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Stacey Leaños – Bay City Capital: Leveraging Good Luck

Stacey LeañosWhen Stacey Leaños decided to pursue a full time MBA program through the Mills College Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business, she knew she wanted to keep her job in venture capital. Doing so required some serious time management skills. Since earning her MBA, the bar has risen even higher: “I have two children, and I realize that going to graduate school and working at the same time was easy compared to what I do now!” she laughs.

Stacey is Senior Director of Marketing and Investor Relations at Bay City Capital. Bay City specializes in managing investment funds in the life sciences industry. She started out as an analyst, crunching numbers and doing financial modeling. Stacey quickly realized that she loved talking to investors, building their confidence in a fund. “Most people here have science backgrounds in medicine or research. My side is working with the people who give us the money. Our investor base is highly educated non-scientists – we need to talk to them in terms that they will understand.”

She ended up at Bay Capital as the result of a fortuitous coincidence. They shared office space with the firm where she worked as an analyst, and she got to know the company on a firsthand basis, as neighbors. “One day I ended up in an elevator with the founder and we struck up a conversation that continued. I told him I wanted to work more closely with companies. He invited me to consider Bay Capital. It was a curveball I hadn’t anticipated and it was the best career decision I ever made.”

Stacey makes a philosophy of embracing the unexpected. “You have to be flexible and allow things to happen organically,” she says. “You have to know you’re not always going to be in control. I was just married when the opportunity at Bay City Capital came up. My husband asked if this was part of my plan. It wasn’t. But if I had stuck to my plan I would have missed the opportunity to find a job I love.”

“As an undergraduate, I had no idea what venture capital was,” says Stacey. “I always tell young people, you’re going to find out along the way what you want to do. Opportunities present themselves.”

Stacey took full advantage of one career changing opportunity when she decided to get her MBA. At the time, Bay City was growing fast and expanding its investor base. The firm had a new need for someone to focus on investor relations. “Getting my MBA helped pave the road for me to take on a new position in the firm,” she says. “I stepped into a new role after finishing my MBA. It worked out perfectly.”

A small firm (Bay City Capital is about 30 employees) suits Stacey, in the same way that a small college did. “I chose Mills as an undergraduate because I didn’t like the idea of a big school format,” she recalls. “Every time I called the college, I spoke with a real person. I knew my professors, ate dinner at their houses.” She returned to Mills for her MBA through the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business. “I was able to complete the program in one year because I had all the prerequisites from my time as an undergraduate majoring in business economics.”

Pursuing a graduate degree while working full time required careful planning. Stacey worked two days a week in the office. On other days, she worked from home in the morning and attended classes in the afternoon and evening. “I have good time management skills,” she says. “I had a Blackberry, and when I had a break from class, I would check in with the firm to see what was going on. I budgeted my time very carefully. On weekends, I would get up at 6 am and do all of my reading before my husband woke up.”

That discipline continues to serve Stacey as a working mother with two young daughters. “My husband and I work really well as a two career household,” she says. “One of us drops the girls off in the morning and one of us picks them up in the afternoon. I read a book called “Getting to 50/50,” and it’s all about how we can let go as mothers and allow fathers to become more involved. Does it really matter if the kids go to preschool in stripes and plaids? I’m a better mother because I work.”

Working in a job she loves at a firm where she enjoys the support of close colleagues enables Stacey to learn and grow. She finds the work satisfying on a number of levels. “At the end of the day, it’s about bringing new healthcare products to the market to help people,” she says. “We work with diagnostic companies, companies that produce medical devices. We help companies along as they go through clinical trials. We create jobs and move our small piece of the economy along. I feel happy to be in a place like this, contributing to that kind of progress.”

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