So You Want to Work in Corporate Strategy? Learn What It Takes.
Corporate strategy roles can take a number of different forms – from requiring experience in investment banking or consulting to an understanding of data-driven business analysis and coding languages. At my company, UpScored, we think a lot about what skills are required for different roles, and on the flip side, what types of careers people are most interested in. We are constantly looking at trends and career interests across the candidates on our platform.
The Most Popular Non-Technical Roles Are in Strategy
We recently took a look at the most popular job openings on our site. Interestingly, the three most in-demand non-technical opportunities were all strategy roles. Before jumping into the specifics, I’ll offer more background on how we came to our findings.
UpScored is a career discovery platform that connects professionals to their best career prospects. That said, an important part of our platform is a feature by which candidates can like or dislike different job prospects so we can learn from their preferences (similar to Pandora). We analyzed career interests across 16,000 job descriptions to find the most popular roles. Currently, the top opportunities are:
- Finance & Strategy Manager at ZocDoc
- Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Viacom
- Strategy Analyst at Squarespace
While all three strategy roles require a sophisticated level of analytics, it’s clear from the job descriptions that each opportunity is notably different. For instance, the strategy role at Squarespace requires experience with programming languages (Python, C++, Java) while the position at ZocDoc is more focused on operations and financial planning. These findings piqued our interest, which led us to further explore what it means to be in a strategy role.
Advice Straight From a Former Corporate Strategist
We took our research beyond the job description to ask an expert: what does it really take to be a stellar corporate strategist? We sat down with Alexandra Nicholson, a former Corporate Strategy and Business Development Manager at NBCU and Harvard Business School grad. Prior to NBCU and Harvard, Alexandra honed her analytical skills in investment banking at Barclays Capital covering the Media and Communications sectors. We asked Alexandra what it takes to work in corporate strategy.
Elise: What is the single most important skill for someone in a corporate strategy position?
Alexandra: The most important skill for anyone working in corporate strategy is the ability to focus. It sounds simple, but there are a lot of challenges and opportunities that come across your radar in a strategy role, related to competitors, potential partners, product development, etc. My best colleagues have been able to rise above the noise, clearly see which issues are most and least critical, and deliver targeted recommendations on the right next steps.
Elise: What would you recommend to candidates who want to move into a corporate strategy role? Any tips for getting the job?
Alexandra: Before considering any strategy position, you should be clear on what’s expected in that role. Strategy can encompass many different types of work depending on the company: finance, business development, and strategic planning, among others. It’s easy to apply for a strategy role, expecting one type of work, and find yourself engaged in something completely different. Probe deeply into the types of projects that you can expect, the backgrounds of your future teammates, and the actual day-to-day tasks of the job.
The good news for anyone interested in corporate strategy is that the positions are often multi-faceted, so firms may be open to candidates with passion and relevant skills (in addition to those with prior strategy experience). In the past, I’ve worked with former lawyers, consultants, and operating managers on strategy-focused teams. Even if you don’t come from a consulting firm, your perspective can be incredibly valuable to a corporate strategy group.
Elise: How do you think your background in investment banking helped you prepare for your role as a Strategy & Business Development Manager?
Alexandra: Having a strong finance background has helped me immensely. Many of the projects that I’ve worked on required the capacity to analyze and dissect historical financial statements and build forecasting models, or both. I would say, though, that any experience demonstrating an analytical mindset would be valued by a strategy team. Broadly speaking, the strategy team offers perspective to senior leaders about the future of the organization and provides recommendations around the choices that the company needs to make, given its value proposition, resources, and place among competitors. This advice needs to be grounded in solid quantitative analysis, as well as theory. As such, the capacity to work with numbers and an interest in using data to answer questions is crucial for any strategy hire.
Discover Strategy Roles and Other Top Opportunities at UpScored
If you’re interested in strategy roles or discovering other career opportunities at top companies like ZocDoc or Viacom, we’re offering exclusive access to our platform for Women For Hire readers. Discover your next career move at www.upscored.com.
Elise Runde Voss is the CEO and Co-Founder of UpScored, a career discovery platform that intelligently connects professionals to their best career prospects. Before co-founding UpScored, Elise worked at Point72 Asset Management (formerly SAC Capital Advisors), a $10bn multi-strategy investment firm. During her time at Point72, she played central roles in helping launch two different business divisions: the firm’s big data strategy group and its multi-sector research platform. She’s extremely passionate about helping people find their ideal careers through better technology. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.