Meet Cheryl: Internal strategy at a bank to BizOps at skincare tech startup

learner Story

Meet Cheryl, a Strategy + Operations Sprint alum at The Commons who pivoted from finance & management consulting at a large bank to Operations Strategy at tech-enabled custom skincare startup Curology. Cheryl is currently based in San Francisco. 

To summarize Cheryl’s career path in 1 line: Georgetown SFS undergrad  ➡️Corporate Strategy @ Deutsche Bank (4.5 years)  ➡️ The Commons' Strategy + Operations Sprint  ➡️Ops Strategy @ Curology (execute on key initiatives and growth opportunities)

Read on to learn more about why Cheryl decided to pivot into tech, how the power of community helped her supercharge her job search and why she absolutely loves her new role! 

First, a fun one … describe yourself in 3 emojis :) 

👩🏻‍💻I’m a bit of a workaholic in my current role because I enjoy it so much

💃🏻I love to dance outside of work, both in clubs and at dance studios!

🌃I’m proudly a city-girl (HK, NYC, SF) and cannot wait to live in many more cool cities in my 20s and 30s

Now that we’re warmed up, tell us more about why you wanted to pivot industries from financial services into tech.

After spending 4.5+ years in two big banks (Barclays and then Deutsche Bank), I realized that I wasn’t passionate about financial products. There was very little innovation and the culture was non-collaborative and high-stress without much positive impact. I also knew that I wanted to have a hand in making strategic data-based decisions that greatly influence the development of company products, financial performance and company/brand trajectory. 

Why did you decide to join The Commons' Strategy + Operations Sprint? What did you get out of the Sprint and what outcomes did it help you achieve? 

I wanted to understand how to break into the tech industry and what type of skills companies were looking for. The hands-on experience and case study format was a big draw as well. 

At the end of the Sprint, I had a much better understanding of what a case study [for an interview at a tech company] would look like and I ended up producing really good case studies for the companies I interviewed with. The insights provided by my mentors, both for the program and for my interviews, were absolutely invaluable. 

Luis (BizOps at DoorDash) was my mentor and he provided an environment that really echoed what it’s like to collaborate and work at a tech company. The feedback he gave really sharpened our skills in presenting, slide-making and data analysis. 

The program also served greatly to demystify the tech industry and helped me understand what type of startup I wanted to work for. I think this was key in helping me choose the right role. I cannot be happier about my work environment and the type of company I ended up working in. 

Tell us about your job search. 

I didn’t get a lot of traction at first by applying blindly to various BizOps jobs. Then I joined several communities (The Commons and Renaissance Collective) and was able to leverage connections and the collective expertise and knowledge of the communities to (1) understand what type of role I wanted (2) get a sense of what skills those roles are looking for (3) develop the right narratives/skills and put my best foot forward in technical interviews and case studies. 

When I saw the role at Curology, I knew I had to apply - It’s rare to see a tech disruptor in skincare. Strategy is the same everywhere but I was more invested in the products this company is producing. I found it on LinkedIn and was able to leverage a second-degree connection who worked there. I was told that it was my case study presentation that made me stand out and get hired. 

We’re so excited that you landed a role you genuinely love. Tell us more about your new role - BizOps @ Curology. 

I’m an Operations Strategy Sr. Associate at Curology. We make key decisions around all operations, including finding growth opportunities by adding new channels, product marketing, product development, retention and acquisition initiatives, cost optimization. We are concerned about the topline and costs for the company as well as the strategic direction. 

The first nine months at Curology have been really great! I’ve been able to understand the issues the company faces and have the space and knowledge to contribute to the bigger decisions the company makes. The environment is very collaborative and I feel like my insights are truly valued. 

Plus, the culture feels a lot healthier - things move quicker due to lack of bureaucratic oversight but as a result there’s a lot more risk-taking behavior.

Here are some of Cheryl’s favorite picks & tricks:

🎙Podcast: No Stupid Questions (Freakonomic spin-off)

📰Where you get your daily news: Bloomberg 

📚Book: Playing to Win 

🎨What you're doing outside of work: aerial arts, dance

🌟 A CEO or leader you admire: Sheryl Sandberg

Any parting advice from someone who wants to follow in your footsteps? 

  1. You just need one company you really like to say ‘yes’ so don’t get discouraged! 
  2. It’s worth waiting for the right role and if they rejected you for whatever reason, it probably means it wouldn’t have been a good fit and you wouldn’t have been happy there. 

*This interview was edited for style and clarity. 

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