Do you like wearing lots of different hats? Working behind scenes to keep everything running smoothly? Interested in being the backbone to the business? Then maybe Operations is for you.
As an Operations Associate at Linens Club Emony Anderson took the business to the next level, researching, scheduling and creating different resources to keep her team on track. Emony is with me today, sharing some of her insights into Operations.
How did you decide Operations was the best role for you to begin with and how did you get started in Operations?
I’m a very pragmatically minded person, so I was drawn to Operations due to the clear connection between what you do and how useful it is. Operations roles are focused on what tasks literally keep the business running. That means that, by nature, most early jobs are mostly Operations; things like data entry, scheduling, creating products, training employees, etc. My first job in a popcorn shop was entirely Operations, as I made the popcorn, flavored the popcorn, bagged the popcorn, labeled the popcorn, put it on the sales shelf and then actually sold it at the register. If you take out any of those steps the business ceases fully operating.
What did week one look like for you?
A LOT of shadowing. My direct bosses were the ones doing all the Operations work, which for my Praxis apprenticeship included scheduling cleaning employees, buying supplies, training and requesting new staff, and being the point of contact between our staff and the buildings we partnered with. The first few weeks I watched how my boss did everything, copied what he did, and eventually became comfortable enough with the process to take over one step at a time.
What does success look like in your role/ How do you measure results, with Operations?
Operations is about making sure everything gets done and gets done well. It’s a little tricky to measure success because it’s so much easier to measure failure; I could tell when I’d missed something because a room wouldn’t get cleaned, or a cleaner wouldn’t be scheduled where I thought they were, or we wouldn’t have enough supplies for the day. When I did well, none of those things came up. Success depends on being organized, double-checking information, being on top of communication, and being able to react quickly if something comes up.
Do you have any tips on how to show a hiring manager you’re fit for Operations?
Pull as many examples as possible out of past experience. As a babysitter, I got experience communicating with clients, scheduling my time, managing supplies at multiple locations, and budgeting — all things any company needs in Operations. Also, be on top of communications and be very clear, reading over information thoroughly and asking questions when needed. The biggest thing Operations depends on is a thorough understanding of how the business runs and what it needs to run, so do as much research as you can into what type of business you’re pitching towards and try to find relevant connections. I was entering a cleaning company, and my previous experience training employees at the popcorn shop applied well to being a supervisor of cleaning staff.
What different technology/techniques/ hard skills are important to know that have helped you succeed in Operations?
Using organizational software is one of the main duties. This will differ depending on the company, but I regularly used Slack, Asana, Deputy, Hubspot, Hootsuite, Excel, and a scheduling app paired with our partner buildings, among others. Communication and the ability to organize multiple people/events is also very helpful, and our team benefited greatly when I was able to schedule weekly calls and monthly staff meetings.
What does the role entail in terms of day to day activities?
This differs widely depending on what the company does. I worked with a cleaning company that provided service to apartment buildings and hotels, so my daily activities included checking with our partners to see what tasks were scheduled, communicating with staff to ensure all tasks were addressed, buying and organizing supplies, scheduling staff 3 weeks in advance, tracking staff hours and communicating with our staffing partner, and transporting supplies to the different buildings. In most tech/software companies, day to day activities look very different and are more analytical/process-oriented.
What is the most difficult part of working in Operations?
The high stakes of managing tasks that, if not done correctly, means the business can’t run properly. If I failed to schedule enough people, then the staff would be upset with a large workload or some cleaning tasks would get pushed from their scheduled date. These mistakes fell squarely on my shoulders. I was also in charge of responding to external requirements, like when a client building had missed some information and didn’t tell us until halfway through the day that a room needed to be cleaned ASAP. Things like that were not my fault, but I had to act quickly and address them. It can be stressful, but it’s also very motivating to see how your actions directly affect the company.
What are the most rewarding parts of Operations?
Receiving feedback from those outside the company who see the impact your work makes. When I did my job well, I would get recognition from our clients and building partners on how quality had gone up or they felt communication was improved. I was also able to work closely with our cleaning staff, and the opportunity to hear from the metaphorical ground troops on what was better or what I could help improve was often very rewarding.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Operations is a HUGE field, and you could be doing anything under the sun as part of it. If you get a lot of meaning from getting into the nitty-gritty of how a business runs day-to-day, I would encourage you to pursue Operations roles, even in companies or areas you’re not familiar with.