The Startmate Fellowship works to create pathways for talented women to find their sweet spot in a rocketship startup.
For Fellows, the program fast tracks your knowledge, network and presence in the startup world. The Fellowship connects you to a powerful network, works with you to translate your skills and experience into startups, and helps you land your dream job.
By showcasing women who had taken leaps and risks in their career - from corporate to startup, or from one career into something seemingly unrelated, we hope to have inspired our broader community to join our Fellowship program.
Let’s hear directly from women in the ecosystem who took the leap, before anything like The Fellowship existed.
Sophie Taylor started her career as a corporate lawyer in the intellectual property team at K&L Gates. She left law to join the ecommerce startup Koala in early 2018 managing their international markets, product and commercial strategy for two years. Sophie now works at Blackbird Ventures as their Chief of Staff, supporting Blackbird's Partners to drive strategic planning, investor relations, special projects and board meetings.
Climbing the corporate ladder (titles, money) - what was attractive about that and made you stay as long as you did? Or what do you miss?
I loved studying law and the logical next step for any eager law student seemed to be securing a clerkship then a grad role at a big corporate firm. Knowing that so many smart people I knew were following that path and having the career trajectory laid out neatly were both definitely drawcards at the time.
From my first day working as a lawyer I knew it wasn’t for me, but I thought the skills you learn in law school and at a firm were quite specialised, and didn’t know how I could apply them in non-legal roles. It was never a question of whether I would leave, it was more a question of what would I do?
I stayed for over two years because I was learning so much: the work was challenging and the people around me were all incredibly smart and driven. That’s the biggest factor in every career choice I’ve made so far: how much am I learning and at what pace?
At what point did you decide to leave law?
Working in the IP team, I was exposed to companies that were innovating at pace and I increasingly realised that I was more interested in how those companies were growing and the products that they were building than I was in IP law. I realised that those companies offered the opportunity to prove yourself through ideas and hard work rather than just tenure and billable hours.
How did you build a network out of corporate and land the startup job?
Startmate (even pre-Fellowship days)!
My brother Scott had recently pivoted from working in finance to founding Perx, a startup that was going through the Startmate Accelerator at the time. He convinced me that if I wanted to learn how to build a business, I should work at an early-stage, high-growth startup and take a role that would expose me to every facet of a business.
Scott introduced me to one of his Startmate Mentors, Tim Doyle, who was the Head of Strategy and Marketing at Koala. Scott assured me that Tim knew the startup ecosystem better than anyone and could introduce me to different companies and potential roles. Five minutes into coffee with Tim, I knew I wanted to work at Koala with him solely based on how passionate he was about the company and what they were building. I resigned from K&L Gates the next week.
It still surprises me that I took a role at the first startup I met and that it turned out to be such an amazing experience!
How have your career goals evolved throughout your career?
I used to think that being successful was finding a good corporate job and working hard to be the best at it. I thought that the company you worked for and the bosses you had set the milestones you needed to hit and if you hit those milestones, you were hitting your career goals. I definitely didn’t have my own clear goals early in my career.
I’ve since realised that your career goals need to be internally driven and can’t be set in stone, instead they should be a set of questions you ask yourself constantly in the choices you’re making: Am I learning and is that learning curve steep? Am I surrounded by smart people that challenge me? Does the work excite me? Is there room for the role to grow here? If I’m answering ‘yes’ to those questions in my role, I know I’m on the right trajectory.
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