This article originally appeared on McKinsey & Company Alumni News.
Sara Brand recently spoke with the Austin Business Journal about her career journey. Following a doctorate in mechanical engineering and an executive role at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Sara founded Austin, Texas-based True Wealth Ventures to focus on women-led startups. In addition, she and her husband are co-founders of (512) Brewing Company, which produced 11,000 barrels of beer last year.
Sara Brand (SFO 00-02) earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering and went on to a career that wove together semiconductor research, management consulting, venture capital, and executive leadership at California chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). When your father is a mechanical engineer with an MBA, it might make perfect sense that you’d pursue a path that blended the sciences with business. For Sara, however, there’s a third element that characterizes her professional pursuits: opportunity for women in male-dominated corporate spaces.
“. . . I realized I had never met another woman in venture capital,” Brand recently told the Austin Business Journal. “I’m very data driven. When I saw reports showing that when women are in leadership roles at companies they perform a lot better financially, I did the research and nobody else in the southern U.S. was focused on
She left AMD, where she had been a corporate vice president, in 2015 to form her own venture capital firm, True Wealth Ventures. The firm’s mission is clear: To invest in women-led startups focused on growth markets in consumer health and sustainable products. Her firm is talking to two Austin startups as possible funding targets.
To be clear, Sara’s knack for entrepreneurship predates the founding of True Wealth Ventures. Recounting her days as a tutor in high school, she said, “I made some really good money . . . At one point I had too many clients so I cut that down and doubled my rates, and everybody was OK with it.” Her business acumen also extends beyond the mission of True Wealth Ventures. Sara and her husband are the co-founders of (512) Brewing Company. “We put in $400,000 to get it going — I raised that money by working my butt off – and it’s really done well,” she said. “We produced 11,000 barrels in 2015.”
When asked how they ensure that working together doesn’t negatively impact their marriage, Sara said, “He handles the day-to-day part of the business, and I think about it from the point of view of a management consultant, wearing my McKinsey hat. I think it’s important to define boundaries well. We make sure when we’re at home we aren’t talking about work around the kids. We’ll schedule meetings to discuss work stuff.”
Thinking back on those who have inspired her along the way, Sara recalls a seventh-grade math teacher who encouraged her to pursue science. “[He] gave me the confidence to pursue it. I really wanted to understand what made things work,” she said. In her adult years she would encounter further inspiration from author and McKinsey director emerita Joanna Barsh. “[The book] ‘Centered Leadership’ [is] about really understanding what your unique thing is and leading with that purpose in mind,” says Sara. “If you can do that, everything else falls into place.”
This is obviously the case for Sara, because it doesn’t get more “everything” than semi-conductors, startups, consulting, gender equity, and beer.