Cornell University

February 18 2014

Advising Entrepreneurial Ventures

White MPS '10 matches talent and startups

MelindaWhite_200x200Who will be the next Mark Zuckerberg?

Don't be surprised if the person to identify that entrepreneurial genius is Melinda White MPS '10, a Los Angeles-based talent adviser.

White began her career at technology startups, then headed for Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and LinkedIn. Since having a baby in 2011, she has returned to the world of startups.

White works with these companies, on behalf of venture capital firms, to build their staffing and university relations programs.

"I like to be strategic in identifying top talent," she says. "I create relationships with faculty and roll out programs that partner with the schools. It's fun when you develop a program that impacts curriculum and also increases your product adoption on campus."

Working with Delphix, a Greylock Partners venture capital startup that virtualizes data, White is creating such a program with Cornell's College of Engineering. Next spring, she will attend the school's startup career fair, offer tech talks and explore other opportunities for partnerships.

She helped another Greylock startup, Dropbox, resolve a recruiting challenge by recommending that they hire liberal arts graduates for positions requiring strong critical thinking and writing skills.

"Startup companies recognize the value of university relations," she says. "A lot of students — like Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook while he was attending Harvard — come up with ideas for companies while they're in school. And sometimes their company is bought by a bigger company, which segues them into that company while they are still in school."

Established companies benefit from university relations programs, too, she says.

When Google co-founder Larry Page wanted to recruit more women engineers, White spearheaded a program that targeted women's colleges. She gave talks about Google, and about what it was like to be a woman in a male-driven industry.

"It was very successful; no other company was doing that at the time," she says. "Today, 30 to 40 percent of Google's engineers are women, compared to the industry average of 15 to 17 percent."

White "fell into" technology in the mid- 1990s. "I really liked it because the people were very smart — they challenged me intellectually and professionally," she says. "I also appreciated the companies' more flexible culture, which accommodated my lifestyle."

Her own entrepreneurial streak plays out in areas of social justice — in particular, animal welfare and education. She volunteers as head grant writer for Bassett Hound Rescue of Southern California, for which she has raised thousands of dollars.

White also serves on the Employer Advisory Committee for her undergraduate alma mater, Scripps College. She has advised Scripps on how to better prepare students for the real world and has connected them with technology companies willing to hire liberal arts graduates.

White completed her ILR Master of Professional Studies degree in industrial and labor relations while working at Yahoo! And living in Los Angeles. The part-time MPS program is based in Manhattan.

While some might be deterred by the thought of 40-plus coast-to-coast round-trips over two years, White shrugs it off, saying, "It was almost easier to make that commute than to drive in the LA Basin," due to the area's heavy congestion.

"The MPS degree enhanced my work experience and made everything come together," she says.

As board adviser for a stealth startup, White has been attending male-dominated venture capital meetings with the startup's founder and will help build the organization's staffing component.

"My ILR education makes me more confident to tackle startup endeavors and sit in meetings with powerful Silicon Valley leaders," says the self-described "humanities person."