A keystone case in business schools’ Organizational Behavior classes, the Heidi Roizen case follows a master networker through her extensive business experience in Silicon Valley and transition into a new opportunity in venture capital. The case delves into strategies that Roizen used through her years at T/Maker, Apple, and Softbank Venture Capital to build an impressive professional network.
In her new role in venture capital, she finds herself faced with the challenge of improving efficiency among her vast network of colleagues and influencers while wanting to preserve the depth and quality of her relationships. The case poses the question of how her new role—a role in which thousands of people in her network might approach her personally—affects the nature of the network she worked so hard to build.
The case touches upon several building blocks of Roizen’s mastery of networking:
• Leveraging contacts only when she could see a true “win-win” for both parties. Heidi served as the “door” through which people make connections that are truly beneficial to both parties
• Demonstrating initiative and fearlessness in taking opportunities, e.g., establishing a personal connection to the CEO because she was invited to meetings that he also attended
• Making the most of short, informal conversations: “Heidi is a pro at turning a brief conversation into one of substance by contributing one or two unique ideas in a short period of time. That helps make the conversation memorable.”
• Taking advantage of opportunities to sit on a panel or give an interview, making a point of giving her undivided attention to any audience
• Being willing to invest time in relationships with people she finds interesting; coincidentally, these people end up having fame and fortune: “It’s easier to get to know people when they’re not famous; then when they do become famous, you already have a relationship with them.”
• Maintaining confidentiality and neutrality in sensitive discussions. The case highlights an example between Apple and Microsoft—Roizen was working for Apple; Bill Gates was a personal friend. Her ability to remain neutral resulted in a mending of the relationship between two rivals
• Doing her homework, sending an email to her contact the day before a meeting, and keeping that email short and to the point
• Creating “constellations” of networks—establishing very close ties with people who were the nuclei of other networks so that she could tap into their networks if needed without having to stay in close contact with each person in those networks individually
Perhaps even more famous than the case itself is a study around gender perception that came out involving this case. While teaching the Roizen case at Columbia University, Professor Frank Flynn made his students experimental guinea pigs. He gave half the students the original case with the name Heidi and the other half a modified case where the protagonist was a man with the name Howard. He then asked students their impressions of Heidi or Howard, asking students to rate the subject’s competence and likability.
Flynn discovered that while the participants rated both Heidi and Howard as equally competent and worthy of respect, students would have preferred to work with Howard over Heidi. They saw Heidi as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” The gender perception bias has spurred discussion all the way from business schools to pop culture forums to international news outlets.
Share with friends