Alumni Spotlight: Carrie Sweeney - from Entrepreneur and Consultant to Google and Pinterest

By Amrita Dixit, Class of 2019

 Carrie Sweeney, Class of 2011

Carrie Sweeney, Class of 2011

She has run the gamut from advertising at Starcom, to entrepreneurship via New Venture Challenge, to consulting at Bain & Company, to tech at Google. Today, she brings it all together at Pinterest Chicago!

What Carrie Reads: Stratechery, a “killer daily newsletter about why Silicon Valley companies do or don’t succeed"

Amrita Dixit [AD]: What do you think MBA students should highlight in their career or bring to the table, especially in the tech industry?

Carrie Sweeney [CS]: I think it's self-awareness. There's so much of a focus on soft skills and team building that people out of Booth tend to be really well-trained in. Even in hiring I remember Epley’s course, I literally pulled up my notes, which made me a lot more thoughtful about the process versus being like, “we need butts in seats and we’re busy!”. In a typical career, you tend to spend time focusing on that later in your career when you’re managing big teams, so the earlier you get exposed to that stuff, the better.

[AD]: Is there anything at the four companies you’ve worked at that you feel structurally or informally was done well in terms of diversity or in supporting women leaders?

[CS]: One thing that really resonated was that Bain said to new woman out of MBAs, if you want to take a male partner out to lunch or drinks or dinner, here's a spreadsheet, three of you can sign up together. So, it takes the challenge out of this odd one-on-one relationship, which even regardless of gender that can be intimidating to say, hey, senior partner, I want to take an hour of your time, just you and me together. That's a lot of pressure.

There's increasingly groups that can give that to you if you are in an area where it is harder -- a group called evolveHer is meant to focus on female entrepreneurs, and there's The Wing in New York City, which is that same idea of a safe space for women to come, mentor, connect. There is more opportunity than ever to go find it yourself but you do have to make it a priority and make it work, because it helps.

Also, consulting and I-Banking are very regimented [with regards to promotions], but most tech tracks are not. Here, I had to raise my hand very strongly that I am ready for management, saying, “I want this, I want this, I want this”. It was such a lesson again that I think I was exposed to at Booth and even in consulting, just seeing women take control of their careers and to really be vocal about what your aspirations are.

 Pinterest Chicago Office

Pinterest Chicago Office

[AD]: What are some of your thoughts on the data privacy debates that are a hot topic recently?

[CS]: I do think there are still responsible ways to share data that will make the experience better for the advertiser, allow companies to optimize their content and what they're sending you as a consumer so that it's mutually beneficial. But I think there's a lot of work to be done. There are so many third-party companies involved, that there are a lot of areas for leakage. Platforms will need to take ownership of that whole process so that we're not saying, “Oh, that breach happened when people were off the platform, that’s not our problem.” The whole path is our problem, collectively.

[AD]: Can you tell me about your work in the New Venture Challenge?

[CS]: Oh my God. It was number one, hands-down the best thing I did. It was so eye-opening -- how you tell a story, practicing your elevator pitch, how to run the financial model to think about the unit economics, how much every single customer has to be worth and then their lifetime value. And how do you think about that holistically? It was just, it was tremendous I would recommend anyone do it. We pulled a lot of all-nighters, but it was amazing. We did really prioritize it, we met so many real-life investors and VCs that I think the bar was really high and we wanted to impress them. Uzi is running this company [today], so it was real life, his bread and butter, and so we weren't just like, “oh, whatever, let's go to bed, the presentation is good enough”. And that network is still invaluable.

[AD]: How would you tell my classmates to make the most of their time at Booth, especially given any trends you see in the workplace these days?

[CS]: This will sound cheesy, but building your network is so important. In the past year we’ve hired two Booth people that did not work in the tech industry, that had no ties to Pinterest. They otherwise wouldn't have come here, and they are our best hires. They're killing it. Your network just really increases the likelihood of fortuitous events, and it helps you move in circles that you want to be moving in.

From a class perspective, all of the case-based classes are so valuable. In team meetings where, if one of our clients is going through a rebranding campaign, I'll think about classes where we did a case study about how you change customer perception of your brand, how hard it is, and what you think of. I think those story-based classes tend to stick in your mind more and really do surface in the workplace, which is really gratifying.

And then take what interests you. I took one class on emerging Asian economies, nothing with my job has to do with the Singaporean economy, but I swear it's come up in conversation with clients over dinner, just random things that make you a smarter, more interesting person. So especially second year, have fun with it and take things that are of personal interest.