Shruti Gandhi of Array Ventures recently sat down with Leslie Miley of Venture for America (VFA) and previously Director of Engineering at Slack to discuss his story on the latest [Array] Podcast. Prior to heading to VFA, Leslie worked at Google, Apple, Twitter, and eventually became Director of Engineering at Slack. However, he had a steep, uphill climb to get to where he is now. Here’s what we can take away from his story:
- Against All Odds
Leslie has overcome many obstacles in his life. As a child, his father had a steady job working the assembly line at General Motors. However, when his father lost his job, everything fell apart. Leslie’s family and in fact the entire neighborhood of San Jose, CA struggled due to the factory shutting down. Leslie dropped out of college at University of Kansas and started helping out the family. Economic opportunities were limited for him.
From there he found opportunities to work at jobs as a security guard, sales, and eventually engineering. He started working at Apple as a security guard during the graveyard shift and noticed the engineers who were also working late.
Through his late night conversations, Leslie realized he wanted to be an engineer himself. He slowly began to pick up on engineering concepts and soon after landed a sales job at a tech company. He rose up the engineering ranks at Apple, Walmart, ODesk/Upwork, Google, Twitter, and Slack, one of Silicon Valley’s most beloved startups.
2. Take a Chance
Leslie had many bumps along the way, but there were also people there to help support him. During his time at Symantec, he was almost fired for sending out a new product suite that happened to be infected with a virus. Not to mention that Leslie sent it to Symantec’s largest customers. Before his fate was sealed, Leslie’s manager stepped in. He told the CEO that Leslie was young and inexperienced, but hardworking and dedicated.
He said, “he has to be allowed to fail so that he will learn.”
Someone took a chance on him and didn’t fire him for his mistake.
3. Pay It Forward
Today, Leslie is paying it forward. He left Slack to join VFA as an Executive in Residence to help cities that are need of economic development. During his time at VFA, Leslie has spoken with numerous communities and companies in cities such as Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami to layout plans on how they can develop a tech ecosystem similar to Silicon Valley.
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Shruti Gandhi is managing partner at Array Ventures. Array Ventures is VC firm investing in founders creating companies that take advantage of deep tech innovation in data and artificial intelligence.
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