The Commons Weekly Digest
This is your new digest from The Commons. The format & content looks a bit different. We're focusing more on telling the career stories of our community - journeys and advice you can learn from. We'll also be highlighting other ways you can level up - through community events, Sprints and discussions happening in our community.
Think of it like a TL;DR of the massive group chat that happens in The Commons community every day. We'd love to hear what you think of the new format!
Have a friend who is interesting in subscribing - forward them THIS LINK to sign up!
In this week's issue:
- Meet Sam, Commons Mentor & Head of Strategy and Operations at FullStory. His career has taken him from finance to tech. Read on to learn why he picked tech over consulting, how building and leveraging his network helped him make the pivot, and why he thinks FullStory rocks.
- Evaluating Equity at Startups: A Thread
- The Commons Events & Open Sprints
- Your Weekly Level Up
- Practice Interview Question: stakeholder management
- Community Reccos: productivity apps!
- Thought Starter: mentors’ advice on how to setting yourself up for success in a new role
- Brain teaser 💡
Meet Sam, a Commons Mentor and Head of Strategy and Operations at FullStory.
What Sam's currently up to
📍Sam is the Head of Strategy and Operations @ FullStory. He’s based in NY. Below, he shares his career story with us (quick preview: he started in finance and pivoted into tech).
Your career epiphany: What prompted you to pivot from finance to tech?
I started my career in a pretty niche area of finance. The firm I worked for managed fixed income portfolios for high net worth individuals and the portfolio managers I worked for were specifically focused on municipal bonds. After a few years and market cycles, I felt there wasn’t a lot of room for innovation and that I wanted a role where I was helping a business move forward as opposed to reacting to market conditions.
How did you identify what type of role you wanted to shift to?
I originally thought I wanted to go into management consulting because I thought it would be interesting to work on several growth projects. However, after doing an internship at a consulting firm, I realized that being an operator is a much better way to help a business grow so I shifted my focus to tech.
How did you come across your current role?
During business school I took a class on customer analytics. The founder of Custora was a few years in front of me at Wharton and had started a company based on the learnings from the class. When I saw they were raising money, I reached out to him and was fortunate enough to be brought on as one of their first 20 employees.
How has your thinking around your career path changed over time?
I used to think that eventually I would need to move from StratOps into a more traditional function (Finance, Sales, Marketing etc,) in order to grow my career. However, over the past five years, I feel as though StratOps has become a more defined (and necessary) function. It has also started becoming more prevalent outside of marketplace business models. As a result of this, I feel like I can focus on continuing to grow as a StratOps leader and not pivot into a new role in order to advance my career.
We're so happy you're part of The Commons! What have been your favorite parts about being a mentor?
- Watching the progression of my team of mentees. It’s amazing how quickly the decks transform from a bunch of data to a cohesive narrative.
- Seeing how helpful the community is – my mentees who have been looking to find a new job have all gotten referrals, help with interview prep, and strong support from The Commons community.
- Learning from other mentors and my mentees – I pick up something new every meeting.
What should people who are thinking about joining The Commons know about it?
You get out of The Commons what you put in. Everyone has different goals when entering a cohort (learn new skills, pivot to a new job, build a network) but you should be upfront about your goals with your mentor and team so they can help you get everything you possibly can out of The Commons.
Tell us about your current role at FullStory!
I am the Head of Strategy and Operations at FullStory. StratOps at FullStory encompasses a few different functions but primarily GTM Strategy, Business Intelligence, and International Launch. Our main goal for this year is to shift our focus to the long term. FullStory has grown so quickly that for the past few years we have really not needed to plan far into the future. We have just focused on continuing to execute on what got us to where we are today. However, to continue to grow we needed to be strategic in where we focus on StratOps is a big part of that.
Why should someone work at FullStory?
FullStory has an amazing culture. I know every company says that but FullStory walks the walk. The leadership has done a great job instilling our company values and operating principles in the day to day operations of the company, they aren’t just some words in an orientation deck that you never see again. I also think we have done a great job maintaining the culture as we have transitioned to being a remote first company. There are still in person events for those comfortable but the thought that goes into planned focus time, company all-hands, and virtual off-sites has been really incredible to see.
What advice would you give to your former self at the beginning of your job search?
Be better at looking for resources. When I was applying to business school, alternative learning resources were not as prevalent as they are today but they were out there. I would have advised myself to start developing skills while I was still working in finance. I could have learned SQL, gotten better at narrative telling, and been more prepared for job interviews if I had invested more time in learning on my own time.
Tell us some of your favorites:
🎙Podcast: I only listen to sports podcasts since I like podcasts to be a distraction from work. The Bill Simmons podcast is my favorite.
💻 A tech company you think should be on everyone's radar: FullStory :-)
🎨 What you're doing outside of work: Golfing. I am determined to take 2 strokes off my handicap this year.
🌟 A CEO or leader you admire: Jeff Bezos. It may be an unpopular opinion but the leadership principles at Amazon and all of the mechanisms around decision making that he created really changed the way I approached my work.
And now, a few fun tidbits about you!
1. I am married and my wife has never been able to tell anyone what any of my jobs have been.
2. I am a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder. I still go from NY to Philly (my hometown) for 4-5 games a season.
3. I won an art contest in second grade. It was the pinnacle of my art career.
Check out more mentor spotlights here.
What the community is talking about...
Discussions in The Commons community are prolific. Here’s a top one from this past week: Evaluating Equity at Startups.
Evaluating equity at startups can be really confusing. 🤯 But, often companies place a lot of value on the equity component of your offer, so it's important that you’re knowledgeable enough to be able to navigate a discussion and make a personal assessment of its value in your compensation package.
Next week, The Commons mentors are hosting an Office Hours to discuss valuing startup equity. Here are some of the questions we’ll be discussing. Hop into Slack (below) to add your questions to the list 🤩
🪂 The Commons Events & Sprint Drops
Upcoming Commons events:
- Equity at Startups: Understanding & Evaluating Your Startup Equity | Mon July 11 @ 7PM EST | The Commons community only - join via #general
- The Commons Summit: Business Teams in Tech - Wed July 13 @ 6PM EST - Secure your spot
Recent past events - Community members, you can access the recordings on the platform:
- The Commons Office Hours: Pivoting from Finance to Tech | Wed July 6 @ 8:30PM EST | Event Details
- The Commons x OMNA: Tech Company Showcase: Meet Companies & Hiring Managers That Are Hiring Now | Thurs July 7 @ 12PM EST | Event Details
APPLY NOW - We're currently reviewing applications for the following Sprints:
- Core - starts July 25th
- Product - starts early August (an incredibly stacked roster of mentors from Uber, Tonal, Shopify, Spotify and more)
- Revenue Growth - starts mid-August
- Strategic Finance - starts September
Your weekly level up ⏫
✏️ Practice Interview Question
Question: Tell me about a time when you had to gain buy-in from a stakeholder with different priorities than you.
What They're Testing For: It's likely their organization is highly matrixed and/or you'll have to work cross-functionally. They're looking to gain confidence that you can be an influencer within the organization, especially when different teams may be focused on different goals.
🌟 Tip: Get granular! Make sure you explain the how and what in your response. Rather than staying too high level, get specific - Did you foster a relationship with them - if so, how? Did you leverage data? Did you get other stakeholders that they trusted onboard? Did you work to understand their priorities - if so, how?
✅ Community Reccos
This week we're talking Productivity apps!⚡️Here are two recommendations from the community:
Things: Defined as a 'smart tool that will help you get things done' was recommended by Joel, a Core Sprint alum. "Things has really stuck with me as a simple and powerful-enough multi-device app."
Fantastical: Recommended by both Joel and Hassan, also a Core Sprint alum, for making dealing with multiple calendars easy.
💭 Thought Starter
Are you setting yourself up well for progression at a new company? Here are some tips that The Commons mentors shared on how to do just that:
- Learn from Others: "Talk to folks who've successfully been promoted! Every company manages progression differently - you'll learn the most from folks who've done it at this one." - Julie-Anne, Core Sprint Mentor & Product at DoorDash
- Make a PDP: "Create and document a PDP (personal development plan) with your goals & gaps, specific actions and align with your manager on them. Make sure your objectives are clear and that they agree the actions outlined make sense, in terms of your development. Also be sure to have an ask for them - what do you need from them to help you get there (eg. introductions to other stakeholders, stretch projects, commitment to give you weekly feedback, etc.)." - Alex, Head of Growth at The Commons, ex-Uber
- Build Connections: "Relationships are key - grab time with coworkers to get to know them informally, and share your goals with them! You never know when they ma know about a cool opportunity that would fit your learning interests, whether now or in the future." - Tiffany, Core Sprint Mentor, Product at Uber
🧠 Brain TeaserYou are in a room that has three switches and a closed door. The switches control three light bulbs on the other side of the door. Once you open the door, you may never touch the switches again. How can you definitively tell which switch is connected to each of the light bulbs?
Check here for the answer!
Want to chat about The Commons?
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