We’re sharing stories of people’s early careers. Everyone we interview has worked for a startup in the first few years of their career. We hope reading about others’ experiences at startups will help you make more informed career decisions!
At Otta, we’re advocating for working at fast growing technology companies early in your career. We think this is where learning opportunities and development potential are highest.
Sheri: Tide & Monzo
Sheri Farsani is currently a Product Marketing Manager* at Monzo. Sheri studied Law at university and started her career in management consulting. After 2 years, she joined Tide (a challenger bank for small businesses) as the second employee in the marketing team. She worked at Tide for just over 2 years, where she was promoted twice, before moving to Monzo. I met Sheri at Monzo’s office to talk about her career so far.
*Product marketers are responsible for building a deep understanding of the company’s users and figuring out how best to market the product to those users.
Tell me how you ended up getting your first job
When applying for university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was pretty good at essay writing and problem solving, so I went for a law degree. I graduated still not really knowing what I wanted to do!
I went into consulting, which is a great place to start if you’re not really sure what to do and want to develop a broad set of skills. While I was there, I didn’t really find that I was challenged and it didn’t draw on any of my strengths.
My role was very one dimensional. The projects changed, but the work I would be expected to do was very similar and I felt like I was doing a job that anybody could do.
I’m a big believer that everyone has something that they’re great at. In the corporate world, I think it’s very difficult for anyone to have the opportunity to shine. I was just coming into work and going through the motions, I couldn’t wait to leave and do something else!
I stayed for 2 years, until I found Tide.
What made you want to join Tide in the marketing team?
Tide had recently raised a seed round from some pretty impressive investors. Tide is in the fintech space, which I liked, and all the consulting I did was in financial services, so it was an area I knew a bit about.
The founder was keen to hire someone into marketing who had the ability to juggle lots of different projects, so that’s how I got the role. They were happy to give someone with no marketing experience a chance, as long as they saw the core abilities were there.
At the time, I wasn’t super set on marketing, but I had a hunch I would enjoy it. I like that marketing is creative, but also can be quite analytical. You have to think about consumer behaviour and language a lot.
What did you learn during your time at Tide?
When I joined, the business was tiny, we didn’t even have an app in the App Store! When I left, we had 60,000 customers and were one of the fastest growing companies in the B2B fintech space. You can only imagine how much I had to do in that time!
I learnt marketing from scratch. I had an amazing boss, who was an experienced marketer and happy to teach me the ropes. She taught me performance marketing, product marketing, brand marketing and everything there is to know.
There were only two of us in the team, so I got involved with everything: Tube ads, Facebook campaigns, setting up a pop-up in Old Street station, working with creative agencies and writing blog posts. I worked on every single kind of marketing Tide was doing for a very long time.
It was a whirlwind, but the best introduction to marketing I could’ve had. It was a tiny team, we had a decent budget and we got to test out loads of things. It was an incredible learning experience.
You seemed to have a lot of progression at Tide, did you push to make that happen?
It can be very easy to progress when you join a company early. The key is to be open minded and help out with everything you can. You don’t belong at a startup if you want a fixed set of responsibilities, you’d be better off at a bigger corporate!
At a startup, you have 20 people less than you should and everything should’ve been done yesterday, so the ‘get stuff done’ attitude is important.
Because everything is on fast forward, you learn so much faster. My experience of being promoted was not unique, lots of people that joined early progressed really fast. Some of the people I joined with started as Product Managers and are now VP of their own product lines after 2–3 years.
You left Tide after 2 years, what were you looking for in your next role?
I got some good advice from a friend, who says that even if you’re happy in your job and aren’t looking to move, you should always be looking at what jobs are out there. Even if it’s just to see who your competitors are hiring for, or what facets of other roles you could be incorporating into your own. Also, you never know, your dream role could just come up!
With that in mind, I did a search for ‘product marketing’ and saw the role at Monzo, which got me really excited. B2B finance was great for learning about entrepreneurs and small businesses, but I’m even more interested in consumer finance.
The thought of helping people manage their money better and enabling them to realise their goals is super exciting to me. Monzo is a product that has helped so many people in the UK. I applied for the job at Monzo (it was the only one I applied for), and got it!
It sounds like Monzo’s mission was a really important factor for you.
Definitely. I’ve consulted for big companies that have missions, but they’re quite nebulous and I’ve never heard anyone talking about them. They don’t normally drive business decisions and you don’t feel like your day to day job really contributes to the mission.
Monzo’s mission is super simple: Make money work for everyone. At Monzo, we use this all the time. We’ll be in a room making a product decision and we’ll often say ‘can we look at this feature we’re building and honestly say this is helping to make money work for everyone?’.
I don’t want to work somewhere where the mission just gets lip service. I want to work somewhere where the work I do on a day-to-day basis helps to achieve the mission.
I do work that I can see the day to day impact of, and I don’t think you can get that at a big company early in your career. You have to work your way up to the executive team.
I’m looking out the window right now and I see all of these people in suits who probably work for big companies, and I can’t help but feel that they’re probably wasted in their jobs! There is something you can do better than most people, and it’s probably wasted in your job’. In my experience, startups don’t waste you, they pull the best out of you and let you shine.
Do you have any advice for those considering working at startups?
Find what you’re excellent at and join a startup and you’ll climb much faster.
I would advise people to join a startup sooner rather than later. The older you get, the less risk appetite you probably have. You might have children or a mortgage, or a parent you need to support. Whatever it is, you might not be as comfortable taking the risk that a startup often presents.
Some of the biggest adrenaline rushes I’ve had came from not knowing if the company I was working for was going to make it. That’s what makes it so exciting.
When you’re young, you’re resilient if something goes wrong. You’re not super specialised yet, so you can easily bounce back. If you’ve worked for a specific field at a specific company for 10 years, it’s very difficult for you to switch and be ready to take the risk.
And if you have a dream of launching your own business one day, it’s the best education you can get. When I was at Tide, I used to sit next to the founder — you can’t get better learning than that!
Want to share your story? We’ll buy you a coffee whilst we do the interview, and then give you £25 towards a dinner as a thank you. If you’re interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a bit about yourself and your career so far (a few short bullets is fine!).
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