Meet Carolyn, an alum of The Commons who currently works on the BizOps team @ DoorDash, focusing on new verticals. Carolyn pivoted from consulting into tech after joining The Commons' Strategy + Operations Sprint and a subsequent advanced Sprint.
Carolyn is based in New York and now works with a growing group of The Commons community members at DoorDash, including her mentor.
To summarize Carolyn’s career path in 1 line: Business school @ Ivey / Western ➡️Management Consulting at Deloitte ➡️Product Management at Deloitte Digital ➡️The Commons ➡️BizOps on the new verticals team at DoorDash (including a move from Toronto to NYC!)
Read on to learn more about why Carolyn decided to pivot into tech versus going in industry after consulting, how her day-to-day at DoorDash compares to her time at Deloitte and how her mentor at The Commons, James, made an indelible impact on her career trajectory.
Note: This interview is based on a conversation with Carolyn and has been edited for style and clarity.
Tell us more about your career path to date. How has your thinking about your career changed over time?
I started my career in consulting at Deloitte and after a couple of years, moved into Product Management at Deloitte Digital where I continued to explore my interests in retail, ecommerce and tech.
After a few years at Deloitte, I began to think a lot about what was next. The two options I considered were going into industry, which is a common path for many consultants, or pivoting into tech. The former was a tried and true path. I also didn’t know anyone in tech at the time. But I didn’t want to make a decision without exploring my second option - pivoting into tech - more fulsomely, so I joined The Commons.
The Commons and my mentor James Lee (also at DoorDash) helped me understand how tech companies operate and what an actual day-to-day for folks in BizOps is like. Armed with that knowledge, I realized that James was working on the types of things that I wanted to be doing! Plus, I wanted to work with people like him!
James, my mentor at The Commons, turned out to be the big push I needed to break into tech. He helped me through my [...] Sprint and to land my role at DoorDash - now, he’s an amazing colleague.
How is your life in tech different from consulting?
The day to day is completely different! Consulting is a professional services business, so you're following the client's decisions and always working towards completing a deliverable. At DoorDash, we are the decision makers - we're not at the mercy of a clients. We decide the strategy, the budget, how to test and learn, and where to focus the team's effort. It's been a lot more fun so far and creates a different work dynamic.
Working in consulting taught me so much - how to structure my thoughts, work ethic/discipline and grinding out quality deliverables under tight timelines. I am so grateful for my experience and the people I met at Deloitte and it has definitely helped me at DoorDash. Especially within the new business verticals (NBV) team, putting structure or process to ambiguous problems has been incredibly useful, because there are always 1000 different ways to tackle a problem. If you work a problem from the ground up or pick one area to focus in on and fix to perfection, it helps a problem that looks gigantic, easily manageable. It also helps us move extremely quickly at DoorDash to determine what works and what doesn't.
I love that the work I'm doing at DoorDash is fast-paced, more ambiguous & creative and directly impacts the top line. Right now, we're working on a project that involves launching a new type of business. We tested it at a small scale to get the project off the ground really quickly. It worked, so we quadrupled it. Now we're growing it 10x and it's a big bet for 2022. It's amazing to know that I've been part of growing it from the ground-up.
What was the transition from consulting to tech like from a work culture perspective?
There's a lot of differences in work culture - both small and large. It may feel small, but even using Slack to communicate (vs email) changes the cadence and formality of communication among the team. DoorDash feels like a more casual work environment. It's easy to talk to everyone and the org structure is super flat. A senior manager, manager, or senior associate could also end up swapping workstreams depending on interest, capacity, or priorities for the quarter.
Ownership is another big difference. I have a strong sense of ownership over my workstreams. When we set OKRs, there's always a DRI. In essence, my manager and I can end up working completely different projects, and I'm solely responsible for the success of that KR. Whereas in consulting, deliverable file up the hierarchy for approval. My team is there to hold me accountable and my manager helps me work through priorities, but I do get a lot of autonomy.
The sense of teamwork and the way that feedback is provided is another change. Everyone is very direct and, at the same time, willing to jump in to help fix any issue that arises (even if it's not their own). I think this stems from the above two points, plus we're a collaborative team.
Lastly, even though there was definitely a strong sense of urgency in consulting, it's even stronger at DoorDash. DoorDash, like most marketplace tech companies, is in a competitive, consumer-facing market so the issues surrounding a fire can be a lot higher impact, since an outage or issue can directly influence the experience of a customer or dasher in real time.
Carolyn's quick tips & tricks!
🎙 Podcast: HIBT (How I Built This)
📰 Where you get your daily news: The Peak, The Owler, Tech Crunch, I also keep up with what's going on in golf through IG
💻 A tech company you think should be on everyone's radar: Ro - https://ro.co/
📚 Book: Netflix: No Rules Rules, and Quiet (for introverts)
➕ A handy shortcut: Option + command + left/right lets you move tabs in Chrome
Lastly, what advice would you give to folks who are considering a career pivot into tech?
Even if you're remotely interested in tech, take steps towards getting a strong understanding of what is out there… It's difficult to understand what people actually do without having connections and building relationships with people who are in the roles you're interested in.