Operator Spotlight: Lattice Chief Revenue Officer Dini Mehta

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who run them – operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next. 

This month we spoke with Dini Mehta, ​​Chief Revenue Officer of people management software company Lattice, and now an Operating Partner here at Operator Collective as well. She’s passionate about building diverse teams and has tons of experience scaling go-to-market engines from Series A, all the way through the growth stage to unicorn+ status.

You just made an uncommon move, joining a VC (lucky us) as operating partner, while continuing on in a c-level operating role. What prompted you to make that change and how do you do it all?

DINI:  Mallun! 🙂 In all seriousness — I have felt like an outsider most of my life, which has fueled a lot of my career decisions. For example, I’ve spent most of my career in tech sales and moved into people management to help others see sales as a viable career option. That drove me towards senior leadership, so I could reimagine how revenue orgs are built. Venture Capital has felt like a black box over the years. While I LOVE being an operator, I also get a lot of energy from working with founders and helping them scale companies!  As I learned more about OpCo’s mission and the operating partner role, I knew I wanted in. 

What kind of impact are you most excited to have at OpCo?

DINI: OpCo uniquely has the power to connect the best operators in Silicon Valley to passionate founders working towards a brighter future. I am excited to play a part in unlocking the collective magic of this community while also making the world of venture a bit more accessible to other operators like me! 

You’ve rapidly moved up the revenue ranks within several hyper growth startups. As someone who’s teamed up with multiple tech founders along the way, what’s one piece of advice you’d share about the partnership between product development and go-to-market in a company’s early stages?

DINI: Prioritizing the right initiatives across the company and sequencing your GTM and technical team’s resources for sustainable growth. Typically when a company is in growth stage you are constantly building the plane as you fly it — scaling what’s working while laying the foundation for future bets (product, geo, vertical, segment) to stay in hyper growth year after year.  A lot of companies tend to become siloed in their strategy and decisioning as they scale, leading to misaligned initiatives across departments. How, and when, you prioritize growth bets across GTM & Product can become your execution superpower.

What are a few critical elements to get rapid growth in a tough market to sell into like HR tech? 


  1. The team you build is the company you build – hiring the right folks that are stage appropriate and making them successful is critical to build & stay in hyper growth, which should be the ultimate goal in the first 5-10 years of the business. 
  2. Play the long game, stay focused on your mission & your customers – It’s easy to get distracted by what a competitor is doing, or by a huge contract that isn’t a great product fit today. Staying disciplined on your priorities, especially in the early days, will drive focus and improve your ability to execute effectively. 
  3. Stay nimble – While you need to have a plan and stay focused, staying agile and making changes as things evolve is just as important, especially in a fast-moving market like HR tech.

You emphasize the importance of people over pipeline. Tell us about a time when you had to make that tradeoff. How did you influence other stakeholders to see the long game?

DINI: Two truths that help guide my decisions: 1) Everyone (even quota-carrying sales people) wants the same things out of work: community, growth and purpose. 2) If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your company. These are simple concepts to understand, but difficult to live up to. 

One example where I faced the tradeoff was when we launched the quota relief program at Lattice in 2020. We had always offered unlimited PTO, but realized that quota-carrying AEs found it difficult to unplug and take advantage of our vacation policy. As a way to help folks take a real break from work and avoid burnout, we chose to give ramped AEs one month of quota relief every year.  As a revenue leader with aggressive goals, taking ramped quota capacity off the field was an unorthodox move that technically sacrifices pipeline generation (for the relief months) to optimize for people’s well being. 12 months into this program, there has been no impact on performance and we’ve improved our team’s engagement levels. In fact, we’ve maintained less than 2% attrition rate as a department. 

What was one of your first jobs and what’s one big lesson you learned? 

DINI: I grew up in India and moved to the US at the age of 18 to go to the University of Kansas – Rock Chalk! My first job was working in a campus cafeteria kitchen. Spending 5 hours a day operating the fryer in the kitchen taught me the importance of hard work, and that showing up with a great attitude makes the biggest difference.

What’s your secret super power?

DINI: My ability to stay paranoid short-term while being fiercely optimistic long-term. As an immigrant that has moved countries, careers and industries, you learn to embrace uncertainty with optimism. A paranoid short-term lens has served me well in scaling companies.

What’s the best advice you’ve received – or given – about how to manage people?  

DINI: Managing people is an art and a privilege that takes time to master. My 3 pieces of advice for new people managers: 

  1. Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
  2. Coach people to their potential – especially for high performers.
  3. There are multiple paths to the same destination, and the best managers help their teams find the one that works best for them. 
We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are keys to building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Operator Spotlight: Lucid Co-founder and CEO Karl Sun

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke with Karl Sun, co-founder and CEO of Lucid Software.

Your company has been on quite a ride over the last 10+ years and just tripled its valuation. Describe what Lucid does and the problem it’s solving. 

KARL: The Lucid business is built on our foundational mission to help teams see and build the future. As we see it, there is a massive shift happening in the way that teams work together to build new products, new processes, or new strategies. These activities require that teams be able to work side-by-side to understand how their business works, and how to make it better.

We provide a unique approach to collaboration. Instead of relying on endless text to get a point across, our applications allow teams to work together on a shared canvas from anywhere in the world. Many have turned to our products, Lucidspark and Lucidchart, to bring their teams together virtually, and in so doing have discovered that this new way of working and collaborating is even better than what they were doing before. 

COVID has forced us all to rethink workplace collaboration and given rise to new ways of working. As a visual collaboration suite, how does Lucid fuel the future of work, while avoiding the trap of zoom/slack fatigue?   

KARL: Sometimes communication and collaboration are talked about synonymously. But the truth is many companies are acquiring tools that optimize for communication and hope that those solve their collaboration problems. In the context of a hybrid workforce, the power of a common visual language breaks down physical and digital communication barriers so teams get the big picture, achieve a shared understanding and align on next steps. The Lucid visual collaboration suite gives teams the chance to work side-by-side, no matter where they are located.

Right before Lucid, you were at Google for several years. What was the biggest mindset shift you had to make going from a $23 billion company to starting from scratch as a team of two?  

KARL: I actually came on initially as the first investor, but then my co-founder Ben (who was still in school at the time) eventually coaxed me into joining full-time. We worked out of a student apartment for a while — it couldn’t have been more different than what I had just left at Google. With a brand like Google, we could get any meeting with anyone. Starting from scratch with an unknown brand, we had to be a lot more scrappy to get any kind of attention. The product really had to speak for itself, so we spent most of those initial years making sure it was so good that people couldn’t ignore us. 

Another thing is, in a smaller company, you have to focus on the most essential projects that produce results and lead to progress. There’s an incredible need for everyone on your little team to be accountable and have a drive to do their best on every single project. 

Lucid had wild success with its freemium product before moving towards B2B SaaS. What advice would you give to other founders following that path? 

KARL: As we thought about growth, particularly before we had a sales team, we focused on three things. 

  1. End user outreach: We put a lot of effort into making sure that current and potential users understand we can solve a need that they have. This involves a few things, but one of the biggest factors is our focus on SEO. We rank for over 1000 keywords and phrases.
  2. Joining ecosystems: One of the main tenets of our products is that users can use Lucidspark and Lucidchart in the systems where they work. To enable this, in the beginning we worked really hard on our integrations and being available in different ecosystems. Having Lucidchart included in the launch of the Google Chrome Web Store and Google Apps Marketplace and being able to grow up in the Google ecosystem was huge for us early on. But now you can also find and use our products within Atlassian’s ecosystem, Microsoft 365, and Slack, to name a few. 
  3. Sharing and collaboration: Because of our focus on collaboration, we also see a lot of users come in through their exposure to a diagram or board that someone else has created and shared with them. Better collaboration not only makes for a better experience for the user, but it also then becomes something that they want to share with others to solve their same pains. This exposes more and more people to our products.

If products are conducive to these three things, there’s a lot of potential for going the freemium route.

There are many ways for CEOs to evaluate business success in a SaaS context. What are the most vital company-level metrics that you personally rely on?

KARL: In the early days, it was definitely user numbers. The main goal was to get more and more people into the product and just increase our general product awareness. More users in the product also meant we were able to collect more feedback to help make things better. As we started to mature beyond that, we started to focus more on usage and conversion rates. Those metrics helped us know we were making a product that was compelling enough that people were paying for it. 

Now, we’re focused on successful users. There are a lot of factors that we evaluate to determine whether a user is successful or not, such as how much time they spend in the product, whether they get to an outcome, etc. 

You’ve shared great insights on the people side of entrepreneurship. What have you done to maintain lasting connections with employees in today’s virtual world? 

KARL: Our company was office-based prior to the pandemic, so the shift to remote work was new to us and we really did have to rethink how we made sure employees still felt connected, especially to our leadership team. So we made it a goal to over-communicate as much as possible and bring our employees along with us as we made decisions. 

We increased the frequency of our company-wide emails and all-hands meetings. We also added a slack channel to these meetings to promote interaction and connection across the company as we adjusted to our new way of working. 

We tried to transition as many of our engagement activities to a virtual setting as possible. For example, we have an internal talk show called The Oatmeal that two of our employees started as a way to learn more about employees across the company on a personal level. We utilized that platform to help employees engage with leadership by interviewing a new executive team member each episode. This type of interaction is really foundational when building lasting connections between leaders and their teams. 

In your opinion, what are some ways the tech and venture industries could do a better job of empowering the next generation of diverse leaders?

KARL: Even though we have a lot of work to do with diversity in general in the industry, there is usually even more of a diversity problem in leadership positions compared to entry-level roles. So, I believe it’s really important to actively identify those diverse employees who are earlier in their careers, and are top performers or have high potential, and actively mentor them to be leaders in your organization.

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

KARL: I learned important lessons from my first three jobs. 

My first job was reclaiming usable old bricks from demolition piles and stacking them on pallets. This taught me that sometimes the work isn’t fun, but it still needs to get done. It also taught me the benefits of a desk job and gave me an appreciation for air conditioning. My second job was bagging groceries at the supermarket. This gave me experience in direct customer service, and was also where I learned the importance of mastering every job, no matter how small. 

My third job was working at a summer camp for teenagers and my favorite part about that job was being exposed to so many different kids and counselors who had such unique interests and talents, and watching them come together to create some pretty amazing things. It gave me exposure at a formidable time in my life to the good that can be done when people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences come together.

What’s your secret super power? 

KARL: I think I’m a good judge of talent. Part of that is identifying people who aren’t obvious fits (seeing beyond work history or experience) but have something in their background to suggest they have high potential. I also believe in looking at a group as a whole and understanding what needs to be added to the mix, whether that’s skills or personalities, to really complement the group and help the entire team be successful. 

The flip side of that is I also think I have a good BS detector 🙂

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Operator-investors: What they are + why they’re important


If you spend any time with startups, it’s not hard to notice the venture world revolves around founders and VCs – the people who start the companies and the people who fund their growth. But until recently there’s been a critical piece missing: Operators. Operator-investors have become a hot topic in venture capital lately, so let’s take a step back and talk about what they are and why they’re important.

What are operators? 

In the startup and tech world, operators are the senior leaders who build and scale companies as they grow. They’re not usually in the limelight; most often they’re the ones working quietly in the background, studying tactics, analyzing data, and figuring out what works. Operators are vital for the success of any startup because they’re the ones building the right infrastructure for scale and long-term growth. 

Why are operators important in venture capital?

Experienced operators – the ones who’ve gone through the product development, growth cycles, funding stages, hiring, and more – have exactly the knowledge new businesses need to grow and thrive. Yet operators haven’t typically been involved in the venture process; the industry just wasn’t designed for people who give 150% to their day jobs and use any time leftover for their families and friends. 

We wanted to bring operators into venture capital, so we created the Collective Venture Model, which brings together founders, operators, and VCs to find, invest in, and support the next generation of tech. The Collective Venture Model was designed to jive with the busy lives of today’s most respected tech operators, many of whom are women. These operator-investors bring not only their tremendous experience, but also empathy, critical thinking, and deep networks.

How the Collective Venture Model works 

Our operator-investors actively engage at every step.  

  • We collectively source. Our operator-investor LPs are our #1 source for inbound leads.
  • We collectively diligence. We engage our 130 operator-investor LPs for feedback.
  • We collectively partner. Our connections result in customer intros, exec/board referrals, and angel co-investments.

Beyond that, they share their expertise with our portfolio companies and offer advice through sessions on topics like building a world-class customer success org, establishing an ecosystem, and incorporating diversity in your executive team.

Our operator experience is unmatched

We’re proud to have a community of operator-investors as LPs to help our portfolio companies as they scale and grow: 130 ultra-talented leaders who bring decades of experience building and growing the world’s most admired companies. In fact, they bring more than 1800 years of collective operator experience. More than 65 of our LPs have built unicorns, at least 38 have taken their companies public, and at least 77 have founded a company. The amount of revenue they own and people they lead is staggering.

Operator Collective channels this experience to bring new perspectives and a welcome level of diversity to any cap table. Please connect with us here to learn more, join our community, or submit a funding proposal.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


How to set your customer success org up to thrive

Building a customer success (CS) org from scratch is a major initiative, but the right hiring strategy is what sets the entire business up for growth. 

Growing the customer success team should truly be a top priority for any early-stage tech company. Unfortunately, though, SaaS companies often forget to think seriously about scaling customer success until they experience a major outage or crisis but by then the damage is done. It’s important to start early with a hiring strategy for the different stages of growth, but what specific skills should you look for in your first few Customer Success Managers (CSMs)?

Where do you even start?

I spent 14 years building and growing the Customer Success org at Salesforce, followed by 4 years as Slack’s first CCO and Global Head of Customer Success. Both positions taught me a tremendous amount about the hidden growth opportunities a great Customer Success org brings, but at Slack, I learned firsthand why it’s so important to get the right team in place early. 

I spent my first several months there interviewing and hiring candidates. Slack was growing extremely fast, and I knew I had to get the right team in place to manage both into the executive team and out to the customer, and also to handle volume. I was lucky to have several amazing CSMs already in place, so I could look to fill in the leadership positions. 

Making your first customer success hires

Earlier in your journey, you’ll want more of a product-expert-type CSM. This is simply because your product is still new and you’re trying to achieve product-market fit. Since you’re probably in high growth mode, those CSMs might need to have more of a sales lens. In the early days, your product is still new and your customers will likely be fairly small, so it’s also wise to lean on reps that are more technical oriented. 

In later stages you’ll want to hire reps and leaders who think about how to create the right processes, training, and systems in order to scale but in the very early days, you simply need people who care deeply about helping your customers.

Growing your customer success team

In the early days your success team has to focus on the reactive work of service and support and of course you have to keep that going. But during the growth stage, you’ll also need to start building the team that’s responsible for the more proactive work of customer retention.

I often think of the perfect CSM as a unicorn – a mythical creature that embodies the best parts of other orgs. After all, customer success managers need to be…

  • Product experts to be able to talk through features and workflows 
  • Engineers to tackle the integrations and nitty-gritty questions 
  • Management consultants in order to extract what the business value is
  • Sales people to promote add-ons and features 
  • Communications leaders to relay tactical feedback to the product team
  • Presentation gurus to impress both customers and executives

Can you find someone who embodies everything? You may need to pick and choose which of those functions is most helpful or necessary at any specific time. While you may start off with the more technical CSMs, as you get bigger, you’ll want to hire CSMs with more of a consulting background because they’re really having to orchestrate value propositions and bring all these different resources together to ensure that a customer is successful. As you interview candidates, it’s important to consider where you are in your journey and what your product type is. 

Get creative in your hiring

Hiring is difficult right now because everyone’s looking to grow their customer success teams and there just aren’t enough people who’ve done it. You might have to get creative when looking for folks. I’ve had great luck hiring former consultants and also former communications and media backgrounds, since both functions involve a high-touch model and the use of detailed analytics to prove value. 

As mentioned, it’s difficult to find those perfect all-in-one CSM creatures – so when you find them, be sure to hang on tight. 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Wanna checkout fast? Check out Fast.

The company: Fast

Fast is the one-click, no-password e-commerce shopping disruptor that is making buying online faster, safer, and easier for both consumers and merchants. By making it simple to complete transactions across devices and across platforms the company is shaking up the multi-billion dollar ecommerce market. 

Co-founded by serial entrepreneur Domm Holland (Tow) and operations heavy-weight and tech investor Allison Barr Allen (Uber, PwC), Fast lets consumers track shipments and reorder items all in one place. It helps merchants improve the e-commerce checkout process and push those dreaded abandoned carts through the checkout process and onto business’ sales ledger. 

Why you should pay attention 

The young company was named as one of the Retail Tech 100 innovators who are transforming retail and it made Business Insider’s Top 100 Starutps of 2020. It’s garnering such early attention because it’s improving the online purchase checkout process, which has remained stagnant for 30 years. Customers abandon up to 80% of potential online purchases because of friction during checkout, which can involve filling out an average of 23 fields just to make a single online purchase. Fast is making buying online fast, easy, and safe and in doing so they’re building the world’s fastest online login and checkout platform. 

How it works

Fast Login and Fast Checkout enable a one-click sign-in and purchasing experience. The company’s products work on any browser, device, or platform to deliver a consistent, stress-free purchasing experience. Fast is entirely consumer-focused and invests heavily in its users’ privacy and data security.  

Why we’re obsessed 

Fast lets consumers forget passwords, skip long entry forms, and shop securely online with a single click. It gives businesses the checkout button that increases conversion, boosts sales and delights customers. Fast Checkout installs for businesses in minutes and Fast Login gives consumers a hassle-free experience and lets them check out in seconds. It’s safe, easy, and fast.

How Fast? 

One click. No passwords. Get the world’s fastest checkout. Get Fast. 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


The Rise of Women’s Voices in Publishing

Publishing is another one of those despite-all-the-advancements industries that’s faltering under recent scrutiny. 

In addition to a documented pay gap within publishing houses themselves, a 2018 study also found that women-authored books are priced 45% lower than books authored by men. More recently we’ve seen the rise of the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag, which ignited a conversation about the disparities between how much authors make. (This Buzzfeed article explains it well.) 

A yearly analysis of gender bias on The New York Times bestseller list digs into the data of writers whose works are featured in and reviewed by literary outlets. The most recent study shows that female authors are publishing more, yet the gender ratio on the NYT bestseller list remains below 50%. However, while “the major literary prizes still skew male… there’s clear market signal that women authors are just as commercially viable as men.”

Better book news is out there

We may be far removed from the George Eliot days where women had to publish under a pseudonym to be taken seriously (or are we?), but there’s more promising news out there if you look. In July Simon & Schuster named Dana Canedy its new SVP and publisher. Canedy, a former reporter for The New York Times and published author herself, won a Pulitzer in 2001 for her work on “How Race is Lived in America.” She is the first black person (and only the third woman) to head a major publishing house. In a PBS interview, Canedy said she’s committed to both equality and diversity and asks to be held accountable for progress. 

And just last month Elle Magazine pointed out an uptick in accolades for Black women writers with an honest piece: Black Women Are Topping Best Seller Lists. What Took So Long? The author celebrates recent gains while also describing the years of frustration she felt “as a Black woman who learned from a lifetime’s worth of class curricula that to be ‘well-read’ meant to immerse myself in white authorship.” I couldn’t have been the only reader thinking: Same, girl. Same.

New books from our Operator Collective community 

We find even more good news right here in our own Operator Collective community, where we have three LPs with books coming out in a two-week span. Just as contemporary fiction female writers have become more honest in their portrayals of racial and gender identities, health, mental illness, and family struggles, these women leaders bring an intense honesty to the workplace. They hold nothing back in order to change the conversation on women’s issues, both in the office and at home.

  • Shellye Archambeau’s Unapologetically Ambitious, recounts the challenges the author faced as a young Black woman, wife, and mother, while climbing the ranks at IBM and later as a CEO. She uses her own stories to relay approaches and practical strategies for others to employ on their journeys.
  • Bonita Stewart’s A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower, and Thrive offers a deep-dive analysis of Black female leaders and even offers a playbook of sorts to help Black women support one another as they climb what can be a lonely and stressful career ladder.
  • Maelle Gavet’s Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It explores how the tech industry has both pushed humanity forward and also created an immense empathy deficit. Gavet is honest in her history, yet takes care to include specific calls to action to help drive lasting change. 

Now’s the time to find your voice

You know that book you’ve always been dying to write? That storyline or drama that evolves in your mind every night as you drift off to sleep? Publishing is at a tipping point, forced to reckon with gender and racial biases, so perhaps now’s the time to find your voice and get going on that first draft. 

We celebrate this rise in women authors – within our own community and across the globe – and look forward to the changes this year brings as we continue to push for parity in new places. As these changes continue, I can’t wait to see your book on the bestseller list. 

Right next to mine.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Operator Spotlight: Google Engineer Yanbing Li

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Yanbing Li, Vice President of Engineering at Google.

This year has been full of disruptions. As both a leader and an immigrant, how have you been affected by the renewed focus on social justice?

YANBING: It has been immensely heart-wrenching to witness the racial injustice and violence toward the Black community, xenophobia against the Asian community, harsh immigration policies, and so much more. For me personally, it is a time of learning and reflection, of recognizing the deep systemic violence rooted in our nation’s founding and history. I have reached out to Black colleagues I’ve worked with to listen to their pain and frustration, which again reminded me just how little the Black community is represented in our organization. 

For my role as a leader, it is a time to be visible and available, and a time to prompt decisive action. We are doubling down our effort for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and I am serving as the chair of our organization’s DEI Council, where we are designing a set of programs to promote and improve the hiring, progression, and retention of underrepresented groups. 

How has your team at Google changed because of COVID-19? 

YANBING: My team and I have gone through multiple distinct phases since transitioning to working from home in early March. Our initial focus was on business continuity—we needed to quickly assess and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and, subsequently, working from home, on employees, teams, operations, and customers. 

Following this, we transitioned to our next phase, which highlighted productivity. Understanding and improving team productivity was key in both keeping engineering execution predictable and fulfilling customer commitments, especially with the knowledge that we will be working from home for the long haul. 

We then moved to managing growth. Google Cloud is a hyper-growth business equipped with a rapidly increasing customer base and revenue, an ever-expanding portfolio of products, and the ceaseless process of hiring and onboarding. While the pandemic has caused great uncertainty in the global economy, the demand for digital transformation and cloud services remains stronger than ever. Managing business growth and onboarding a large number of new employees while the world seems to come to a standstill is truly a surreal experience. It is challenging, yet also incredibly fulfilling to know we’re making a positive impact.  

Throughout these phases, our utmost priority has been focusing on people: the well being of our own community and the changing needs of our customers. We are providing flexibility and accommodations to our teams and continuously working to better understand and support how the pandemic is impacting each of their personal circumstances. 

You immigrated from China after college to focus on engineering, a profession that’s heavily male-dominated. That put you in the minority of a minority. What was your experience like and what pushed you through? 

YANBING: Growing up in a household of a mother who is a doctor and a father who is an engineer, my fascination with STEM began at a young age. I have fond memories of asking my grandfather for challenging math problems during summer breaks and declaring my dream job was to become a scientist while I was in elementary school. Engineering was a natural choice for me, and being a woman didn’t seem to create any barriers in my career until I became an executive. 

As I was working on transitioning from engineering leadership to business leadership, a breakthrough in my career, I found myself unsuccessful even after multiple attempts. I remember thinking, “This is what a glass ceiling feels like.” After making the decision to take a smaller engineering leadership role in an emerging business, I had the opportunity to grow with the team—first as the VP of engineering and later as the General Manager, all the while growing the new business to reach over $1B in annual revenue. Recognizing that the best path forward may sometimes be, counterintuitively, to take a step backward or sideways is absolutely crucial towards career progression, especially when feeling stuck. I was also fortunate enough to have the sponsorship of the senior leadership in the company all the way up to the CEO. They were willing to bet on me and gave me the opportunity to transition to general management.

What advice do you have for women looking to build a career in engineering?

YANBING: There has never been a better time for women to build a career in engineering. We’re in a time where technology is rapidly becoming omnipresent, more accessible, more diverse, and integrated into every industry and every aspect of our lives, all at an unprecedented scale and speed. 

The most common bias I have observed against women in engineering is that they “are not technical enough.” Establishing technical credibility is extremely important for women in any technical roles, or even in nontechnical roles in a tech organization. 

As women advance in their career, they may encounter yet another bias that they are “operational” and “tactical,” but not “strategic.” Demonstrating market insights, customer empathy, and connecting to the bigger business strategy at the larger organizational level are compelling ways to overcome this bias. 

What are some things engineering teams should prioritize over the next 6 months? 

YANBING: First and foremost, I would prioritize people, productivity, collaboration, and innovations. We must pay attention to the well being of our teams, not only as a group, but also as individuals, since the pandemic is impacting all of us in very different ways. We also need to better predict and measure productivity in this highly unpredictable time, as predictable execution is the trademark of a high-performing engineering team. This requires challenging ourselves to find new ways of collaborating virtually. While the world may seem like it has slowed down, standing still is never a winning strategy and we must continue to create room for innovation and risk-taking. 

What’s one amazing insight no one knows about engineering?   

YANBING: Engineering is a trade and there is no shortcut around it. Just like being an athlete or a musician, engineering requires us to continuously dedicate time and energy to hands-on learning and practice. Whether you’re a hands-on engineer, a senior architect, or a VP of Engineering who leads an organization of hundreds of people, you rely on experience and judgement rooted in having concrete practice with engineering and in keeping your knowledge up to date. 

However, this does not mean that people without a formal tech degree or background can’t get into tech. With the huge demand for diverse talent, there are many paths to become trained in tech. For example, at Google we have programs that support non-tech Googlers to transition to engineering through tech bootcamps and job rotations. 

People often talk about the skills they picked up as a bartender, working retail, or other experiences before their leadership roles. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

YANBING: This isn’t quite a “job,” per se, but running for Student Office in college was a formative experience for me. I got to recruit a campaign team, build connections with complete strangers, speak and debate in front of thousands of people, and campaign for the causes that I believed in. It allowed me to recognize my passion and confidence in a leadership position.  

What’s one unconventional thing you’re doing to keep yourself sane these days?

YANBING: With everyone at home, I find my life boils down to only two modes: working from home or working for home. Occasionally, I escape from these two modes to watch 90’s Japanese dramas, video meet with friends, or get beauty tutorials and yoga tips from my teenage daughters.

What’s the one condiment/spice you could never live without? 

YANBING: Soy sauce, hands down. Can you tell I grew up in China? When the pandemic started and grocery stores were running out of supplies, I didn’t panic, as I knew I could survive on rice and soy sauce for a long time. 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or on Twitter and LinkedIn.


The Challenge Series: Adding inclusive voices to the COVID response

Global pandemics wreak their own special kind of havoc — not just on our health, but on virtually every aspect of our lives. Solving something as massive as a global health emergency takes a coordinated, collaborative effort and requires us to put our best minds forward. That means not just in frontline healthcare and government response, but also in education, recreation, nonprofit, and business. 

In times of crisis, leaders emerge. We’re all looking for answers and guidance. It’s widely understood that diverse teams lead to greater innovation, better outcomes, and more progress, so we cringe every time we see photos and events featuring homogeneous teams and panels in response to today’s challenges. (As it turns out, we’re not the only ones to notice.) The representation has improved recently, with women in leadership roles receiving kudos for how they’re handling their COVID-19 responses in federal governments, local governments, and science. Now we’re ready to add to that list from a business perspective.  

Join us for the Challenge Series

Introducing The Challenge Series, weekly online events designed to connect you with the specific topics and advice you need. Businesses are scrambling to address challenges they couldn’t have imagined just a month ago. As we work to keep our teams and companies going, it’s helpful for all of us to hear how some of today’s respected leaders are navigating similar issues. We’ve assembled an incredible line-up of speakers who are leading their companies through this time — and this first group happens to be all women. How are they shifting their operations, marketing, and finance? How do they lead with empathy and kindness through scary situations? Join us weekly to find out.

Learn how experienced executive leaders at companies like Gusto, Cloudflare, Zoom, Zendesk, Guild Education, TripActions, and Textio are shifting their models, protecting their budgets, and supporting their employees through every stressful moment. Got a question or two for these leaders? Please share with us on Twitter or LinkedIn and we’ll add them to the queue. 

Upcoming Challenge Series Events

  • April 28: How do you shift your operations during a crisis? (REGISTER)
  • May 5: Marketing and messaging in the time of Coronavirus (REGISTER)
  • May 12: How do enterprises manage their spend during a crisis? (REGISTER)
  • May 19: Leading with empathy and kindness in times of uncertainty (REGISTER)

Staying ahead of these situations requires diverse, inclusive voices

Scientists predict additional waves of COVID-19 and a rise in similar viruses in years to come. As we determine what that means for not only healthcare, but businesses, the overall economy, and even day-to-day human life, we ask organizations to prioritize diverse, inclusive voices in their preparations and responses. Put women and underrepresented minorities in leadership roles; listen to their voices. Make them not the exception, but the norm. Excluding these portions of the talent pool limits our collective ability to innovate and respond to the spidering effects of these situations. 

Here at Operator Collective, we’re lucky to have a community packed with talented, experienced leaders, the majority of whom are fearless women. We look forward to sharing their insights with you. Learn more and register for The Challenge Series here

The Challenge Series from Operator Collective


We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or on Twitter and LinkedIn.


30 at-home activities to keep you connected, full, and fit

As we learn to navigate our shared new reality, it’s important to find worthwhile ways to maintain our mental health and physical well being. It’s easy to get bogged down in the news reports and case maps, so we at Operator Collective try our best to reframe the situation and find positive outlets when possible. Perhaps we can mold our abundant home time into an opportunity to learn and connect in new ways.

To that end, we turned to our own community for suggestions. Here’s how our Operator Collective LPs are staying engaged and active. What activities are you enjoying? We hope you’ll share your recs with us on Twitter at @OperatorCollect


Many of us have been flexing our cooking muscles lately. Elena Gomez suggests a comforting chili poblano soup with corn, while Robin Joy has been making slow-cooked dishes like these red-wine braised short ribs and Monique Covington says her family can’t get enough of this Garlic Knot Chicken Alfredo.

If you enjoy celebrity cookbooks, Katy Dormer recommends both of Chrissy Teigen’s, adding that Teigen’s recipe for Cacio e Pepe has become her go-to dish. Ambrosia Vertesi prefers Snoop Dogg’s cookbook (yes really), especially this recipe for Orange (but Really Kinda Burgundy) Chicken.

On the lighter side, JJ Ramberg suggests these vegetarian lettuce wraps, while Ruthie Miller raves about this Power Plates cookbook. And for something totally different, Laura Butler recommends a fondue night: cheese, wine, veggies, and meat in endless combinations. For a treat? Mallun Yen and her daughter have been making bubble tea, dragon fruit smoothies, and amazing scallion pancakes.


Had enough of the #QuaranTiki parties? Cathy Polinsky has been staying connected to family and friends by doing remote escape room boxes; participants need only to order the same mystery box and then open them at the same time from their own homes and discuss via Zoom. Nicolas Dessaigne and his family have been using Roll20 to play board games online with family and friends.


Lisa Campbell recommends the Headspace app, which offers exercises and videos on things like meditation, stress, and healthy living. Similarly, JJ Ramberg likes Ten Percent Happier, an app offering guided meditations to help with stress, happiness, and sleep. Molly Ford, on the other hand, says part of her wellness routine focuses on purging and organizing her closets.

If you need something more physical, do as Nick Mehta suggests and try a Peloton bike. And if you can’t get your hands on one, Erica Dorfman has been streaming yoga and meditation classes via the Peloton app — no bike required, and it’s currently free for 90 days.


Meagen Eisenberg has been filling her brain with the soothing sounds of The Very Best of Kenny Rogers lately, resurfacing some nostalgia from when she listened to the same album with her parents via 8 track. If that’s not enough, try our Operator Collective #Quarantunes playlist, which is full of positive vibes.


Looking for a show to binge? Anirma Gupta recommends The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. And when you’ve watched all those episodes, but still need the soothing tones of British accents, Katy Dormer suggests Repair Shop. If that’s not your style, she also suggests Tiger King (since we are in absolutely crazy times, it’s good to watch a show of a world that might be crazier) and Crip Camp (which offers an incredible reminder of what people are capable of; have a box of Kleenex ready).

Laura Butler recommends Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a series about a glamorous and rebellious lady detective set in the Roaring Twenties in Australia, while Robin Joy suggests The Morning Show and Stumptown. Molly Ford likes to watch Self Made, Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker on Netflix, Lolita Taub prefers 100 Humans and Night on Earth, and Reshma Saujani enjoys Hulu’s Hillary series.

Whew! We hope these suggestions add a few positive vibes to your day. What are some activities you’re enjoying at home? Don’t forget to share them with us on Twitter at @OperatorCollect.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at
www.operatorcollective.com or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Operator spotlight: Executive search leader Lynn Carter

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Lynn Carter, Head of Executive and Strategic Search at Confluent.

What are some of the biggest challenges recruiters face today? 

LYNN: Even in the best economic times recruiters should have a narrative around the company, executive team, funding, and the specific role they are presenting. But given where we are today, messaging needs to be particularly compelling, with an understanding that candidates may be more reluctant to consider leaving a role at this time. More communication and context, and more relationship building and engagement will be needed to get candidates to tip forward to consider opportunities. 

It seems like every company is trying to build a diverse and inclusive culture. How can companies increase their applicant pools to attract more candidates from underrepresented backgrounds? 

LYNN:  This is a hard and thorny, but important question to answer. I wish I had a magic answer on the exact steps it takes to be successful in increasing applicant pools and creating more diverse teams. I don’t, but here are some things to consider:

  • Start early. Many candidates from underrepresented backgrounds want to join companies that have employees that look like them. So if you don’t prioritize diversity and inclusion from the start, you risk creating an even bigger problem down the road when you try to attract candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to your company. The good news is that you can get started right away by being intentional about your hiring practices and company culture.
  • Focus on inclusion first. To not just hire, but also retain diverse talent, it’s important to build a company where employees of every background have the opportunity to thrive. Consider what your company is doing to build an inclusive environment. How are you building your employee resource groups and surfacing meaningful ways to support your employees from underrepresented backgrounds? These things demonstrate your commitment to building an inclusive workplace. Your own employees will be a champion for your company, attracting their network to the company when hiring.
  • Think about your leadership team. Have you worked hard to diversify this team with good results? If so, encourage these leaders to be involved in outside groups, meetups, and conferences that support underrepresented talent. If you haven’t made headway on diversifying your leadership team, focus there because it is very difficult to think about hiring diverse talent into a company whose leadership team itself is lacking in diversity.
  • Ensure an equitable hiring process for all candidates. Talk with your hiring managers about unconscious bias, building an objective and consistent interview process, and supporting employees from underrepresented backgrounds after hire. Candidates from underrepresented backgrounds face unconscious biases in the interview process and in the workplace that other candidates don’t, so bringing this to the forefront with your interview and management team is an important step. And for early stage companies that might not be able to invest in unconscious bias training, simply having your team read and discuss some statistics about inequality in hiring, pay and promotion is a good start. Here is one recent article that you can reference that lays this out pretty clearly for gender bias in tech: Women in tech statistics: The hard truths of an uphill battle
  • Consider different dimensions of diversity. In tech, diversity is frequently associated with gender and race. To be sure, it’s important to prioritize gender diversity and racial/ethnic diversity in your workforce, as well as the intersection between the two. (Women of color, for example, often face different barriers in the workplace than do white women.) But there are other dimensions of diversity to consider: educational and/or work background, socioeconomic status, age, disability, parental status, and more. 

What’s one thing we can do to make it easier for women and URM to get tech jobs?

LYNN: While there has been some progress in women and URM hiring recently in tech we have a long way to go. One simple thing is keeping must-have criteria in a job description to 3-4 bullet points at most. The reason that I say this is that all too often my recruiting team will kick off hiring for a technical position, and the hiring manager will list out 10+ must-have technical skills that the candidate has to have before being interviewed. This means that most of the applicants will not be considered. In addition, oftentimes women and URM candidates opt out of applying to these roles altogether when they don’t feel that they match 100% of the criteria requested. 

What’s your #1 trick for recruiting the best people?

LYNN: The most thoughtful answer I can tell you for finding the best people is to never settle, no matter the sense of urgency you have to fill the role. If you get to the end of the process and you are not excited about the candidate in front of you, remind yourself that someone who ultimately is not a fit for the role and company will have an enormously negative impact. Conversely, working hard to identify and attract a strong candidate pipeline, and sometimes waiting for the right person who will hit it out of the park, is hugely impactful. 

So what’s the one tried-and-true trick to get the right person interested in your company and role? Your network. Tell everyone what you need and why this is so important to your company. You will be amazed that sharing with the world your mission and the impact that this position will have will yield fantastic results and uncover fantastic talent who you may not have considered without the recommendation. 

There are no guarantees when it comes to placement, but are there certain criteria, experience, or traits you look for as indicators of future success? Things that may not appear on a resume, but bode well for a candidate?

LYNN:  It’s an overused term, and can be difficult to assess when reading a resume, but I would say grit. What obstacles has this person overcome in their personal and professional life? This can show up in a variety of ways, including working their way through school, participating in a collegiate sport, living in a number of countries, or changing roles or domains significantly in their careers.  

What’s one piece of advice you’d offer a company looking to improve its hiring process?

LYNN: Hire a great recruiting team. Look for recruiters who dive deep into understanding the products and businesses, and have been a true partner to hiring managers to lay out a strategy to hire great people. They should be extremely curious about people and the businesses they serve, as well as relentless in the pursuit of the best hire.

What’s one amazing insight no one knows about recruiting?

LYNN: It’s the best job in the world. Connecting with amazing people and bringing them together with others to build great businesses is fun and rewarding. Don’t get me wrong — it’s hard work, and it requires a great deal of optimism and energy to bring a company vision and role to the market, as well as to convince people who are already in a successful role to consider making a switch. But it’s a great feeling to help people discover new opportunities and then see them thrive with a new set of people in their professional lives. 

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

LYNN: I’ve had a lot of these! I was fortunate to have parents who emphasized hard work from a young age. My siblings and I all worked as janitors at my dad’s orthodontic office in the evenings in middle school, which made getting my first job in a restaurant my sophomore year of high school seem pretty luxurious. Then I worked for two years in retail selling athletic shoes, which I enjoyed. It was the first job where I had a bonus incentive to learn and sell certain shoes on the floor. I loved that, and realized I was good at talking with people about what they needed and helping them to make decisions. And the best thing? I was made a manager with keys to the store by my senior year, which meant I could get my friends into the mall after hours.

What are some books you’ve enjoyed recently?

LYNN: I’m a crazy reader; it’s one of the things that I most like to do with my free time. I have a range of interests, from tech to biotech to history, so you’ll see me pick up almost anything and get deeply involved (and then tell you all about it). I recently finished Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook by Martin Dugard. And now I’m reading The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses by Dan Carlin. Dark, I know, but seemed appropriate for the times. 

What’s something at work that makes you roll your eyes every time you hear it?

LYNN: When someone says that something can’t be done. This just fires me up. I don’t know if I actually roll my eyes, but I instantly go into problem-solving mode to come up with a solution. 

What’s the one condiment you could never live without? 

LYNN: Does salt count? If so, probably that. And don’t worry, I’ve got pretty low blood pressure.
We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.