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Acting as CEO also pushed her to grow and learn outside her comfort zone.
Today Wallace is founding director of Bridge Up: STEM, an educational initiative at New York’s American Museum of Natural History focused on introducing girls and minorities to computer science.
Whatever the circumstances, one point becomes clear: The only real failure is not learning from one.
hile I have had “whoopsies” at jobs as diverse as Tang (the drink that went to the moon); Doritos; VMX (the company that invented voicemail); Jane Fonda’s Workout; and Playboy TV/Video, my most instructive failure was during my year as product manager of Tostitos.
“It’s very easy to leave HBS and continue on the path of being successful in ways that are easily defined and rewarded by society,” says Steven Carpenter (MBA 2004).
When it became clear that this project had no chance of success, I was hauled into the VP’s office and given a stern lecture regarding the evanescence of superstardom in product management if one didn’t sweat the details of each project.
“Everything seems so obvious when it’s written down in condensed narrative format with accompanying exhibits,” she says later, calling the experience of listening to two years of her life boiled down to a 70-minute discussion “incredibly surreal.” “But when you’re living it, the narrative threads aren’t that clear.” Despite the pain of Quincy’s failure, Wallace doesn’t regret the experience.
“I’m more fulfilled when I’m scrappy and building something, so I’m grateful to have been ripped away from the notion that I need financial comfort,” she says.
“But I think everything we do is part of who we are as people and professionals.
Cake helped me understand that I’m committed to creating high-growth, fast-paced technology—which by definition means being comfortable with failing.” “Failure is not just the opposite of success,” says Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit who has founded or led eight tech startups over the past 20 years.