Operations Nation presents cONference: 2-Day Event for Startups

On the 3rd and 4th of October, 2022, Operations Nation is holding its annual cONference, a global virtual gathering of COOs, Directors/VPs of Operations, and Operation Managers working in startups to discuss the many challenges encountered along the path of scaling their companies to “operational excellence”.

In 2018, inspired by all the joys and pains of their collective 30 years of startup ops experience, Charlene Chen, Aušrinė Keršanskaitė, and Astrid Verstraete separately founded two operations communities called COOhort and Ops Stories. In 2021, they joined forces to co-found Operations Nation and unite their communities into one, having bonded over a shared vision to make startup operations accessible, aspirational, and sexy.

“I’ve learnt an absolute ton in the past 10 years in operations — mostly by being thrown into the deep end, baptism by fire, many a time reinventing the wheel. I loved my job — it was challenging, super interesting, no single day was the same. But I often wished I had an ear of someone who’s done it all before and could advise me on which approach to take, empathise with my challenges, and guide me on how to grow as an operations leader,” said Aušrinė Keršanskaitė, Co-Founder at Operations Nation and Head of Operations at Reframe.

Last year, inspired by the four pillars of Operations Nation: Discover, Grow, Connect and Celebrate, Operations Nation hosted its inaugural conference for startup and scaleup operators to learn more about navigating the squiggly path of a career in operations and dive deeper into different specialisations within operations such as People Ops, Revenue Ops, Product Ops, and the role of Chief of Staff.

This year, the conference agenda is curated to enable startup and scaleup operators to learn more about different skills within the realm of “operational excellence,” but with a new twist.

“Our goal isn’t just to give attendees hacks to do their jobs better, but to give them an opportunity to take a step back from being in the weeds, zoom out, and challenge the many assumptions that others, and even ourselves make about operations. For example, is strategy really more important than operations? Is operations really just a cost centre?” said Charlene Chen, Co-Founder of Operations Nation and former COO of both AZA Finance and Lantum.

There will be 28 speakers and moderators, half based in Europe, half based in North America, including the COOs and former operations leaders of companies such as Uber, Monzo Bank, Founders Factory and Hubble. Together, they will discuss and debate common misconceptions about their roles and share war stories and lessons learned. The seven sessions include topics such as:

Strategy vs. Operations: What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

A conversation led by ON co-Founder Charlene Chen, where two COOs turned CEOs will be discussing if the Strategic head should wag the Operations tail, or if the Operations tail should wag the Strategic head. The speakers are Jeff Szczepanski, CEO of Reframe, Former COO of Sphere and Stack Overflow and Kristen Shannon, CEO of Highliner Technology, Former COO of General System and Interim COO of Oxford Ionic.

People Debate: Is Operations just a cost centre or a growth accelerator?

During the COVID pandemic and now in the midst of the VC winter, many tech companies are desperate to cut costs. If you reduce Ops headcount, you could save money, but lose clients due to poor customer experience, not to mention create all kinds of pain points within the company, perhaps leading to regrettable attrition. The conversation will be led by Ben Gateley, CEO and Former COO of CharlieHR, with the speakers: Rahul Desai, General Manager, Operations Cluster at Sylva, Selina Parmar, Global Head of People at Sideways 6 and Louis Warner, COO at Founders Factory.

Systems and Processes Debate: SaaS vs. No-Code

In a world where there’s a SaaS company for every process you could possibly dream of, it’s understandable how startups end up managing dozens of software subscriptions. Meanwhile, ops folks are starting to take process improvement into their own hands with no- or low-code automation. Are SaaS and no-code friends, enemies, or frenemies? Moderated by Caro Griffin, General Manager at Tech Ladies, speakers Joe Aurilia, Senior VP of Operations, Cyware, Riley McGhee, COO at PVL, Karina Mikhli, COO at Enertech Search Partners and Sarah Zarling, Senior Product Operations Manager at Color Health will be debating the topic.

Although many more operations communities have emerged since 2018, there are still very few events focused on startup operations. Operations Nation is on a mission not only to support operations professionals as they navigate their careers, but also change the perception of a startup ecosystem within which engineers and product managers are kings and ops employees are seen as second class citizens.

“We aim to challenge the status quo. We want to change people's minds about commonly accepted misconceptions in operations. We want Founders and CEOs to recognise that operations is not just a support function made merely for firefighting or documenting processes. What does it take to create a better environment for ops people to thrive in their companies, and what would it look like if we shook things up?” said Astrid Verstraete, Co-Founder of Operations Nation, and Operations Consultant.