The Commons Digest (12/07/2022)

The COmmons Insider Newsletter

This week's discussion...

A Sneak Peek into a Career at Instacart

Learning at The Commons

New member enrollments are officially open! Get on the waitlist asap if you want a spot!

If someone forwarded this to you, subscribe here.

Your Weekly Level Up

🔥 Hot topic: Building a Financial Model for An Early Stage Startup

✏️ Career Resource: Hot Jobs On Community Members' Teams

✅ Community Reccos: Resources To Build Data Analytics Skills

💭 Thought Starter: Dealing With Anxiety & Burnout

💡Brain Teaser: 🦒 🐘 🐻

🚀 Community Share: All Wrapped Up

A Sneak Peek into a Career at Instacart

We recently sat down with one of our Strategy and Operations mentors, Brandon, to learn about what drew him to tech, gain insight on his interview process, understand how he leverages SQL in his role, and get a sneak peek behind the scenes at Instacart. Check out the full article here.

What do you do and where are you currently located?

📍I run a team of four on the Retail Analytics and Insights team at Instacart, driving growth for partners through data. I currently live and work remotely in San Francisco.

Describe yourself with 3 emojis & give us a little context on why you chose them!

🥕I’ve spent the last 4+ years thinking about analyzing groceries (as a job!) and have loved every part of it  

🌁 I was born in San Francisco and have been a lifelong (and recently very lucky) fan of all local sports teams

🍕 I’m constantly on the lookout for a good slice of pizza near me, regardless if I just ate a meal!

You pivoted from Investment Banking to tech so that you could have a more direct impact on a business. What drew you to Instacart?

A few friends and family had already made the pivot from a traditional track to startups, so the jump did not feel that risky at the time. I did not have a specific role in mind – but I wanted to leverage my client-facing experience at PIMCO while getting closer to the data. I first heard of Instacart through a podcast – How I Built This with Guy Raz – and an interview with the founder Apoorva. The story and mission of the company resonated with me. I was fascinated by the chance to work with grocery stores and a tangible product like food, and more practically, I could understand the business model!

What was the interview process like?

After finding a posting on Linkedin, my interview process at Instacart was quite seamless – except for the fact that I had never heard the word ‘SQL’ up until halfway through my first interview with the hiring manager. Everyone was incredibly friendly and supportive, however, and I’ll always be grateful to the team that took a chance on me. I joined the Catalog team, which at the time was quite technical and SQL-heavy, as it was responsible for helping retail partners build their virtual catalogs and expand coverage across the country. Over time, with the help of many mentors and countless reps, I built my SQL muscles and began leveraging it in my day-to-day role.

PS - We advise stepping into an interview prepared to tackle a case involving SQL. Check out The Commons' Strategy & Operations Sprint which will help you feel confident about your data analytics skill set. The next cohort kicks off in January.

What's your favorite thing about being a mentor?

  1. Seeing my mentees grow over the course of the Sprint, from the first week to the last week, and build confidence in both analyzing data and framing business problems
  2. Observing the community come to life in Slack, and the generosity of different folks in lending their time and expertise to help with any question that comes up!

What should people who are thinking about joining The Commons know about it?

While incredibly valuable and tactical in their own right, the Sprints are gateways to joining a really vibrant community, with direct access to real people in real jobs that you will almost certainly work with (or want to work with) at some point in your tech career!

Okay, back to your role at Instacart! What team are you on? What is your day-to-day like?

I’m currently a manager on the Retail Analytics & Insights team at Instacart and lead a team of 4 Senior Analysts. We sit within the Business Development org, partnering cross-functionally across the company to develop data-driven insights and drive growth for our retail partners. Our partnerships with our retailers are at the core of our business, and my team directly covers a wide range of our largest grocery and non-grocery partnerships. Bringing groceries online can be complex, and our mandate is to understand the dynamics of the marketplace across macro business, operational, and customer trends.

In our day-to-day, the team leverages complex SQL analysis to uncover short and long-term trends, partners with the Business Development team to drive decision-making across key initiatives at a set of partners, and crafts stories with data in monthly and quarterly business reviews. SQL is critical to the role, as it helps us bridge technical and non-technical stakeholders and empowers the team to be self-sufficient when solving problems in creative ways.

Tell us about a cool project you’ve worked on

  • Project Objective: Understanding the business impact of inflation
  • Project Overview: This project involved creating a series of slides to frame the business and customer impacts of inflation for our retailers. The project involved several steps – from first identifying the key themes surrounding inflation that retailers are interested in, to analyzing multiple slices of data to uncover key drivers and building a dashboard for tracking, to finally building out an external-facing story with clear takeaways.
  • Your role: Manager (led project with my team)
  • What made it so interesting? One of the most rewarding parts of my role is having access to data and the opportunity to help develop thought leadership regarding key trends in our business. At Instacart, because we partner with such a diverse range of retailers and move high volumes of orders across North America every day, we have a front-row seat to the key events impacting our retailers, customers, and shoppers that may also make the regular nightly news – ranging from Covid waves, to seasonal holidays and severe weather, to supply chain shortages, to understanding themes like inflation and concerns of an upcoming recession. We get to analyze and digest all of these events through data!

There's so more to unpack in the full article. Check it out ⬇️

Read the Full Interview

What’s happening at The Commons

Upcoming events

Mentor Office Hours

Join two of our incredible mentors, Rachel (VP of BizOps at Zelis) and Tiffany (Product Manager at Uber), for an Office Hours with an AMA-style Q&A, covering everything from breaking into tech, to excelling in your role! We'll kick off by letting both of them share their trajectory and how they broke into tech and then use the rest of the time for questions and discussion.

December 7, 8PM ET | Virtual
Community only
Register here

Weathering Tough Times & Job Search Chat

Tackling a job search or dealing with change at work isn't easy. Tack on the recent headlines and it feels even heavier. That's why we're bringing together three expert community voices. Join mentors Shane P. (Head of Ops @ KOHO), Rohan S. (Strategic Ops Manager @ Super) and Saumil S. (Growth & Chief of Staff at SafeGraph) for a chat on weathering tough times at work and in the job search.

December 12, 7PM ET | Virtual
Community only
Register here

Community Hang

Come hang with The Commons team & community! We'll spend the time catching up and playing some casual games. Join us for a boost before finishing off your work week!

December 16, 12PM ET
Community only
Register here

12 Days of Giveaways

We're running 12 Days of Giveaways in collaboration with some of our awesome partners through the month of December. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for a chance to participate! The fun kicked off on Monday and there's another giveaway running today.

Congrats to Moiz for winning Monday's giveaway!

All are welcome to participate
Follow us on LinkedIn and find today's post!

Past events

ICYMI we recently hosted these events. Members, you can find relevant recordings on our platform.

  • No-Code/Low-Code Showcase | Being able to improve and automate processes is a true super power for any operator! Mentor Sarah Zarling (Senior Product Operations Manager, Color) hosted a session focused on expanding your No-Code/Low-Code toolkit, and shared ways to apply these solutions to your day-to-day.
  • The Tech Discovery Summit | Last weekend we hosted two days filled with workshops so you could gain exposure to the tech industry and build skills to nail an interview and deliver impact quickly on the job.

Application Alert: The Waitlist is Open!

Looking to join The Commons? Your way in is through an application. We finally opened new admissions to join The Commons. We'll only remain open for a limited time so act quickly. If you're on the waitlist - stay tuned for an admissions email. If you're not yet on the waitlist, apply below!

Join the 2023 Waitlist

We're currently reviewing applications for the following Sprints in January 2023:

We're also now accepting a limited number of Community Only members. If you're interested in joining the community only (instead of participating in a Sprint), you can also join the waitlist below.


Explore Sprints // Join the Waitlist


All 2022 Sprints are now closed!

Join the Waitlist

HOT TOPIC - Building A Financial Model for An Early Stage Startup

📈 Tackling new challenges in tech is complicated! It's even more stressful when you'll be diving into it via an interview. Regardless of it it's for an interview or on the job, being able to tap into the community for advice gives you a little breathing room in a space that constantly pushes you to learn new things and demonstrate impact so quickly.If you're building a financial model at a SaaS startup, or preparing for an interview, consider leveraging this community advice ⬇️

Huge s/o to Shushant for this advice!

  • I'd highly recommend the Strategic Finance Sprint (check it out + apply here!) but in the meantime, take a read through this article
  • Main concepts you want to think through are:
  • Operating leverage (beyond which point do incremental software sales basically go to your cash flow)
  • LTV / CAC (lifetime value and customer acquisition cost) — this is the important metric to track as you grow any SaaS business — what does it cost to acquire a customer and how long can you keep them?  If too high, you’re not investing enough in marketing. If too low, you’re not charging your customers enough OR you’re not doing a good job retaining them long enough.
  • Payback period — how quickly do your marketing dollars and sales dollars invested get paid back in subscription revenue?
  • Net and Gross Dollar Retention —customers you retain with and without expansion
  • Capital efficiency — how much revenue did you generate relative to capital invested in the business (total $ raised)?
  • Magic Number — Quarterly ARR growth / prior quarter sales & marketing number — are you getting the right ROI on marketing? If really high, invest more, if too low, reduce your CAC (customer acquisition cost)
  • On the Go-to-market side — the levers that are important are:
  • Sales capacity and quotas — how many sales people do you need to hit your ARR goals? How many customer success people to retain customers and upsell them?

More community feedback:

  • "Lightspeed has this example SaaS operating model that I found helpful." - Felicia
  • "Creandum has a financial model for a "fictitious B2B SaaS business raising a Series A", sharing it here just in case it is helpful. And another one here." - Bruno
  • "It depends on how much time you have but like most Biz Ops cases - recommend breaking it down into unit economics. In the case of SaaS model, you’d probably want to break out by segments of customers (SMB/Enterprise) and pricing (typically SMB and Enterprise have difference pricing) then I would layer in churn assumptions. If you have a lot of time, would suggest building cohorts with varied churn assumptions (if you have limited time, would just do a blanket churn assumptions). If you have to model a feature or promotion, build a BAU ('business as usual' - i.e. current state without feature or promotion) and post-implementation state. You’ll bake in an incremental benefit. Build dynamic assumptions so you can update if the figures don’t look correct. It’s not about having perfect assumptions but having reasonable ones! Also take advantage of the fact that it’s live and ask questions." - Aya
  • "One of our mentors can help you with this via mentor 1:1 coaching - in particular, Neelam and Callum might be able to help!" - Loren

Check Out The Full Thread

Your weekly level up

Hot Jobs On Community Members' Teams

A number of our community members are hiring onto their teams. There's truly no better way to get your foot in the door. Head over to the #job-openings Slack channel to check out these 🌶 roles - and many more!

Resources to Build Analytics Skills

OG mentor and advisor at The Commons, Shane, shared a great list of resources tailored for data analytics. Perfect for someone who wants to continue honing their skills after completing the Strategy & Operations Sprint.

If you're looking to build SQL and analysis skills in the most practical way, so that you can run queries and make data-driven recommendations at work, consider joining the January Sprint. Learn more.

See the full list in this thread.

Dealing with Anxiety & Burnout

One of the truly magical things about the community is seeing members championing others well beyond the skills development that happens during the Sprints. ⬇️

Grappling with similar challenges? Have some advice to share? Check out the thread in here.

If a zookeeper had 100 pairs of animals in her zoo, and two pairs of babies are born for each one of the original animals, then (sadly) 23 animals don’t survive, how many animals do you have left in total?

Check out the answer here.

All wrapped up 🎁

Last week the final Strategy & Operations Sprint of the year wrapped up. We loved reading all of your team shoutouts in Slack - it's amazing to see the skills you've developed and the connections you've made in just a few short weeks. Curious what they learned. Check out the below gif and alum Hannah's post!

And of course, a huge shout out to the superlative nominees! 🤗 You all crushed it!

In case you missed it ... here's a sample of the 💚 that was shared in Slack

Interested in more?
The Commons Digest (01/04/2022)
The COmmons Insider Newsletter
The Commons Digest (01/04/2022)
The Commons Digest for 01/04/2022
The Commons Digest (12/22/2022)
The COmmons Insider Newsletter
The Commons Digest (12/22/2022)
The Commons Digest for 12/22/2022
The Commons Digest (09/06/2022)
The COmmons Insider Newsletter
The Commons Digest (09/06/2022)
The Commons Digest for 09/06/2022
Skillful is now The Commons.
We’re more than just skills training. We're the place where high achievers come to fulfill their career potential. We combine education, mentorship and community to empower the next generation of ambitious professionals to achieve their career goals.
The time to build the education institution of the future is now. And we're doing it.

Careers are catalyzed through skills-training, mentorship and a supportive network. At The Commons, we're delivering those critical career elements together through learning experiences that are social, mentorship-based and community-first.

Join to learn and stay for the community.