Bumble’s COO: How to Succeed IRL
Although it has become second nature to connect with others online, Sarah Jones Simmer, chief operating officer at Bumble, is focusing on real-world interactions.
Sarah joined the dating app and social network (which now has more than 50 million users) in 2017 with the mandate to scale the Austin, Texas–based company through brand extensions. In April, the company partnered with Hearst on a print magazine, and Sarah is currently working on Bumble Brew, a coffee shop and wine bar that will open later this year in New York City.
“These offline brand extensions allow us to expand our journey into our users’ lives,” says Sarah of the café. “What’s amazing is that it’s all really about connection and thinking about what brings people together in a safe space physically after we’ve connected with them digitally.”
Launched in 2014 as a dating app that required women to send the first message, Bumble later added friendship and networking options to its portfolio.
“When I joined the company, we were focused on how to take that early magic, grow the team, and build a global footprint,” says Sarah, who was the head of business development for a beauty brand before joining Bumble.
For Sarah, having the confidence she now uses to lead a company into new ventures came to her early on in life. In fact, she credits her time in Brownies for the start of her self-assuredness.
“I loved how Girl Scouts gave me the tools to be confident,” says Sarah, who was a Girl Scout from the first through fifth grades in New Jersey.
We asked her to share her most important tips for getting ahead at work.Here, three work-related issues she thinks it’s critical to navigate deftly for real-world career success:
1. Handle sensitive issues carefully.
“If something is bothering you at work, don’t launch in right away with the problem [when bringing it to your manager]. Instead find a moment to say to your manager, ‘I’ve always admired your perspective as a leader. There’s something I’ve noticed. Can I grab a few minutes with you?’”
“Being respectful of their time is the best way to get their attention and plant the seed that you want to have a conversation later. Be clear that you’re speaking up because you’re looking out for the company, not that you’re doing it as a political maneuver.”
2. Do your research before you ask for a raise.
“I always tell people that it’s very important for you to be able to substantiate why you should be promoted or given increased compensation. There are cold hard facts, including market factors, an analysis of what you can get elsewhere, and an evaluation of the body of work you’ve done, that are imperative to consider during that conversation,” she explains.
Just pointing out that you work long hours, she says, or that someone else is making more than you, isn’t a strong approach.
“Instead share what you’ve done to contribute to the growth of the business.”
3. Get comfortable talking about money at work.
“As women, we have been conditioned to think that rocking the boat by asking for a raise isn’t something we want to do,” says Sarah, who started her career at a hedge fund and is more comfortable than most people with the topic of money.
“At Bumble, we saw that women—even those who were top performers and must have known they were on the verge of a promotion—wouldn’t put their hands up and ask for a raise. That social conditioning isn’t OK.”
The company has impressively worked to resolve the issue.
“We now mandate that everyone has to talk about money at one part of the [review] cycle. When you do this, everyone feels more comfortable .”