Mentee Spotlight: Raza Khan, Part 2

learner Story

Meet Raza, a Strategy + Operations Sprint alum and staple in The Commons community

Read on to learn more about Raza’s pivot into BizOps roles in tech after completing the Strategy & Operations Sprint at The Commons.

Why did you want to pivot industries?

It was a process of elimination based on the constraints I was optimizing for.

I have two North stars in my life, and fortunately, they’re very complementary to each other. First, I want to be a role model. I want to do amazing things that people can look up to and want to emulate, and I want to have the experience to help them along their own journeys. Second, I want to be hypercompetent – partially because it helps me feel like I’m making the most of my potential (which is really, really important to me), and because it helps me then be a better and more credible mentor for other people.

I loved my time in telco and had incredible coworkers, but I found I wanted to join something at an earlier stage where I’d have more responsibility, the ability to make higher impact, work under a faster pace and higher pressure, and learn a lot more. Tech, by extension, was the natural evolution. It mixed my ability to do something difficult that would help me be a better role model, and put myself in a situation working with incredibly smart people that would make me grow much faster.

Added benefits I considered:

  • Biz ops role: perfect mix of strategy (what I did in my previous role) + actually doing it! So, you get to see the fruits of your labor and provide REAL VALUE! Not just theoretical
  • Exit opportunities: it’s very difficult to get a role in tech (especially in biz ops). Based on my understanding, it’s both a career accelerator, and an indicator that you’re a high performer, which allows you more opportunities downstream
  • Compensation: candidly, money isn’t important to me. Overall growth is. I think biz ops compensates better in both categories than traditional industries. From my experience, there’s typically higher compensation bands, but beyond the monetary, the ability to take extreme ownership, work with senior stakeholders, and learn from impacting a business in a way that is worthy of paying tuition, instead of being paid

Your Job Search

Tell us about your job search experience!

It was difficult getting my first stab at tech roles coming from TELUS. I had really awesome work experience, but I feel like I was biased against because I didn’t have targeted consulting experience and my job title was “Senior Marketing Manager” so despite having very tangible and relevant work experience, the scope of it wasn’t recognized.

I networked my way to get 5 referrals across different organizations and ended up getting 0 interviews, which was very demoralizing. I knew I had a great resume as I had friends across 10 different companies look through it and give me the green light, and realized I needed to do something to go above and beyond.

Then I joined The Commons → did the Strategy & Operations Sprint → learned literally as much as I could and threw myself into the community. Finished my cohort at the end of December 2021 and started the job hunt really hot in 2022.

Within the first 2 weeks, I had 4 interviews, of which 2 went to final rounds, 1 I turned down and 1 rejected me. I ended up accepting an offer from ResQ, a repair and maintenance marketplace for restaurateurs and service providers based in Toronto.

Key learning:

The importance of knowing what problem to solve: my networking was very strong and I was getting referrals, but I was lacking the “tangible” biz ops skills, so instead of focusing more on networking, I focused on what I knew I could do to change things around: become more competent.

When pivoting from the TelCo industry into tech, what have been the biggest changes you’ve noticed? 

Focus on GSD (get sh*t done):

The biggest difference between my previous experiences and working in tech was the emphasis on getting things done. Find ways to make an impact ASAP, and execute. For instance, I joined ResQ on a Tuesday and was given a project the next day on Wednesday, and asked to deliver it to the CEO on Friday. A two day turnaround time with 24 hours under my belt! Everything is tied to an implication: what are you doing with this information, and how will you drive the business forward.

Ownership of problems:

I’m given a problem statement and told to find the solutions. I’m expected to keep my leadership in the loop, and escalate to them when I need help, but otherwise have to navigate my projects myself. It’s my job to set deliverables, and meet them. There’s nothing else to it.

Pace of work:

There’s always stuff to get done. It can be difficult to manage, but having nights where I’m on my desk until 11 PM+ is not uncommon [note: long hours are not necessarily reflective of the tech industry as a whole, and can vary depending on the company]. The primary focus is to do good work and drive the business forward. We manage our teams to ensure we’re not actively driving people into burn out, but there are higher expectations and you learn very quickly what you’re capable of.

Richness of coworkers experience 

Once I moved into tech, everyone had such an incredible and rich work history that it felt like I was watching a movie or a TV show. People who went to best in class schools and worked in best in class companies, or were former entrepreneurs (or early members of big start ups). It’s just so talent rich that you feel overwhelmed to be there, and grateful you can learn from them.

Tell us about your first BizOps role!

What’s the role?

My first role was a biz ops associate at ResQ. I was on the biz ops team and reported directly to Jordy (a mentor at The Commons!). My main focus on the job was to support the customer experience team. For context, ResQ is a marketplace business where restaurants use ResQ to facilitate work orders (repairs on their equipment). The customer experience team was in charge of ensuring work orders were being completed and closed out without any hitches.

The process had a lot of manual parts, and each person of the team had their own way of doing things. So, my focus was:

  • Set standards of success for the team: what should we care about? What matters to our business? How do we track it and get buy-in?
  • Optimize the process: map out all the different iterations, understand the E2E time, and figure out what we can automate
  • Highlight opportunities for improvement: what are problems that constantly come up that we need to solve? What are our most frequent blockers and how can we work around them?

Overall, my job was to help the customer experience team to:

  1. Complete more work orders
  2. Reduce the time to completion
  3. Drive efficiency across the business

Through this, we would:

  1. Increase retention
  2. Increase usage
  3. Drive more ARR

How did you find the role?

I found the role through the #job-openings channel in The Commons Slack! I went to school with Jordy, and always respected her. But once I did some research, it was obvious this was my dream job.

They are solving a real problem and allowing restaurants to do what their core competencies are: feed people.

The role would allow me to make an impact very early on, as it was a series A startup.

The team consisted of all-stars. The CEO formerly founded a venture capital fund that invested in Meta before Facebook bought it! The CTO was a serial entrepreneur with 2+ exits. They were funded by Tiger capital with a $150m series A valuation.

The people were honestly the best. I still keep in touch with a huge group of them. I felt like I could be myself with them, and everyone was so driven.

What was the interview process like? 

I had a phone screening with HR, then a behavioral interview with Jordy, then a case + behavioral interview with a coworker, a take home case and review with Jordy, and then a call with the CEO.

What was your biggest learning at ResQ?

SO MUCH learned from the four months there. Honestly, I still feel so grateful for that experience. It taught me a lot about myself, hustle, grit, what kind of work I want to do, etc. But if I have to summarize the most important takeaway, it’s this: PUSH THE PACE & DO THINGS THAT DON’T SCALE

We found that we were so ambitious and saw so many opportunities to make changes, but were hamstrung because the product team had a super busy roadmap that we couldn’t get immediate placement on. So, the managers of the customer experience team and I set up daily 1:1s where we would highlight things we’re going to test together over the day and report on the day after. We would be forced to find small tests of improvement that we would manually control, so we could be ambitious and driven, do something, and then review the outcome to see if it moved the needle. We were constantly on our toes, experimenting, and made in my opinion, a lot of change in just a few weeks

Tell us about your second BizOps role

What’s the role?

I’m a business operations manager on the business operations team at Webflow. The key goals of the team are to

  1. Be general athletes that help drive the business forward in any way needed
  2. Leading and pushing through cross-functional projects that are top priority and impact the business (i.e. OKR development / annual planning)
  3. Providing analysis that helps us make better decisions in the business

Through these three focuses, we allow decision makers to operate more efficiently and make better decisions, which ultimately increases ARR and decreases CAC, churn, and other key metrics through our improved decision making / understanding. 

How have the first few months on the job been?

Candidly, incredibly challenging at first. I wasn’t used to the pace of work, expectations, and standard of quality. Everyone at Webflow is so brilliant, and I realized my past work style / way of doing things needed to improve. For instance, I quickly learned that pulling pivot tables and doing one off views was not a sustainable way to perform ongoing analyses, and the importance of automating / future proofing work.

The first few months were also incredibly challenging because I had the strongest imposter syndrome I’ve ever experienced. I looked up to everyone in the team so much, and felt so much like I didn’t belong there, that I would have terrible anxiety before work every day.

It’s also taught me a lot about who I am, and my key strengths. I think this is an incredibly high performing culture with people who really care about the product and company mission. I’ve learned that I’m capable of working the hours needed to support the work (as needed), able to learn fast enough so that people don’t need to repeat themselves and smart enough to provide insight that helps us make smart decisions, and deserve to belong here  

It’s truly been a challenging and incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I don’t think the Raza 6 months ago would recognize the Raza now, and that’s ultimately my goal.

How has your thinking around your career path changed over time?

There are a few things that have changed in how I think about my career

  1. Changing my metric of success

In the past, I used to focus on increase in compensation and getting promoted as quickly as possible. I think it indicated to me that I’m a “high performer” and that I could succeed anywhere. And candidly, it actually gave me validation and helped me feel more confident.

Moving to ResQ and Webflow, I’ve been so amazed at the learning opportunities and difference in intensity of work, that it’s really changed how I perceive myself and what I want out of my career. The job title doesn’t matter to me – the compensation doesn’t matter to me, and the upward mobility is something I strive for, but I’m not aiming for a promotion every year. Instead, I’m focusing on growth – how much smarter have I become? How would I solve problems differently now than before? What impact am I driving for my org? How am I asking for, managing, and implementing feedback? I’ve just had so many opportunities to improve, that the key metric now has become growth. I obviously care about the quality of my work, and still prefer to get promoted, higher comp, etc, but I want to be in a place to earn it instead of getting it for some source of validation.

  1. Increased intentionality

In the past, I didn’t really know what I wanted in my career and was focused on doing the job in front of me to the best of my ability.

I’ve now pivoted to being much more intentional about what I’m doing and how it rolls up to my career goals. I.e. If I want to be on an early team of some amazing start up, or be a senior leader, I know I’ll need to have experience doing great work and driving big change across an org. So, I’m going to seek that experience in order to be the most ready for the opportunity I’m chasing.

Once I feel confident in the skills I want, I’ll re-evaluate what I’m doing and how I can pivot further to get the next skills I want.

I’ve become much more proactive, ambitious, and hard working.

  1. Realizing I want to pursue some kind of entrepreneurship

I always wanted to be a consultant. When I started interviewing for consulting companies, I learned about tech. Now that I work in an amazing start up, my new gold standard has pivoted to being a founder (or early team for an awesome start up). This is a big hairy aspirational goal that makes me feel uneasy, and a massive dose of imposter syndrome, but through the last ~year of working in tech, I’ve met and worked with INCREDIBLE people and have started to feel more courageous in the dreams I have.

To read more about Raza's experience in The Commons community, check out Part 1 of our Spotlight with Raza.

Ready to land your dream Strategy & Operations role at a mission-driven company? Apply to the Strategy + Operations Sprint to learn valuable skills for operations roles under the guidance of pro in the field.

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