At the heart of every company is the operations team—the ones who get down to the nitty gritty, nailing down processes and making sure everything flows between people and departments the way it’s supposed to.
To learn more about what it takes to get started in an operations career, we talked with five people who have already done it—and quite successfully.
Read on for their stories, which just might provide some inspiration for your own operations career path.
1. Carolyn Childers
VP, Operations, Handy
Carolyn Childers began her career as an investment banker, but when she developed a new interest in business strategy, she decided to switch tracks and go to business school. There, she discovered her love for startups, where she could have an immediate—and lasting—impact on a growing company. After working for a few startups and launching a business of her own, she discovered Handy.
In her role there as vice president of operations, she oversees the two major aspects of the company’s organization—the professional team and the customer experience team. On a daily basis, she thinks through the policies and procedures at the foundation of the department, then figures out how to bring them to life. “Basically,” she explains, “we make sure everything is as wonderful as it can be for our professionals and our customers.”
2. Dave Liu
Manager, Ad Operations, Brightroll
“I actually didn’t think I would work in a tech company,” shares Dave Liu, who studied managerial economics at UC Davis. But immediately after graduation, he fell into a contract position with a large technology company—and soon, his interest was piqued.
Having grown up in the Bay Area, where technology startups are prominent, he began to fall in love with the environment and growing space of technology. So, when his contract ended, he began looking for a permanent position with a tech company that was on a good growth pattern. “I felt like Brightroll really had that, and that appealed to me,” he shared.
As the manager of ad operations, Liu works with the media team to support campaign launches and troubleshoot problems to help ensure that Brightroll delivers effective and efficient results.
3. Lacee Lazoff
Vice President, Retail Operations, Peloton Cycle
Initially, Lacee Lazoff dreamed of owning a basketball team when she grew up—but her passion changed from athletic to artistic when she started training in classical violin. When it came time to choose her major in college, though, she chose business.
After graduation, Lazoff pursued retail, working first for a luxury apparel brand that allowed her to learn all the best tricks of the trade. With that knowledge, she was able to move into the vice president role at Peloton Cycle.
“My role encompasses everything retail strategy and development,” Lazoff shares. She determines how the company should move forward with retail stores, with the overarching goal of eventually taking the company worldwide.
4. Erica Setness
Operations Manager, Twice
Erica Setness went to school in Sacramento, graduating with a degree in English, “which I promptly chose not to use,” she shares. She immediately went into secondhand retail, which eventually led her to open her own online vintage store.
About five years in, while cruising Craigslist for some vintage clothing, she happened upon an ad for Twice, an online marketplace for buying and selling secondhand fashion. “It matched my strengths pretty perfectly,” she remembers. She headed to Oakland to meet with the founders (“We had burritos,” she shares), and soon became the company’s first employee.
Over time, Setness has worked in almost every role at Twice—but as the company grew and developed fully-formed teams, she was able to settle into her favorite department: operations. Now, she oversees the company’s operations associates, sets up the buying and shipping processes, and makes sure each of the departments are running smoothly.
5. Eileen Lee
Chief Operating Officer, Venture for America
With traditional Korean parents, Eileen Lee says that she had two career options: become a doctor or pursue starting her own business. She chose the latter and attended Columbia as an economics major.
When she graduated, she followed the path of several of her friends and attempted to go into investment banking. “I didn’t get any job offers,” she shares, “because it was pretty obvious I wasn’t interested in it and didn’t know what I was talking about.” Instead, she found her way into consulting, where she worked for six years until she reached the point of burnout and quit.
After being unemployed for more than four months, she met Venture for America’s founder and was instantly sold. Now, as the COO, she makes sure the business runs smoothly, that the teams are supported, and that the company continues to grow.