Inside the life of a student entrepreneur with Sarah Doyle | Humans of Ladder
Ladder is filled with thousands of students & new grads from all walks of life trying to navigate their careers together. On Humans of Ladder, we highlight a member on the platform each week to share their story and journey.
This week, we chatted with Sarah Doyle, a student entrepreneur, incoming Google BOLD intern, and aspiring marketing strategist, who is an active user of our marketing/sales and entrepreneurship communities!
Give us a little background about yourself!
I was adopted from China but grew up with my Caucasian family in Tennessee. As you could imagine, there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me, so this background played a really pivotal role in motivating me to find avenues that allowed me to connect with others.
Growing up, I struggled with my identity, but I knew I could always rely on my passion for people. The anxious struggles that I faced early on helped me break out of my shell and to learn how to help others feel supported and heard. I loved getting involved with anything that involved relationship building, including joining Student Government, a Professional Business fraternity and eventually launching my own startup during the pandemic.
Tell us more about your startup! What inspired you to launch it?
During quarantine, each day was so monotonous that I started getting involved with LinkedIn and thankfully discovered Ladder. I had finally found a platform where I could connect with other students that were also yearning for a community to share knowledge and advice.
So, I was inspired by the platform’s reach and was able to get the word out about my pro-bono startup, Kickstart Students Consulting (KSC), and my team was able to reach 60+ students from eight different countries. I realized something as simple as a resume review or startup marketing strategy can give these users so much confidence to apply to places like the US E-sports organization or Boston Consulting Group. For myself, it impacted me in applying for Google BOLD, and Ladder’s referral database helped me receive a referral from Google and land an offer there.
Congrats on getting accepted into Google’s BOLD! Since you’ve gone through several interviews, any tips?
It was a big learning curve! I actually interviewed for two teams and I’m glad that there was a big difference between my first and second round of interviews. Sometimes we worry so much that an interview should be perfect and polished, but it’s okay to be aware of what you’re lacking, and show that you’re working on it.
I remember when I was preparing for one of my Google interviews and someone said, “Make sure that there’s absolutely nothing in your virtual background, you don’t want any distractions.” But over winter break my family wanted to do “Paint by Numbers” of a place off the shore of Italy (with 2700 empty spaces). I ended up hanging this painting in my background during both of my second interviews with Google, and ironically, both interviewers had been there and we were able to bond over it!
Ultimately, to get more comfortable with certain conversations, I realized that even if it’s supposed to be a really professional context, it’s okay to put aspects of yourself into things like that. If you can explain why it’s there, it makes the conversation super special.
Speaking of internships and career, what are your plans for the future?
I started figuring out what I what I wanted to do sophomore year. I’m studying international business and marketing and I started realizing I needed some sort of idea of what I wanted and realized that there’s so much more to marketing and selling — there’s a whole analytical side to it. I had always thought of marketing as more of a creative making an advertising campaign, but I wanted to be able to find a position that brought both that and the analytical side together. So I thought, maybe doing marketing strategy would be the way to go!
How did you start exploring the strategy side of marketing?
I didn’t know where to start, but over the summer, I worked with a startup where you I could just do anything and everything under the sun. Our startup had two people, and I was the third, and it was very much in its early growth stage… so our mission changed almost every day.
But I knew I wanted to be a marketing strategist, and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do for an internship and I hoped that maybe for once, it would actually be towards marketing in some capacity. Thankfully, it is now, since I’m going to be working with Google Ads for my internship, and if I return full-time for the future I’ll be able to work even more in the analytics side on the Google Customer Sales Solutions team. I want to have smaller, finite groups of clients — maybe even with some international companies — and help them figure out the different cultural aspects that play into entering a new market.
And what were some “unconventional” channels or resources that you used to get to where you are right now?
I definitely became more involved with Ladder because they were doing so many AMAs, like the first one with Martin Aguinis who’s a Google strategist for international marketing. And so when I saw that, I was like, I want to sign up to be part of this community so I can learn from him.
And as I got involved with the marketing community on the platform and learning so much about what people were doing, it gave me the idea to do my own startup (KSC) as I saw there were so many amazing interns from the past summer that had created their own little startups.
We started out as an initiative that would be catered to students that were looking for resources or maybe emotional support in navigating a first internship, but later evolved into helping students who were creating startups and clubs. There were even a couple of times where we were able to show a few users on Ladder how to use Trello to help their teams collaborate.
Any tips on how to really taking advantage of the platform?
It’s basic, but what you put into is what you get out of it. At first, I was reading everyone’s announcements and all the opportunities that they were putting on there, which was amazing, and I loved it, and had no idea how some users were able to find all of this.
There’s so many accomplished students on there, but being able that flip that switch and realize that you have something to contribute, even if you aren’t from some of the bigger schools and Ivy leagues, you can still end up having direct messages from people wanting to talk to you about marketing strategy.
Ladder is so open in bringing all of these resources from all these different schools, which helps gives so many different perspectives and makes it a collaborative environment because we’re all trying to help each other.
Looking back, any advice for your former self?
My biggest piece of advice is sometimes you just need to take a chance on yourself or probably better worded as, don’t take yourself out of the running before it even starts.
With freshman year I got so involved in so many things, but I was almost afraid to shoot high because I just didn’t think I would make it. I didn’t apply to big companies, which was silly, because then I obviously had no chance of making it without an application.
Looking back now to my freshman self, I’d probably just laugh because I never thought I was going to apply to a big company like Google or GEICO because it’s one of those things that seemed so outlandish.
The power of having resources and someone to lean on is insane. It can give people confidence to go out and accomplish a ridiculous amount of things. I hope people remember that you can’t hold yourself back before anything has even begun, take a chance and you’d be surprised by the success you have.
Join Ladder for access to more opportunities to meet amazing students and recent graduates like Sarah!