Leaning in: How Justin Collett has made the most of The Commons

learner Story

Meet Justin Collett

To summarize Justin’s career path in 1 line: Geomatics Engineering at the University of New Brunswick --> Land Surveying across the interior of B.C. --> Sabbatical and internship at a commercial law firm in New Delhi --> Diploma in Sustainable Business Leadership at BCIT --> VFC Fellowship --> Customer Success in Geospatial Tech Firm --> The Commons Core Sprint --> Strategy & Planning Analyst - BizOps at Velocity Global

Read on to learn more about Justin’s experience breaking into tech, his current role in BizOps, and the many ways he’s stayed involved in The Commons community after his Sprint!

Making the pivot

Tell us about why you wanted to pivot industries and how has your thinking around your career path changed over time? 

Near the end of my engineering undergrad, I took a few business courses which sparked an interest in business strategy. After graduating and working for a year in the engineering sector, I realized I wanted a more dynamic career, but I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time.

After considering pursuing either the professions of urban planning or law, I decided to return to my interest in business strategy by going back to school to study Sustainable Business Leadership at BCIT and participate in a Fellowship with Venture For Canada.

Once I completed those programs and was searching for my next opportunity, I was advised of the difficulty in changing both my sector and job function at the same time. One way around this was to look for a role with a different scope of work in a sector related to my previous experience. I followed this advice and found a customer success role in the geospatial tech sector where I learned how to work cross-functionally and build bridges between technical teams and stakeholders.

Taking the next step towards a business strategy role would necessitate a broader set of data analytics skills, and signing up for the Core Sprint with The Commons provided a structured environment in order to accomplish this. (Justin was able to level up on SQL, analysis and problem solving and ultimately landed a BizOps role at Velocity Global)

Overall I’ve found that working in tech has allowed me to work on a great variety of projects, which will open doors to areas of work that I wouldn’t have considered while working in engineering. Making the transition certainly is a risk, but learning to ask the right questions can help speed up the process. 

👀 You can check out the Core Sprint HERE.

What are some of those questions that helped speed up the process for you?

To start, it’s important to research the sector and job function that you’re curious about, in order to ask more industry specific questions to hiring managers and mentors. Asking about competitive advantage in the market is a good way to showcase your research.

Additionally, it’s important to ask yourself what career experience you’re really looking for. If the answer is “I’m not sure” like it was for me, then that gives you flexibility to seek community to learn what opportunities may be available that you’re not currently aware of.

You initially pivoted into tech in a Customer Success role. How was your experience in Customer Success?

Working in Customer Success allowed me to get into the trenches of a tech organization to learn how to communicate with clients and help explain complex topics. This was a great tech-adjacent role where I got to work alongside technical teams and soak up knowledge.

Ultimately I was able to showcase my ability to work at both a high level, and get into the weeds of complex subjects. Depending on your interests and intended career path, gaining experience in a Customer Success role could open doors to BizOps or ProductOps down the road.

Justin’s experience with The Commons

So what prompted you to join The Commons? What were you hoping to get out of the experience? 

My motivation was to level up my data analytics skill set and network with like minded, early career professionals working in tech. In 6 short weeks, I was able to speak confidently about my intermediate SQL & Tableau skills which was a turning point in my professional development.

Who was your mentor? What was it like to work with them & your team through the project? 

My mentor was Anna Dabrowski, Strategic Planning Manager at Clio, along with shadow mentors Ananya Sharma, Strategic Finance at Uber, and Luca Castaneda, SalesOps at Uber Eats. Our mentors helped guide our team of five to first assess the current state of our project, analyze data, and craft recommendations for our pitch to executives. They gave invaluable advice on the project and how it related to real world opportunities.

How do you keep involved with the community? 

Apart from sharing relevant roles in the #job-openings channel on Slack (leading to two community members joining Velocity Global!), I've had the opportunity to be a Geo Captain for Vancouver and host a meet up for the Commons community.

What made you want to be a Geo-Captain for the community’s Vancouver members? 

I always enjoy bringing people together. Doing so, in what’s often known as a lonely city, was something I wanted to get involved in. As a geo-captain, I help coordinate meet ups every few months and share relevant events happening in the city. Feel free to find me on LinkedIn to hear about the next meet up!

Why is The Commons a good place to recruit for open roles at your company?

As there are very few networks focused on developing skills related to Product and BizOps roles, the hiring managers I’ve been in touch with understand the value a Sprint with The Commons brings to the table. Gaining practical experience specific to those roles, and having support from mentors while interviewing, gives community members a leg up while interviewing and executing on the job.

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

Sprints are a game changing (and low cost) way to help you connect your capabilities to exciting opportunities that you probably didn’t even know existed. The 6 weeks are demanding, but at the end of the day you get out what you put into it.

Justin’s new role in BizOps

OK, now tell us more about your new role! 

I joined Velocity Global in May as a Strategy and Planning Analyst on the BizOps team. We’re tasked with running the highest level analysis for our executive team, tracking KPIs related to near and long term objectives, and executing critical projects / filling core business needs.

How have your first few months been on the job? 

As BizOps is working across the entire organization, my onboarding felt a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But after every conversation with teammates, I started to see how the different business units worked together.

So far I’ve been able to work on a few high level KPI tracking projects, which has given me a unique perspective across the organization.

Apart from my day to day work, I appreciate how our company incorporates our values into everything we do. Whether it's starting a meeting with a read out of our values, or the kindness of my teammates to share their knowledge and experience, it’s been greatly appreciated!

How’d you find the role? What prompted your interest in it?

I initially saw the opportunity on The Commons’ #job-openings Slack channel, and reached out to the community member who could connect me directly to the hiring manager. I was keen to work closely with senior leadership on both strategic and operations focused projects, and implement the skills I had learned during the Core Sprint.

What was the interview process like? 

I first had a coffee chat with the hiring manager, who pushed my application internally. After a screening call with HR, I was tasked with completing a case study to analyze a subset of company data. I followed a similar process to what I’d learned in the Core Sprint to complete the case and present it to the hiring manager. The final round was with a Product Ops Manager, and I received an offer shortly after.

What advice would you give to your former self at the beginning of your job search?

A successful application comes down to four things:

  1. Preparation (of your resume, knowledge of the industry/company/team/role, and your ‘why this company?’ response)
  2. Your networking (internal referrals really do help)
  3. Setting expectations (you can only control your attitude and effort)
  4. Luck

If you complete the first three steps with patience, persistence, and self awareness, then you can start to see rejections as a redirection. They certainly don’t define you!

Who has been helpful as you navigated your job search and career in general? What advice did they give you?

Near the end of the Core Sprint I was getting a lot of career advice from my Core Sprint mentor Anna and Alex on The Commons team. They were both invaluable in giving me the space to debrief disappointing rejections and celebrate wins.

And lastly, some fun stuff!

Tell us some of your favorites!

🎙Podcasts:

  • Dissect
  • The Daily Stoic
  • CANADALAND
  • Need to Know

📰Where you get your daily news:

  • The Commons Slack
  • The Peak
  • TechCrunch
  • Twitter (for urbanism & tech content)
  • CBC

📚Books:

  • Atomic Habits - James Clear
  • Colour of Law - Richard Rothstein
  • The Inconvenient Indian - Thomas King
  • Fahrenhiet 451 - Ray Bradbury

🎨What you're doing outside of work:

  • Reading, biking, visiting farmers markets, planning weekend hikes & trips

If you're interested in meeting peers who have made the transition into operations roles in tech like Justin, join the Core Sprint today!

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