Meet Sam, a Mentor at The Commons and Head of Strategy and Operations at FullStory.
To summarize Sam's career path in one line: Colgate Undergrad → Portfolio Analyst at Samson Capital → Wharton MBA → Customer Insights at Custora (acquired by Amperity) → Strategy & Ops at GroundTruth (he started with one direct report, our very own mentor - Max Nimaroff - and oversaw the whole department by the end of his time at GT) → Strategy @ AWS → Head of Strategy and Ops @ FullStory.
Current role & location?
📍Head of Strategy and Operations @ FullStory in NY but FullStory is HQ’d in Atlanta.
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 the 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 the team. 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 favourites:
🎙 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 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.
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