By Sarah Tavel
FORTUNE -- It's been more than a year and a half since I left Bessemer Venture Partners to join Pinterest. Since then, I've taken quite a few meetings and phone calls from junior VCs or MBAs asking about my transition from VC to operating. By far, the most common question I get from this bunch is something along the lines of, "Did you learn anything actually useful in VC?"
1. I learned how to ask the right questions. Anyone can ask questions. But learning how to ask the right questions -- to use questions as a mechanism to uncover the hidden truth in a company's business model, or the tradeoffs in an engineer's architecture, is something that comes with training. VCs spend a huge amount of their time asking questions, and thus learn the craft of asking the right ones. This skill has been enormously valuable to me as I transitioned to Pinterest.
2. I learned how to read people. In my first performance review at Bessemer, people judgment was one of my weaknesses. I'd now say it's one of my strengths. As a VC, you're constantly meeting founders and building your pattern recognition for reading people. This skillset is particularly useful when you're in a business or corporate development role but, as with asking the right questions, it's one of those horizontal skills that will serve you anywhere.
3. I learned how to learn. In VC, you're constantly ramping up in a new area. Each company you evaluate comes with its own ecosystem that needs to be understood. Similarly, trends in the tech ecosystem turn over so quickly that, if you ever stop adapting and learning, you'll quickly become a dinosaur and won't know a Snapchat when you meet one. That drive to constantly learn will help you adapt to new environments and challenges.
There's a flipside to these three though:
1. In startups, you've got to answer the questions. One thing I learned early on at Pinterest is that my muscle for asking questions was a lot stronger than my muscle for answering them. As with asking questions, there's an art to answering questions well. It's been good to exercise this skill.
2. I didn't learn how to read an organization. VC firms tend to be smaller partnerships. Although Bessemer was about 45 people when I left, I was never in an office with more than 10 people. As Pinterest has grown from 30-odd people when I joined to more than 200, I've had to learn how to navigate a company. People who have come from larger companies definitely have a leg up in this regard.
3. I'm not specialized. VCs rarely specialize. Sure -- I knew the e-commerce ecosystem cold, met with countless consumer companies, and quite a few adtech companies, but that doesn't compare to spending several years working at Google. But you've got to start somewhere ...
Sarah Tavel (@sarahtavel) works in business and corporate development at Pinterest, after spending six years with Bessemer Venture Partners.
In venture capital, you can go home again.
FORTUNE -- Alex Ferrara has agreed to rejoin Bessemer Venture Partners, Fortune has learned. He will work as a partner focused on tech opportunities, out of the venture capital firm's Larchmont, N.Y. office.
Ferrara previously worked at BVP between April 2005 and February 2011, later joining Millennium Technology Value Partners as a partner. He quietly parted ways with Millennium at the end of last year, MOREDan Primack - Jan 17, 2013 12:21 PM ET
Bessemer Venture Partners has one of the VC industry's strongest portfolios, with investments in such companies as LinkedIn (LNKD), Pinterest and OMGPOP. It also has an awesome bathroom.
Until yesterday, however, Bessemer also had a website that most of its portfolio companies wouldn't have been caught dead with. Dated, difficult to navigate and exceedingly dull (save for its anti-portfolio). But the firm recognized the errors of its ways, relaunched and sent out MOREDan Primack - Mar 23, 2012 11:06 AM ET
Not too long ago, OMGPOP was on the brink.
Zynga (ZNGA) yesterday announced that it has acquired fellow social game publisher OMGPOP, for a reported $210 million (including employee retention bonuses). Sixteen months ago, it would have been unthinkable.
For the uninitiated, OMGPOP is the creator of Draw Something, a Pictionary-like game that has become the top mobile and top Facebook game since being launched just six weeks ago (bumping off Zynga's Words with Friends).
But OMGpop MOREDan Primack - Mar 22, 2012 10:22 AM ET
Brian Feinstein has quietly rejoined Bessemer Venture Partners to lead investment activities in Brazil and Russia. He previously had spent more than two years with the Larchmont, N.Y.-based firm, before leaving in September 2010 to focus on tech, media and energy investments at The Blackstone Group (BX).
"I realized that my passion really lay in venture capital, not in private equity," Feinstein explains.
Feinstein was born in Moscow before emigrating to the MOREDan Primack - Dec 15, 2011 2:38 PM ET
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