There truly is no typical career path in venture capital anymore. VC was once a cottage industry that sprung up from executives at leading companies like Fairchild Semiconductor. Then for a number of years, many of the best VCs like John Doerr, Jim Breyer, and Peter Wagner usually attended Stanford or Harvard for undergraduate and eventually did graduate work with a stint at a technology company like Intel, Hewlett Packard, and/or Silicon Graphics before being mentored in a leading firm.
When I graduated business school in 2000, there were some firms that hired associates who could progress through the ranks and eventually make Partner. That is far less common today. Today, most new investors (vs. Analysts or Associates) have deeper operating experience sometimes mixed with venture capital. Some examples of this include Jess Lee who became a partner at Sequoia Capital after being trained in computer science at Stanford before becoming a product manager at Google and ultimately the co-founder and CEO of Polyvore for almost 9 years. Another recent example is Sarah Tavel, who became a General Partner at Benchmark after sourcing Pinterest while an Analyst at Bessemer Venture Partners, then became a product manager at the company before returning to venture capital. Finally, my firm recently hiredwho received his degrees from USC and NYU before he started a company and eventually sold it to TaskRabbit before joining Eventbrite 7 years ago, serving as CMO and VP of Growth. My partner and I have been in the venture capital business for almost 19 years and we knew our team needed someone who was a true operator because they have a much more recent understanding of what entrepreneurs go through every day. Brian was that perfect fit. Clearly there is no distinct career path in venture capital, but generally speaking, a mix of a strong (hopefully technical) education, operating experience at a leading company, or a true entrepreneurial journey is your best bet. I leave you with this: generally considered one of the best venture investors of all time, Michael Moritz was a writer at Time Magazine before starting at Sequoia Capital and eventually investing in Yahoo, Google, and PayPal. Who would have guessed?