Join UPWARD for a remarkable wine-tasting and networking event “Raise A Glass To Women“on May 2nd

IN MY HUMBLE OPINION: PLUGGED IN

In a career spent investing in innovative startups at Intel, leading National Grid’s innovation and investment operations, and founding a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women and minorities to positions of top corporate leadership, Lisa Lambert (MBA 1997) always has been most in her element when disrupting the tech world’s status quo. A Silicon Valley venture capitalist who has been pioneering new technology for more than two decades, Lambert recently accepted the challenge of running a company herself, becoming founder and managing partner of an innovation foundry and investment fund focused on the mobility and energy sectors. Lambert is backed by multi-billion-dollar private funds seeking to build innovation hubs in underserved markets and expand their portfolio in the global energy and mobility ecosystems.

Lambert most recently served as chief technology and innovation officer at National Grid and as founder and president of National Grid Partners, directing $400 million in startups and internal innovations that offer unique approaches to managing supply and demand, increasing efficiency, improving response during extreme weather, and expanding EV charging capabilities. “This is a continuation of my efforts at National Grid Partners with private capital backing that gives me the resources to have an impact beyond the mandate of a single company. It’s perfect timing as companies and governments are ramping their clean energy efforts, so demand for these solutions is peaking and the financial return profile is quite compelling.”

Lambert moved to National Grid after a two-year stint as managing director at the Westly Group, a Silicon Valley cleantech investment firm, and two decades at Intel and Intel Capital, where she led and managed investments in over 80 software companies. A self-described latchkey kid raised in rural Ohio by a single parent, Lambert says her ascent was not an obvious trajectory.

“There aren’t many mentors for women or people of color in technology or venture capital,” observes Lambert, who majored in management information systems and was a scholarship athlete at Penn State before coming to Harvard. She credits HBS professor Debora Spar with advice that has sustained her in numerous situations. “She said to never be afraid to lead. Show up, be in the room, and get comfortable,” Lambert says.

Lambert has shared that encouragement through UPWARD, a nonprofit she founded in 2013 to cultivate strategic connections and develop company-based programs to advance executive women’s careers. What began as a gathering of 90 women in Lambert’s backyard is now a community of 22,000 members in 19 locations.

“Women enter the workforce on par with men,” notes Lambert, “but at executive levels only 8 percent are CEOs. I started UPWARD to fix that leaky pipeline. I may not be able to change the world but I am determined to change my little corner of it.”

Core values: “I’m a Midwestern girl at heart, and my upbringing emphasized family, faith, and service to others. In the intensely competitive world I live in now, that’s good grounding to have.”

Why VC is so much fun: “The entrepreneurial energy is irresistible. Working with startups, and investing in smart people with boundless ambition and passion for positive change, never gets old.”

Retirement gig: “I just made my first personal investment in a startup, a female-led company in the energy sector. After I retire, I’ll just do that: invest my own capital. I’ll be the limited partner and the general partner, so no more bosses.”

A leading question: “Women leaders oftentimes listen more than their male counterparts. I’m not always looking for consensus, but I am looking for input, to benefit from the intellect of people on my team. That’s not a style you often find in corporations run predominately by men.”

Pushing the envelope: “It’s risky to challenge the status quo, especially when you’re the only woman in the room. You don’t have a lot of natural allies to support your view.”

Feel the pain: “There should be consequences when companies fail to diversify leadership. If decision makers didn’t get their annual bonuses or stock options until their teams were 50-50 male/female, I guarantee you they would find highly qualified women to fill key roles, fast.”

Teamwork: Lambert was captain of Penn State’s basketball team during her junior and senior years. “In business as in sports, you win when all players understand the playbook, play by the same rules, and have equal opportunity to achieve at their highest level of excellence.”

Attitude adjustment: “Since the pandemic, more Gen Z-ers and millennials have decided they can have a good quality of life without becoming CEO of a company. That’s definitely had an impact on the leadership pipeline.”

Family matters: “I believe it’s a misconception when high-potential young women decide they can’t be good parents and stay on a path to senior management. I got married and started a family in my late 30s. We had less disposable income then but we still managed to find the help we needed.”

Favorite sports teams: “I love my college teams. I saw the Nittany Lions win the Rose Bowl this year, which was amazing. And then the Golden State Warriors, the 49ers in the pro leagues. I’m not that into soccer but one of my sons plays, so his team, of course!”

Reading: “Two all-time favorites are both about entrepreneurial innovation: The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge, and The Startup Way, by Eric Ries.”

On the road: “I’ve traveled to over 60 countries. For business, I always enjoy London. In my personal travels, Jerusalem stays in my mind as the most beautiful.”

UPWARD has been featured in the news and spotlighted in the community for our mission to advance women in the workplace. Read the articles below to learn more.

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