Sarah Aleem always thought that she’d be a lawyer. “I find a lot of satisfaction in advising and building strategies around how to mitigate risk well before disputes ever arise,” she tells us. She joined TikTok’s legal team as an early hire at their Los Angeles, CA location.
At first, Aleem was focused on supporting commercial transactions and product compliance, but the TikTok U.S. Data Security (USDS) team noticed her other talents, such as her deep insight into the company's mission to provide a safe platform for users, so they decided to approach her with a new opportunity. Today, Aleem is the Chief of Staff to the Interim Head of TikTok USDS.
While this was certainly a change, Aleem was excited to take it on. “My favorite part of my legal career to date has been building products, companies, and teams, and I look forward to applying my legal lens to strategic operations,” Aleem tells us. “I am fortunate to work for TikTok who supports these career moves and is open to providing opportunities to solve high-impact problems,” states Aleem. TikTok has continuously empowered her to step outside of her comfort zone. And, “since starting, I’ve had exposure to different areas of operation, such as full budgeting, headcount resourcing, building out metrics, centralizing processes, and developing strategy,” Aleem shares.
And this is just one example of how TikTok empowers employees to grow.
As another example, before entering TikTok, Kim Farrell discovered two major professional passions — working on projects connected to Latin America (specifically to Brazil) and Marketing. While she didn’t find a role that combined these two passions at first, using her networking skills, ability to constantly grow, and can-do attitude, Farrell created roles for herself and defined her own career path.
This carefully curated path led her to seek leadership opportunities and eventually, a company that would utilize her skills and match her passions, which she found at TikTok! Farrell joined the company as the Head of Marketing for TikTok Latin America. Here, “I built the regional marketing team from scratch,” Farrell recalls. “When I started, it was myself and two other people who were hired a month before me. We grew the team and local operations to support TikTok over the last two and a half years.”
This is not where her journey ended either! TikTok knows that career paths aren’t linear, and when Farrell wanted to pivot into Operations after 10 years in marketing, TikTok supported her. “I have always felt more passion toward the strategy side of work and, for me, Operations felt like a natural next step from marketing,” Farrell tells us. Luckily, Farrell was able to find this opportunity internally and she is now the current Head of Operations and Marketing for TikTok Latin America. Farrell manages a team that has grown to four times its original size and has more leadership responsibility and greater exposure.
Reflecting on her internal experiences, Farrell shares that her "direct managers and HR Business Partners have been incredibly supportive — creating space to discuss and strategize together on growth opportunities.” And, this growth never stopped. “My ability to pivot, adapt, and continue leading the team has been an area of growth this past year,” states Farrell. “I’ve also gained experience in strategic prioritization, empathetic leadership, and being able to represent the LATAM region in global leadership forums.”
At TikTok, employees are encouraged to pivot between teams and departments and to better align their career with their personal interests and goals. This is something that Kornnikar “Nana” Niwatsaiwong also loves about the company. Niwatsaiwong started her career journey in digital marketing and media, a field she worked in for over 20 years. Then, in 2020, she joined TikTok as the Head of Client Partnerships for the Global Business Solutions (GBS) team.
“During this time, I effectively led a team and boosted monetization for key and growth accounts, developing a strong background in monetization, media, and client management,” she shares. Niwatsaiwong reflects on how she loves the company and her work, but she wanted a new challenge and to explore a different area of expertise. Luckily, TikTok’s growth in the ecommerce space allowed her to do just that.
“After working in marketing and media for several years, I felt like I had hit a plateau in my career and was looking for something more fulfilling,” Niwatsaiwong explains. “When I discovered the opportunity to work on the TikTok Shop team in category management, I was excited to take on this new challenge.” TikTok’s culture of encouraging internal work transfers helped make this leap possible.
“TikTok has a culture that values employee feedback and encourages open communication, which allows me to share my career aspirations and receive guidance and support from my manager and colleagues,” notes Niwatsiwong.
Now, Niwatsiwong works as an Ecommerce Category Lead in Thailand. “This field has allowed me to challenge myself and grow in new ways, and I look forward to continuing to learn and develop my skills,” states Niwatsiwong. “I feel well supported in my career growth goals at TikTok and am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
It's clear that at TikTok, growth isn't only vertical or linear. When you are empowered to create your unique path and truly own your career development, the possibilities are endless!
Making a career pivot is intimidating — but that shouldn’t stop you! As Niwatsiwong advises, “don't be afraid to take risks and try new things.” And this shouldn’t be something you only do once. Aleem suggests stepping “out of your comfort zone over and over again, no matter how scary it might feel.” It is by taking risks that we are able to grow.
You can’t make a successful career pivot without knowing yourself first! Farrell emphasizes how important developing self-awareness was in her own career journey. For instance, Farrell tells us that one of the techniques that helped her grow her career most was developing “a clear view of my strengths, my areas of development, and where I envision myself going.” As for how others can achieve this understanding, Farrell suggests using free online resources and development courses.
If you’re struggling to determine if a career change is right for you, take the time to think about things from a different perspective. For example, Aleem shares that her career pivot felt a little like she was abandoning her plan of being a lawyer, which she had worked extremely hard to achieve. “I really had to reframe the idea of a ‘pivot’ to simply mean that I'm utilizing my skills in a different way,” Aleem shares.
What’s one thing that can always make you more confident during a career transition? Preparation! “As someone who suffers from imposter syndrome, I have found that the best way to overcome my insecurities or doubt is to feel that I have pushed myself to be the most prepared — be it for an interview, a presentation, or a meeting,” Farrell tells us. “So, when the doubt starts creeping in, I find ways to feel more prepared.”
You’re never alone in your career journey — even if it may feel that way during a transition. To help, find people who can support you. Farrell tells us to “network with key people in the organization, not because you have to for a project, but to create genuine connections.” She notes that this is one of the best ways to have people in your corner when making career moves. Also, “always find a network of women to be a safe space for support, for celebrating wins, for asking questions, and for exchanging experiences,” Farrell states.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that you don’t work in a silo and your team is there to help support you. “Remember that your career is a journey, and success is not only about personal achievement but also about your team's success,” Niwatsiwong advises.
Finally, at the core of every career pivot needs to be happiness. As Niwatsiwong puts it, women who are considering a career pivot need to “prioritize finding happiness and enjoyment in your work.” As such, make sure to take the time to explore your interests, passions, and determine what brings you joy!
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