit the wants to be on The View.
All right. Next question is what is the best thing you saw this week? It could be a video, an article, a tik tok. Anything that made you happy. Tom Cruise in Maverick in Top Gun. Maverick. I, I mean, I wore like a green flight suit that I saw.
Yeah. Yes. Ready for the event. And it's like me and a bunch of, like six year old men just sobbing in the movie theater.
Like my mask was soaking wet after I was finished. I just thought it was phenomenal. Amazing. I've seen plenty of people sipping over Miles Teller on my tiktoks. There's a lot of shirtless video clips of him, so that's the main reason I want to see it.
Okay, next stop, Heather. We have a game that we'd like to play with you, and this is our first time testing it out, so we hope you like it. It's quick. It's easy, it's fun. We're calling it Two Beats and a Miss, and it's our own business. Casual version of two truths and a lie. I'm sure you've played that before.
So, Heather, it's only one question, but I hope you nail it because this is right up your alley. Which of the following statements about Vice President Kamala Harris is a mis a.k.a false so to or true to our beats? And one is a myth. One is false. A She met her husband on a blind date.
B She loves tuna melts and c she is five three. Which one does not belong? Three doesn't belong. She's actually five two. How did you just know that I stop here so quickly? Dig, dig, dig. You are absolutely right. She's five two. Was this part of your research or is this is this common knowledge? No, it is part of the research. But also, I met her.
I had the opportunity to meet her. And I was like, I expected you to be like five, eight. And she goes, I have tall woman energy, but I am not tall. My, my mother. Was. A whopping 411. Amazing.
I'm I'm five two and a half so I guess I tower over V.P. HARRIS So the tuna melt thing I'm sure you recall the senator, Mark Warner, who made the disgusting tuna mal where it was like soggy. He didn't drain the tuna. He microwaved it. And then Kamala Harris did a little tutorial for him on an Instagram live or something, and she fixed it. So I didn't know that one, but it's nasty.
Amazing. Well, Heather, you nailed it. Thank you for making our first time doing two beats and a miss a success. And thank you for joining us on Business Casual. This is so fun. Thank you so much for having me.
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