One of our goals for 2020 is profiling even more amazing women who have education and career journeys we hope to share. One of those women is NYC-based Alisha Sedor. Meet her below and learn how she went from majoring in philosophy to law school, and then from field organizing to the hugely popular Harry’s!
Thank you for sharing your story, Alisha!
Name: Alisha Sedor
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Education: B.A. in Philosophy, Colgate University; Juris Doctorate, University of Minnesota
How did you determine what you wanted to study in college?
Well, I started college thinking that I wanted to be a doctor. I had even done a really cool program my senior year of high school that let me study and work in our local hospital in exchange for college credit instead of doing regular classes (Shoutout to New Visions!). I LOVED that program, but upon getting to college, it turns out I didn’t love all of the sciences as much as I would need to in order to excel and get into a great med school. Because I was at a Liberal Arts college, I took classes in a variety of areas, and once I sat in my first philosophy class I fell in love. Taking a critical eye to the world, thinking about some of life’s biggest questions, and learning new ways of thinking was really exciting for me, so I was sold. I also minored in Political Science, which touched on a lot of the same principles but with a specific political lens.
What led you to law school?
Well, with the major and minor I ultimately selected, law school was a pretty obvious choice. The only other option I considered was getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, but that felt like it left me narrowed to either writing or being a professor. While both of those paths are great and exciting, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted my path to be and law school felt like it left more doors open – I could still teach or write if I wanted to, but I could also practice law, consider politics or the judiciary, or leverage my legal education in the nonprofit or business worlds. Keeping all of those options open is why I decided law school was the right next step after undergrad.
Walk us through your initial job search strategy and how you landed your first full-time role.
I graduated from law school in 2010, right in the middle of the economic downturn, so it was a really tough time to be looking for my first real “big kid” job. Lots of firms weren’t hiring, there was a ton of competition… it was really bleak, not going to lie. So, realizing the reality of the job market I was walking into, I really broadened the scope of what I was willing to do for a role and applied for all sorts of opportunities. I thought it was important not to think I was “above” anything, and just see where my path took me. I applied to everything from judicial clerkships to program managers at nonprofits and clinics, to field organizing for the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party. The last one was the first job that I took; I learned a ton in that role about grit and working ridiculous hours, and how to talk to people from all walks of life all across the political spectrum. I did that for a summer and then catapulted into a position as Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, at 25 years old, which is what I would consider my biggest career turning point.
How did you go from that first role to your current role—what was that journey like for you?
From the campaign, I spent 3 years at NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, which was a really small organization, just 3 staff. We all wore a lot of hats because we were a small shop, so I did everything from serving as our primary lobbyist to managing our budget and fundraising to doing press and media to creating our programming. I learned how to do a lot with very little (tight budgets) and think creatively about how to get things done. From there, I wanted to move back to the East Coast to be closer to family, so my now husband and I moved to New York City. I decided to take the New York bar exam, and while I was waiting for my scores to come back I was working with a temp agency to have some income and something to do. They introduced me to what was then this little unknown startup, Harry’s, in Nov 2014 and I just fell in love with the people and the vision; I’ve been there ever since! Harry’s has been an incredible ride, from ~40-50 people at our headquarters when I started to 300+ today, it’s been an amazing place to learn, grow, and help build this company that genuinely wants to do good things for customers and the world.
What advice do you have for young women who want to get into consumer goods?
I might be a little biased, but since I made the move from law/nonprofits into startups and CPG via Customer Experience, that would be my advice! CX helps you learn about every aspect of the business because you have to know how the business works in order to do the best things for customers. Harry’s also cares very deeply about great CX and recognizes that it’s extremely valuable for any business, so it’s a place to have a lot of impacts by driving feedback on how to improve things for customers to the rest of the business. I’ve since moved on from CX to project management and some communications work, but CX will always be close to my heart.
What has been your biggest career “hurdle” and what did you learn from it?
My biggest hurdle was when I made the move to NYC – it’s a really hard market to break into! Even though I had a law degree and really great work experience, it took a while to really “land” here. I re-learned the lesson I learned after graduating from law school: saying “yes” to things that might seem like an unexpected path can have amazing results. Harry’s is evidence of that.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
I do! I have a formal mentor through a program at Harry’s, and I also have my “GChat Counsel” who I consider peer mentors who get me through the day. It’s a group of amazing women that I met early in my career, and we all chat frequently about work, life, and memes. They’re the ones I bounce ideas off of, complain to about rough days at work, and celebrate successes with. Love you, ladies. For anyone looking for mentorship, I recommend composing a “board” of mentors – a group of different people that you can go to for different areas of your life. One person may be your go-to for advice navigating workplace dynamics, another might be your cheerleader who helps you remember you’re awesome on a tough day, and another might help you with developing a specific skill or by leveraging their networks. It’s very rare to have one mentor who can be your “everything,” so I’ve learned to collect people who support me, and who I can support in return.
What does collaboration over competition mean to you?
Oh, this one is so real. It’s just so much easier to get things done if you’re working together rather than competing! I’ve learned this in an organizational sense by building bridges with other nonprofits that could be seen as “competitors” when I was at NARAL, and as an individual in my personal career path. There’s usually room for everyone in a space, even if it means that you overlap from time to time.
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their education and career goals?
Be open to possibility! Set goals, but also be receptive to what the universe sends your way. It sounds a little cheesy, but truly all of the most rewarding opportunities I’ve had came from unexpected places. Also, go for the moonshots and don’t undersell yourself; apply for the jobs that it seems like you’re “underqualified” for, and for some that you’re “overqualified” for!
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you?
Sure! The best way is to connect and send a note via LinkedIn.