🚀 From Facebook to Stripe to Zeal
We sat down with our Head of Operations—Abby Presar to learn more about her journey into tech and the path she took to where she is today as a leader in fintech Operations here at Zeal.
NOVEMBER 23, 2021
- Full name: Abby Presar 👋
- Role at Zeal: Head of Operations
- Star sign: Libra ♎
- Hobbies: Being a Foodie, sports fandom, 🍷 wine tasting, Wordle
- What’s a fun fact about you that many people may not know? I am a history nerd and have a cat named Richard Nixon. 🐈⬛
👋 Quick Introductions
How long have you been working at Zeal?
I joined Zeal in August of 2021, as employee #9…or 10? I share a start date with my teammate Kelsey O’Hara.
How did you hear about Zeal? Why did you want to work here?
I’d posted my resume on the Y Combinator job board and was passively looking for my next opportunity. I’d spoken to a few companies and was debating staying with Stripe when Kirti Shenoy, Zeal’s co-founder, and CEO, reached out to me to talk. After a few chats with Kirti and Pranab, our CTO and co-founder, I was sold.
I believe deeply in the vision for Zeal’s product and growth, and the team was simply stacked. I had to be a part of it!
What do you do in your day-to-day at Zeal?
What isn’t in my day-to-day?! My role covers all things operational - from product operations to support, I get to interact with nearly every team at Zeal on a daily basis. From partnering with our Payments Team to ensure that daily payroll runs smoothly, to digging in on strategy for our support infrastructure, I get to engage in it all! I get really amped about creating processes that scale and helping strategize how all the moving parts come together at Zeal!
🥾 Abby’s career journey
Quick backstory, what did you do before Zeal?
Oof, making this quick is going to be a challenge. Before working at Zeal I had a robust and pretty interesting career journey! I think of my career in two phases: the first phase was finding what I was good at and enjoyed, and the second was refining my skill set to be the best operations leader I could be.
In the first phase, I worked my way through college at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch as a compliance auditor, then moved straight into an interesting stint in HR at NVIDIA working on people systems and HR Generalist work.
These jobs taught me that I was really great at administering back-end infrastructure, process development, and improvement, and that project management was my JAM.
I don’t know that the second phase will ever end, but, from NVIDIA I had a really amazing tenure at the company formerly known as Facebook (now Meta) that was absolutely career-defining. I was working on FB’s People Operations team helping them scale (rapidly!), and got the opportunity to transition to the business side of the house for their Global Operations team. I worked on content moderation tooling and processes and owned a massive infrastructure migration for the full suite of FB’s product content moderation. I loved this cross-functional strategic role. It had everything!
Once I’d mastered that role, I moved back to my roots and into the fintech space to take on building and scaling new functions and teams at Stripe, including the central Incident Response function, acquisition support integration, and leading the privacy and regulatory ops team.
Going back in time, tell us a little bit about how you got into tech, what were some of the challenges you faced if any?
My exposure and entry into the tech industry was a little bit of blind luck, and a little bit living in the SF Bay Area where there’s a tech company on every corner. I grew up the child of parents who worked in Silicon Valley tech and in banking, so it feels like a lot of my experience has been aligned with my exposure and access to opportunities. I had to work hard and punch above my weight to keep these awesome roles, but getting a foot in the door and the growth I experienced as a result happened as I was filling a business need at the right time that aligned with what I was skilled at.
A former product manager from Stripe, Shreyas Doshi, posted on LinkedIn: “Product teams that treat engineering as a service end up spending a staggering amount of their time-solving problems that would never arise if they treated engineering as a partnership.”
🚀 I would expand upon this to say — Engineering and Product Teams that treat operations as a service end up spending a staggering amount of their time solving problems that would never arise if they treated operations as a partnership.
I’ve been at organizations that treated operations employees as a lesser class - and I’ve been at organizations that truly understood the value of operations. The organizations that invest in and treat operations as a partner and not a hurdle or a burden tend to struggle far less.
What is the best career lesson you’ve learned so far?
I had an amazing colleague who led with the “Vidal Sassoon management style” which I’ve since adopted. There’s an old shampoo commercial that used the tagline, “when you look good, I look good.” I have worked under some amazing (and some not-so-amazing) leaders across multiple industries and my biggest takeaway is: If you aren’t taking care of your team - helping develop them, unblocking, advocating for them, and showing humanity - people will leave. I’ve learned that teams thrive through adversity when they have a leader that gives a hoot about them.
💬 Final thoughts
What do you want the pinnacle of your career to look like?
I don’t know that I have a specific vision of what a pinnacle might look like. Ultimately, I’d like to continue to be in roles that allow me to bring my strengths to an organization—and for any organization, I’m at to be successful.
What advice do you have for other women who want to segway from big tech to the start-up space?
I thought I was prepared to wear a lot of hats 🧢👒🎩🎓 - but, dang - when you move to a startup, you wear A LOT of hats!!
I was grateful to join a company that understood the often invisible work of operations and recognizes that women are often the ones asked to take on administrative or housework tasks. Not all companies even think to consider this.
Something that I think many people who identify as female working in this industry experience is simply being the hurdle of being a womxn in tech. There have been more occasions than I can count that I’ve been the only woman in a meeting. Knowing that I bring value and learning to display confidence in my contributions (even if there’s some impostorism lurking!) has been the thing that gets me through. I’ve also been beyond lucky to have folks across the spectrum of gender expressions/identities act as allies. They call out toxic or negative behavior - speak up when folks aren’t being heard, and have been advocates for others’ work along the way.
🙏 Thanks Abby for taking the time to connect with us and share more about your career journey. We are so glad to have you not only building awesome operations here at Zeal but also an amazing Ops Team!
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