If you’ve been interviewing for jobs at all in recent years, you might have come across a number of Strategy & Biz Ops roles. These roles have become particularly common among tech companies, including the biggest names like Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
We’ll be going over what the strategy and operations or bizops (we’ll be using these two terms interchangeably) role is, what people in these roles do, how to land a bizops role, common interview questions, and more to help you down this career path.
What Is Strategy and Biz Ops?
The strategy and biz ops role is a generalist function whose purpose is to identify and solve problems the company is facing. They’re there to help the senior management team answer tough questions and make important decisions on both day-to-day operations as well as long-term strategic decisions. Think of them almost like an in-house consulting arm.
Biz ops teams are generally measured by how much revenue they add, how much costs they can help cut, and how much new growth they can identify.
Some common questions you might be tasked to deal with are:
- “Which markets should we enter next?”
- “How do we optimize the roll-out plan?”
- “How should we react to our competitor lowering prices?”
The strategy and operations department is typically an exciting place in the company to work because of how cross-functional they are and their impact on driving forward company initiatives. Since they directly impact the P&L, they’re an integral part of any company.
Strategy and Biz Ops Responsibilities
Expect no two days to be the same. Sometimes you might be heads down by yourself, thinking and strategizing about the company’s 5-year plan. The next day you might be working with various departments to put out a fire.
The projects you work on will also change depending on the company size. The challenges facing a hypergrowth 20-person startup will massively differ from those of a large, global organization with 1,000+ employees.
Below are some typical strategy and operations job responsibilities:
- Build and maintain company operating dashboards to measure the health of the business or part of the business
- Analyze raw data and present narratives about past/present/future
- Identify struggling parts of the business and recommend solutions
- Identify new areas of growth for the company, be it geographical, product, or elsewhere
- Assist with strategic budgeting and planning
- Define OKRs and KPIs for business units
- Optimize and automate daily operations
- Help put out fires that come up
What Skills Do You Need in Strategy and Biz Ops?
Technical skills required to function in a strategy and ops role include:
- Excellent Excel and PowerPoint (or Google Sheets and Slides) skills – building/updating financial models, analyzing raw data, scenario analysis, putting decks together quickly
- Accounting knowledge – you don’t have to be an accountant but knowing how the financial statements work and the revenue drivers of the company is important
- Research ability
- Data analysis
- SQL is always a plus
Soft skills to excel as a biz ops professional include:
- Clear verbal/written communication – you’ll be presenting and talking to different stakeholders a lot
- Prioritization – you’ll likely be juggling multiple projects and have to be able to prioritize them based on importance/urgency
- Understanding how what you do fits “big picture”
- Passion for the company mission
- Positive attitude, willing to help beyond job scope
Why Choose a Strategy and Biz Ops Career?
You might be wondering why you might choose a bizops career over a management consulting career, if both are similar. While management consulting certainly carries a level of prestige and serves as a great training ground, working in bizops also has a number of unique benefits.
For one, you get to see through projects to their end in bizops. In consulting, you often end up presenting a solution to a problem but never see it get implemented or what the end result is. When you work at a company, you get to help execute and iterate on improvements to help move the company forward.
And while you certainly learn a lot in consulting from the sheer number of projects and industries you touch, being in bizops allows you to specialize. You also get to learn from business leaders by literally being in the same room as them, understanding how they think and make decisions for their company. If you’re successful in the role, you can often become the right-hand person to these leaders, taking on additional responsibility.
Along with this more direct line of responsibility is a greater feeling of purpose and camaraderie with your team. Since you’re all working in the same company, you can establish a stronger level of trust than someone from the outside can.
There are also potential compensation benefits to working in strategy and operations. You’ll likely earn RSUs or options, which can be quite valuable for both public and pre-IPO companies.
How to Land a Strategy and Biz Operations Job
Let’s say you like what you’ve read so far – how do you go about landing a strategy / bizops role?
Most bizops professionals come from consulting or investment banking backgrounds, and they tend to look for similar candidates during the hiring process. The two fields serve as good training grounds for analytical rigor, communication skills, and work ethic.
That said, it’s not a pre-requisite you come from those fields. We’ve also seen candidates come from prior operational roles, product management, or as startup founders.
Since biz ops is considered a desirable role these days, expect tough competition. You’re going to be competing against candidates from Ivy League schools, top management consulting firms, bulge bracket banks, and FAANG-type tech companies. If you have a warm lead that can refer you into these roles, you’ll get a leg up from just cold applying.
Once you’ve gotten past the initial resume screen, you’ll have to go through multiple rounds of interviews. Generally the interview process for a strategy and operations role looks something like this:
- Phone screen with HR/recruiter
- 2-3 phone interviews with hiring manager / team
- Take-home case study and presentation
- Final interviews with senior execs and/or offer
The case study and presentation can often be the deciding factor in the interview process, as it is the closest thing to measure how you’d perform as an employee.
For the case, they’ll present you with a scenario – sometimes a real one that the team previously worked on already – and ask you to analyze the data, come up with a recommendation, and put together a presentation to the team. You’ll be judged on the logic of your analysis, speaking skills, and quality of work.
Strategy and Biz Ops Salary
Compensation for strategy and biz ops will differ based on region and company, but these bands are fairly typical at top tech companies:
Analyst: $70K-90K base + 5-10% bonus
Associate: $100K-125K + 10-15% bonus
Manager: $125K-160K + 15-20% bonus
Director: $180K-250K + 20-30% bonus
However, once you factor in RSUs, your total compensation can go much higher. Senior Bizops Associates in SF coming out of their MBAs can easily start at 200K-250K all-in, with Managers earning 250K-300K in total comp in 2021.
Strategy and Biz Ops Exit Options
The great thing about the strategy and ops role is they’re in high demand, and the role has many transferable skills. This presents you with a number of exit options.
The first choice is to continue down the strategy and ops career path through promotions, whether at the same company or a different one. As mentioned, nearly every tech company at this point has a strategy/operations team.
If you find yourself getting bored in your particular industry, you can easily switch to another one. The more industry experience you have, the better, but because the role itself is so generalist in nature and requires you to learn on the fly, many companies are open to hiring someone with previous strategy & bizops experience in another industry.
As you advance along the strategy/ops path, you’ll be required to lead and manage teams. You might find yourself doing less of the actual analytical gruntwork and more high-level planning.
The higher your title, the more you’ll also interact with senior leadership at the company. You’ll spend more time talking to them, figuring out what their challenges are, and communicating the recommendations your team brings to the table. Since you’ll own the projects more, more of the responsibility falls on you which also comes with additional pressure to perform.
If you decide to leave the biz ops path, you can pivot to management consulting fairly easily. If you decide not to go down the consulting route, you can also stay in tech but pivot to something different. We’ve seen bizops professionals transition to Product Strategy, Product Management, Corp Dev, Biz Dev, and even Sales.
The strategy and biz ops role is an exciting role to be in and is among the fastest growing professions at tech companies. It is a great career path for those with consulting, banking, or other analytical backgrounds who want to solve problems and help companies grow.