How I made a Career Choice that can help you with direction- Omotoyonsi

How I made my Career Choice that can help you with your direction- Omotoyonsi Ogunbanwo

Moving to California was a dream and I almost couldn’t believe I was getting to do it. I was like Silicon Valley? Who? Me? Wow.

I packed all my belongings and everything that could fit into the back seat of my Toyota Camry. I bought new tires, serviced my car and began the 26 hours drive cross country to begin a new life.

I knew no one in California or had no friends. I rented my apartment via Facebook and my landlady said my roommate was also driving from Texas to California to work for Tesla. She had also just graduated. So it was us two clueless Texas girls going to start our new lives working in big tech.

We hit it off immediately and have been closest friends ever since. Funny story, 4 years later, we now both work for Amazon and live in Seattle across from each other 🤭.

Ok back to the career journey. I was very disappointed with California. It was so expensive and apparently my salary meant nothing 😭. My roommate Carolina and I started to immediately create plans on how we will increase our pay because we definitely needed more to live good lives in Cali.

Starting my new position was exciting. My first official title at Cisco was Senior Accountant, Analytics. I genuinely believe being put in the finance department was a blessing in disguise.

I had the opportunity to prove myself. I wasn’t just a Finance person, I was also an analytics person. Everyone on the team were experts in finance but no one on the team had any analytical expertise. Which made me shine. I shined so much I was the director and VP’s baby haha.

No one questioned the fact that I didn’t have US GAAP experience and I sometimes asked silly finance questions because on the other end, I was an expert with excel, I wrote VBA queries and helped analyzed data they couldn’t understand.

The height was when I analyzed 3 million data in 48 hours. Prior to me getting to the team, they had been manually categorizing this data for over 2 years lol.

I came in, asked for a tableau license and got it fixed. This wasn’t a small feat because doing this went all the way to the top top. The skills I learned during my internship helped so much.

I was working late hours. I remember my mentor telling me back then I had to prove myself over and over and over again.

I represented Cisco in the California Sleep out for homelessness. When my director heard I slept outside all night representing my company to support and raise funds for homelessness she was so impressed.

It was at this point my mentor taught me about managerial jealousy and how to prevent it from happening to me. I started looping my manager in on everything I was doing. Because making her look good was going to make me look good.

A year later in 2020, I got a raise and got a new role.

And this is the part that confuses people when I tell them lol – I was asked – Omotoyosi, what role do you want to do now because you do a lot.

They allowed me choose my next part. Albeit still in finance. And that was when I started to build BOTs and automate. I learnt how to do this by myself. Took certifications and again became the expert on the team.

See I knew when I came on the team that I couldn’t compete with anyone for finance. They were all finance experts. But the one thing they lacked which was Data Analytics and automation, I decided to be an expert in it. And that my darlings is the key always. I had such high visibility in my role up to CFO level. And it boosted my confidence in myself and everything I thought wasn’t possible. A year later, I was due for another promotion. Not a lot of people get promoted twice in 2 years.

After spending 2 years and 2 months in the company, I was burnt out, bored and needed something else. So I quit without another job lined up.

I was trading this time and making more than my yearly salary in the stock market. I realized I couldn’t combine both after a while and I was honestly just burnt out.

When it was time to go back into the job market, I faced so much difficulties within myself and in the job market.

My resume was a complete mess. I had gone from Non profit finance to oil and gas finance to data analytics internship to accounting analytics, to finance and data automation.

When recruiters saw my resume, they asked, are you a Finance person or a Data person?

Despite my experiences at Cisco and Yum, I was genuinely struggling to go past first round interviews.

Hiring managers were unsure where I fit. I was unsure where I fit.

I knew I didn’t want to pursue Data Science anymore. But I liked Data Analytics and I also liked Finance and I was good at both but no one was willing to give me a chance.

I got multiple rejections. At one point, I was so exhausted with applications I thought I’d just go back to my previous company and pick up my role. They told me I’d always have a space there. But I honestly didn’t want to go back. I was so frustrated.

I had multiple mentors who told me I had to either tailor my resume towards Finance roles or towards Data Analytics roles. I had to pick one.

This was until my interview with Lyft.

I interviewed for a Finance Analytics position. The hiring manager liked me and moved me to the next round. I passed and I was moved to the final round with the VP. And this was where it got interesting.

The VP said I wasn’t a good fit for the role I was interviewing for. He said sure I would get in and do it well, but looking at my resume and my career projections, he genuinely believed I would do better working Product Management roles within Finance teams. I am a finance person at core who also happens to be technical. Product Finance was the best pathway for me.

That interview ended up being a mentorship session lmao. He told me I would do well working as a Software Engineer building Finance Products or I could do Product Management working with engineers building finance products.

He gave me those two paths and asked me to go decide what I want then we would talk again.

I left the interview even more confused than ever. I liked product management but I never really thought I could do well in it. I also definitely didn’t want to go back to learn software development.

After discussing with my friends, I chose Product Management and set up another meeting with the VP. Once I had my mind made up, he sent out an email to the recruiters and told them to look for finance teams within Lyft that needed a Product Manager and set up interviews for me.

None of the hiring managers were interested in interviewing me except one. It was a Product Analytics position on the Finance team. I interviewed and failed woefully.

Obviously I was so frustrated with the job search by this time. I went back to the drawing board to figure out where I was getting it wrong. I set up a camera and started recording myself during interviews.

I recorded over 5 interviews and watched every single one to know where I messed up and where I lacked. I was failing the product questions. So I knew I needed to learn. Went on Udemy and Cousera, bought 3 classes and took 30 days off interviewing to learn. Took a vacation to Oregon to clear my head.

30 days later, I went back into the job market and started applying. Got interviews with Amazon, Coinbase, DoorDash and Uber. About 3 weeks later, I received offers from Uber and Amazon.

Uber wanted me to move to Chicago, Amazon wanted me to move to Seattle.

For both roles, I interviewed for a lower level but after the interviews, they said nope, we are moving you up.

Most people have known Amazon to downlevel but very few people at Amazon has ever been upleveled after an interview. I am one of the few. They releveled my role and I came in as an L6. Best decision ever because coming in at that level was a great opportunity.

Amazon offered me a sign on bonus of $90k to join them. I never in my life thought that companies would pay almost 6 digits as a ‘come join us’ lol. My friends still thought that was small and made me renegotiate.

In 3 years, I went from companies paying me $5k sign on to getting paid $90k sign on. But a lot happened in those 3 years to get me there.

There are people who are getting paid $150k as sign on. Sign on is not your salary and it’s paid separately.

Right now I am happy and satisfied. it’s been almost 2 years at Amazon. I love my job, I love my role, I am making an impact building products that’s being used by millions of people. My engineers trust me and depend on me despite being the only woman on my team. I have no intention of leaving Amazon anytime soon unless they fire me 🤭.

I love working in product. I get to use my finance expertise everyday because my customers are in finance. I know what they want and I am able to make their life easier. I am forever thankful to my amazing mentor turned friend at Lyft who gave me perspective on what to do with my life.

I am currently taking courses to be an AI product manager. And once I feel ready, I will find AI roles within Amazon and switch. But for now, I’m learning a lot and building expertise.

Sharing this to remind you that no one’s journey is smooth. No one has it figured out. We are all learning as we go. Do your research and decide what works for you. Don’t jump into things because everyone else is doing the same. Find your niche and expertise and capitalize on it. Good luck. If you are a woman, sign up for Synerge and join other women figuring out their lives.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.