Head of Revenue & Growth, SoulCycle
For Tessa Gould, while growing up in New Plymouth had its advantages, she always had an innate sense that “there was more out there just waiting to be discovered.”
New York was top of the list of places she most wanted to live. Problem was she had to figure out a pathway that would get her there, and New Plymouth was about as far from the Big Apple as it was possible to get.
Moving to Auckland and enrolling in a BCom/LLB conjoint lead to an initial interest in mergers and acquisitions which would morph into a broader interest in corporate strategy.
“I’ve always been interested in what makes businesses sink or succeed and especially loved the classes where we reviewed and discussed Harvard Business Review (HBR) Case Studies. In fact, it was my participation in Brendan Potter’s Case Programme that really sparked my desire to pursue a career in the field versus taking a job in law.”
Tessa graduated in 2007, just as the Global Financial Crisis was gathering steam. An opportunity to work for international management consultants L.E.K. provided the perfect entry to the world of corporate strategy. Just three years after leaving university Tessa was offered the opportunity to transfer from Sydney to New York.
Mission accomplished! Well, sort of.
“I remember being incredibly excited when I was given the news I was finally off to work in New York. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) worked in advertising and we arrived in the city knowing just one person; a former University of Auckland classmate and now friend, Melissa Francis. It was both unnerving and exciting in equal measure.”
After moving on from L.E.K. in 2012, she turned down an opportunity to join Facebook pre-IPO in favour of AOL (now Verizon Media Group). While Tessa thinks she ultimately made the right move for her own career, financially she’s less sure.
“At the time Facebook’s strategy team sat entirely out West, so this would have been more of a finance-focused role, which was less interesting to me at the time. But with an attractive stock package and shares at around $38 a piece - I should have probably just taken it” she says laughing.
However, the time at AOL turned out to be valuable as Tessa was part of a team tasked with executing the company’s turnaround strategy and transforming it into a major player in the digital media & online advertising space.
It also led to her next big opportunity working for The Huffington Post; owned by AOL.
“I was appointed as GM of Native Advertising where I helped grow their non-advertising revenue from 0-20% of revenue in less than 2 years with the launch of HuffPost Partner Studio: an award winning in-house creative agency for brands looking to align with HuffPost and AOL portfolio brands through multimedia storytelling.”
Little realising at the time that opportunity was about to knock once again, Tessa says it was a chance meeting with Eric Harris, BuzzFeed’s Chief Operating Officer and first commercial hire that would eventually lead to her next move.
“At the time BuzzFeed was the hot media start-up. About a year after we first met, Eric convinced me to come and work for him running advertising innovation, strategy and operations at Buzzfeed. It was easily one of the smartest decisions of my career thus far. Not only did Eric show me what it meant to be a great manager, but he has in the years since been a constant source of support, guidance, and advice for me.”
Invited to become a member to the NY COO Club, an intimate and highly coveted group of New York City tech & start-up Chief Operating Officers, finally brought Tessa into the “inner-circle.”
“I have Eric Harris to thank for nominating me. Through this group, where I now serve on the leadership team, I have met a number of very talented executives, many of whom I am fortunate to count as friends. They are also a constant source of inspiration for me.”
Deciding to move on from media and switch into the health and wellness sector, initially as COO at mindbodygreen, a leading wellness start-up and more recently in her current role at SoulCycle, an innovative boutique fitness brand designed to create an alternative to the fitness routines that feel like work, Tessa has responsibility for running revenue and growth.
So, what’s left after such a stellar career working for some of the biggest media, and now wellness brands, in New York?
A potential start-up of her own in the health and wellness space is one possibility and after 10 years in New York she's also open to the idea of eventually making her way home!
“Mindfulness and meditation have been really big unlocks for me, both personally and professionally. Early in my career I used to get upset or worried about things that were often well beyond my control (shifting deadlines, office politics, company restructuring - the works!) It’s only been in the past five years I’ve learnt to really embrace the notion of controlling what I can and letting go of the rest - and I'm a lot happier and less stressed because of it.”