BTU #47 – Tom Pae: Army to LinkedIn & Slack

“When you go into a project, everyone has the understanding that they probably don’t know what the right answer is. At Slack we’re very successful and we’ve done a lot of right movement: when there was a decision to go left, we went left; when there was a decision to pick door #3, we happened to pick door #3. A lot of it is by chance and luck and at the same time when we attempt a project, I don’t think anyone assumes that they know what the right answer is. Because of that there is a lot of open mindedness of being ok if this doesn’t work out. A lot of the time we do things here to try it out and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work.”
 – Tom Pae

Tom Pae is a Sales Enablement Manager at Slack – one of the fastest growing startups in San Francisco, who has raised $540M in funding. He started out at West Point, and served in the Army for over seven years as an Armor & Military Intelligence Officer. When he left the Army he went to Columbia Business School. After that, he joined LinkedIn – first as a Sales Operations Manager and then as a Senior Learning Technology Strategist. He is married to fellow Army veteran, RaeAnne Pae, who I interviewed in Episode 26.

In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:

  • An overview of the role of Account Operations Management
  • The lifestyle component of working in a high-growth startup
  • How life at Slack (and a high growth startup) compares to life at LinkedIn (an established company)
  • How Tom used nights and weekends to prepare for his transition to tech
  • And much, much more…

iTurnes Beyond the UniformStitcher Beyond the Uniform

QUESTION OF THE DAY: How can I make these episodes more valuable to active duty military personnel considering transitioning to the civilian world? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links

  • My interview with Tom’s wife, RaeAnne – http://beyondtheuniform.io/btu-26-raeanne-pae-army-to-facebook-and-business-development/
  • Slack’s incredible commercial about their vision for the workplace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6sSa5NpqUI
  • Articles mentioned about tech
    • Recode – http://www.recode.net/
    • Venture beat – http://venturebeat.com/
    • Tech crunch – https://techcrunch.com/
    • Wall Street Journal Tech & Marketing section – http://www.wsj.com/news/technology
  • General Assembly – short form content on different topics at night. Helped Tom figure out what he wanted to do

Show Notes

  • 2:37 – Tom’s background
  • 3:18 – An overview of Slack
  • 5:50 – An overview of the role of Account Operations Management
  • 7:42 – The day-to-day life of an Account Operations Manager
  • 9:18 – The lifestyle component of working in a high-growth startup
  • 11:20 – Career progressions for an Account Operations Manager
  • 13:20 – Indications that you may be well suited for a role in Account Operations, and indications that you may not enjoy it
  • 16:47 – How life at Slack (and a high growth startup) compares to life at LinkedIn (an established company)
  • 21:28 – How Tom approached the decision to leave the Army
  • 23:28 – The most surprising aspect of Tom’s transition to civilian life
  • 26:26 – Advice on whether or not to pursue an MBA after the military
  • 30:10 – How Tom found his way from business school to LinkedIn
  • 35:15 – How Tom pursued Operations as a starting point for his career
  • 38:40 – How Tom decided to move on from LinkedIn
  • 41:15 – Final words of wisdom