work culture

A peek into operations roles at startups with Umaimah Sharwani, VP of Operations at Bravo Sierra

January 6, 2021

Have you ever wondered what it’s truly like to work in operations at a fast-growing company?

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Have you ever wondered what it’s truly like to work in operations at a fast-growing company?

I’m sitting down with Umaimah Sharwani, the VP of Operations at Bravo Sierra, a military-native performance company that provides high-quality grooming essentials for active military members. Before that, Umaimah was an early member at Glossier.

Having worked at big and small companies and offering mentorship to entrepreneurs, she is so generous in this conversation, sharing about her career journey and decrypting what operations really means.

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts.


Consider roles that align with the characteristics of your personality.

After working in finance and portfolio management for two years and feeling unfulfilled, Umaimah went back to the drawing board and thought about what would make her excited again.

She started by taking the unusual approach of noticing all of the emails she’d receive in her inbox. At the time, flash sale companies like Rue La La and LivingSocial were growing in popularity.

This is how Umaimah discovered, a competitor to these shopping sites. Lo and behold, they were hiring for an Operations Manager. She carefully skimmed through the job description and was surprised to find that the characteristics of the role were a match for who she was as a person.

She thought, “If I could apply these to my job, how amazing would that be?”

And that’s how she got the role at Fab, managing everything from the warehouse to vendor relations.

Jump on golden opportunities as they appear.

Umaimah worked at Google Shopping for only 7 months, not planning to leave that early to hang her hat that early, but an opportunity presented itself when she had the chance to meet Emily Weiss, the founder and CEO of Glossier.

At first, Umaimah wondered how a role in operations could fit into their editorial style lens, but after meeting with Emily, it was clear she had an incredible vision. She knew in a heartbeat that she wanted to be a part of that journey and became the 3rd employee and their Operations Director.

It was a risk that paid off in the end, mixed with a little luck, as Glossier grew into a billion dollar company.

Internships are a powerful way to get comfortable in a startup environment.

When you take a leap and work with an early-stage startup like Umaimah did, wearing 1,001 hats is par for the course.

One minute, Umaimah was navigating warehouse contracts, while the next she could be looking at different platforms for customer service, or working with packaging suppliers and thinking through the little details, such as how large the box should be and how the product should be protected.

Operations roles come with a lot of problem-solving. You’re constantly thinking about optimization. 

If you’re thinking about dipping your toe in the water with operations, or experiencing startup culture for yourself, internships go a long way at teaching you the core parts of the business and gaining that deeper understanding of how a business functions. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, network, and be curious.

There is no shortage of opportunities out there!

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Your Podcast Host and Career Coach

Over the last 12+ years, I’ve done everything from work as a global human rights activist to lead marketing & partnerships initiatives at companies like Postmates and Apple. I’ve started businesses, lived in multiple cities around the world, pivoted careers more than once, and know what it takes to turn career goals into a reality. As a career coach & consultant, I’m passionate about sharing all that I’ve learned with you, helping you define tangible goals, and providing you with the tools and direct feedback you need to achieve them.

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