20 Questions with Cathy Friedman (MBA ’86)

24 May 2023

From 24 years at Morgan Stanley, where she rose through the ranks to open and serve as co-head of the firm’s biotech practice, to her newest role as executive venture partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures), two things have remained consistent in Cathy Friedman’s (MBA ’86) career.

First, a lifelong interest in health care, and the power of technology to improve it.

Second, the willingness to take a nonlinear career path that follows interesting challenges.

"There are many ways to be a leader, find out what works and is authentic to you."

Before joining GV, Friedman spent the 15 years  as a board member on leading public and private life sciences and tech companies, including at Grail as chair, Vividion Therapeutics, Lyell Immunopharma, Seer, Altaba, Radius Health and Revolution Healthcare Acquisition Corp. She’s also a member of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees and the University of California-San Francisco Foundation Board of Directors.

Friedman shares insights on her interests and motivations, as well as why she’s excited to be on the frontline of health care innovation.

What was your first job?

My first job out of college ended up being my first career of 24 years at Morgan Stanley. My first job ever was helping my mom price items at a resale shop for a local charity.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

There are many ways to be a leader, find out what works and is authentic to you.

Whom do you most admire?

Hero = Mom

What motivates you?

I am motivated and energized by working with teams on worthwhile problems.

What is your “superpower”?

Helping others find their superpowers.

When and where do you do your best thinking?

Early a.m., preferably on Cape Cod.

"The young people in my life give me hope. They are kind and want to find solutions to big problems."

What’s been on your mind lately?

The health and well-being of family and friends

What are you reading these days?

Catching The Wind by Neal Gabler

How do you recharge?

I recharge by being with my friends and family and by walking
with my husband.

What’s your motto?

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur

How do you deal with conflict?

Head on.

What characteristics do you look for in people?

The Four H’s: honesty, humility, humor, humanity.

What makes you feel hopeful?

The young people in my life give me hope. They are kind and want to find solutions to big problems.

What is your favorite cause?

The Boys and Girls Club of The Peninsula.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Right where I do now: California and Cape Cod.

Which class at Darden impacted you the most?

It’s too hard to list one: Bob Bruner’s finance course and independent study (amazing teacher and mentor), John Colley’s reading class (we were the first one), Mr. [Richard] Brownlee’s accounting class (who else could make accounting make sense and fun).

What’s your favorite Darden memory?

Hanging out with my incredible friends, hiking Humpback Mountain, my EPIC study group, Road Rally, Pig Roast and Les Grayson explaining the only way to lose tenure!

What’s your No. 1 tip for current Darden students?

Keep an open mind and do not shy away from a nonlinear path that presents interesting challenges. And, anyone who thinks of the Darden MBA as just a stepping stone is missing the point of this incredible place. Engage!

In your role as executive venture partner at GV, what idea, technology or company are you most excited about improving the world?

There are so many incredible entrepreneurs in the world. I am currently excited about investing in women’s health, as it is a sector that is underinvested and incredibly important. I am also focused on health care accessibility and using health tech to solve heretofore unsolvable problems.

Why are you drawn to the health care and biotech sectors? What is your vision for how business and private investment can improve health care?

Now more than any time in history, technology and biology are so sophisticated that we can realistically solve incredible health care issues. The combination of computing power, AI and machine learning have made this area so exciting. We need to invest in early stage technology to help it flourish and become usable to
help us solve worldwide health care problems.

Bonus: You’ve served on a number of boards, including the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees. Do you have any advice for Darden alumni who are considering board service?

Serving on boards public or private, for profit or not, is an incredible experience and you can really make a difference, if you choose wisely. I believe you should serve on boards where you:

• Align with the mission.
• Think you can add value with your skills and talents.
• Believe you can learn new and interesting things from the
entity and other board members.
• Confirm the ethics and motivations of the other board
members are of the highest standard.
• You can have some fun.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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