Katy Culver started the year as a strategy consultant, but after realizing that her interests lay in operating within tech, she joined the On Deck First 50 Fellowship to make that transition. After turning down offers from big tech companies, Katy joined Dover, a seed-stage startup building the first end-to-end recruiting orchestration platform backed by Founders Fund and Y-Combinator, as an Engagement Manager. Here’s her journey:
Starting my recruiting journey
When I started recruiting in the fall of 2020, I was a strategy consultant at Accenture, focused on growth and digital strategy in the retail space. After 3 years in consulting, I decided that I wanted to make a pivot into a more operational role in tech.
I didn’t know much about tech, and wasn’t sure what role I’d both be a fit for and enjoy. Initially, I explored Strategy & Operations roles at larger tech companies and even landed a few offers, but none of the opportunities were that exciting to me.
I gave myself permission to turn down the offers because I didn’t want to settle. I didn’t just want to find any next job that would be a stepping stone. I wanted a breakout role that would challenge me. I wanted to optimize for learning and growth. I wanted to have a personal stake in the company’s success.
What I really wanted? To work in an early stage startup environment. I wanted to roll up my sleeves, work closely with customers, and impact both the product and the company itself.
I had always been interested in the startup world, but it felt so exclusive. I didn’t know how to find early stage startups, didn’t know what roles I should be going for, and could count my friends at startups on one hand.
Enter On Deck
I applied to On Deck’s First 50 Fellowship, led by Anthony Nardini, because it offered access: access to founders, access to resources that would help me make a pivot, and access to a community of peers. The promised land.
On Deck delivered. My On Deck fellowship has given me the best value of any investment I've made since college. You get out what you put in 100x over.
Two weeks into the fellowship, I went on a leave of absence from Accenture to focus on building relationships and recruiting. As a result, I had time to be one of the more active members of the cohort. I attended most sessions live and was constantly talking to people in Slack during (and beyond) the fellowship.
Access to startups
Through Talent Demo Days, hosted weekly during the cohort, I learned about exciting startups and met founders and hiring managers from companies like MainStreet, Presently and Italic. I explored a few different industries through these events, knowing I wanted to find a company with a personal impact on individuals' daily lives, preferably helping them with self-improvement or growing in their careers:
- EdTech (adult education, coaching/career support)
- Consumer Tech (productivity/collaboration, creator economy, community-driven products)
- B2B SaaS with consumer-facing element (eComm, recruiting, future of work)
Interacting directly with startups helped me clarify what I was interested in -- and opened the door for interviews when there was a mutual fit. I interviewed with multiple Talent Demo Day companies and built personal relationships with other founders I met.
Access to resources
I also got the tools I needed to be successful in my pivot. Through On Deck-hosted workshops and fireside chats with prominent folks in tech, I felt prepared to tackle the recruiting process itself. I gained a better understanding of the startup landscape and got advice from those who’d made pivots of their own in the past.
More tactically, I refined my “Tell Me About Yourself” pitch, LinkedIn, and resume. I replaced any consulting jargon with language that would resonate with startup hiring managers. I practiced interview stories with peers and got live feedback. I learned how to create an application that stands out and emphasizes my ideas for the company, not my past experience. I even met 1:1 with career coaches who helped me think through different offers at the end of my search.
Access to a community of peers
The best part of On Deck is the community. I immediately felt the community was on fire right from the high-energy kick off:
On Deck’s application process filters for givers -- people who look to give to others more than they take. This creates a virtuous cycle of support among community members and the On Deck team.
The On Deck community was there every step of the way during my recruiting journey, helping me process rejections and celebrate my wins. Community members joined in when I started a writing challenge on Twitter. They connected me to their network, coached me through offer negotiations, and attended my dance party social events.
What I got out from the community is in part a reflection of what I gave:
- Hands-on support: Through workshops and the #asks channel in Slack, I got help preparing for interviews and perfecting my story. I also learned the ins-and-outs of different roles from people who'd been in them.
- New friends: I formed incredibly strong friendships with folks from all over the country (and the world!) through my weekly learning group, 1:1 chats, and social events.
- Encouragement: Job searching is a very personal process of highs and lows. Without a community of people to support me, I'd probably have given up long ago.
- Broader network: I was part of OD50, but I also met wonderful people across other On Deck programs through cross-cohort events.
I also gained confidence, which is key to recruiting, especially when you’re making a pivot. You have to pitch yourself every day to hiring managers, so the more confidently you can speak to your story, skills, and strengths, the better. By interacting with the high caliber On Deck community every day, I evolved how I talk about myself. I learned to appreciate my strengths as a community-builder and thought partner to others.
So where am I now?
I officially made the pivot from consulting to startups! I recently joined Dover as an Engagement Manager.
Dover is building the first end-to-end recruiting orchestration platform. They’re a seed-stage startup, backed by Founders Fund, Y Combinator, and more.
Dover had pitched at one of On Deck’s Talent Demo days, but I didn’t apply until I ran into the CEO and Chief of Staff again at another event. After months of a less-than-ideal candidate experience, working for a company making startup recruiting more seamless was actually an awesome fit. I emailed our CEO, Max, and the rest is history.
After considering offers from pre-seed to Series D companies, I accepted my offer to join the Dover team in April 2021. Dover had all the right signals: experienced founders, top-notch investors, rapid growth, an impressive team, and competitive compensation & benefits.
As an Engagement Manager, I now get to help startup founders, CEOs, and CTOs find and hire incredible talent using our platform. I wear multiple hats across account/product management, consulting, and business operations. It’s the perfect role for a generalist looking to see where I want to focus in the future.
After months of recruiting, I feel like I finally found the perfect fit. I can directly apply my knowledge of startup recruiting from the candidate perspective to help companies make hires. Plus, I also get to help people unlock their potential by finding meaningful work. Come work with me -- we’re hiring across a bunch of roles.
Without my recruiting journey and the On Deck First 50 Fellowship, I wouldn't be here today. And I’m not an outlier. Many other OD50 fellows landed their dream jobs at really amazing startups. Now, it’s time to get to work!
To learn more about the On Deck First 50 Fellowship, an 8-week program for operators who want to find their next roles at world-changing companies, click here.