UPON GRADUATING FROM STANFORD with a degree in Modern Thought and Literature, Carlyn Sylvester booked a one-way ticket to Australia. That year, she flitted around the world, working at a surf hostel in Bondi Beach, Sydney for the better part of a year, and backpacking through South East Asia for the rest.
The reason why? At Stanford she'd staffed Chi Theta Chi as a junior and a senior, meaning she was never able to study abroad. After submitting her thesis and walking that June, she was burnt out. Wanting the study abroad experience she never had, she made it happen for herself. And that’s the thing about Carlyn Sylvester — she makes things happen. Currently, she's doing that in New York, where she serves as Head of Creative Operations & Production at Glossier, an all-in-one beauty, tech, and editorial start-up founded by CEO Emily Weiss.
“I tell people my job is to, very simply, just get sh*t done,” she says with a light laugh. “My one job is to make it easier for creatives to produce great work. I bridge the gap between the creative side and the business side." Carlyn excels because of her love for carrying out great ideas from people with great content — she’s mastered the art and science of execution.
Carlyn brightens up as she describes her work, which encompasses oversight of operations and execution against all sorts of Glossier’s creative needs: photo & video production, print and packaging production, as well as retail/offline production. She talks through a marketing campaign as a high-level example: “Marketing comes to [my team] and says ‘hey guys, we have this new product launching in January, these are our goals, this is why or how we made this product, this is the story we want to tell, we want to create a campaign.’” Once that happens, Carlyn works closely with creative directors, designers, and copywriters, who ideate and brainstorm. The collective team (almost everything is done in-house) then shoots the content and repurposes it in post-production for Glossier’s marketing channels. At this point, Carlyn focuses on making sure “everyone who is creating, is creating what they need to be creating in the most efficient way possible,” without sacrificing creative or brand integrity.
As she moves further along her career path and takes on more managerial roles, she’s started to realize that her job is really about enabling talented people to do what they do and love best, removing obstacles, and going to bat for her team. Carlyn is as down to earth as she is talented, claiming several times that she cannot take responsibility for activations such as the recent Solution launch campaign or the IRL pop-up at Rhea’s Cafe in San Francisco because there are so many team members that play a crucial part in bringing these ideas to life.
She also lets me peer into the lens through which she views the Glossier community. “We are simple and barebones in the sense of what our product is, and so community driven," she explains. "We would never put something out there that makes no sense, because we are so in tune with our community...there’s this fluidity between the people who work here and in our community and vice versa. It’s this one big, huge ecosystem.”
When I ask Carlyn how she feels about working at such a female-powered company, she doesn’t skip a beat in letting me know that she loves it. "It’s a lot of very down to earth, very intelligent men and women. It’s kind of a microcosm of the city...a hodgepodge of really intelligent people.” She goes on to tell me that “it’s amazing to sit in a meeting where you have a tech person who’s a woman, a logistics person who’s a woman, and you just have a lot of these really f—ing awesome intelligent women who are doing roles that at other companies you may not traditionally see women playing.”
For those of us interested in joining brilliant companies like Glossier, Carlyn has some advice. She stresses that “if you find people whose jobs you find interesting and you reach out with a really nice email, people more so than not actually respond. Leveraging the network that you have can be very, very powerful.” She was introduced to Glossier via a friend whom she knew from both Stanford and Harvard Business School. Similarly, she was introduced to her old boss at Spotify through an acquaintance she met while in Cambridge. Carlyn is a huge proponent of just asking someone to grab a cup of coffee. “Truly, truly, I think that can be one of the most powerful things ever. If you follow the things you truly love and are truly passionate about, that stuff naturally falls into place.”
And although Carlyn was understandably tight-lipped about upcoming product launches, she promises that a lot of really exciting work is forthcoming and that we should keep an eye out as their cadence of products is massively increasing — and not just in the USA.
After this hour conversation, I walked away with an even deeper appreciation for people like Carlyn who are humble, kind, and quite honestly just kick ass at getting things done. And as another round of Stanford seniors prepare to walk this June, I’m excited to see what badassery they’ll hatch up in their careers.
By: Ameeqa Ali
Photography by: Ameeqa Ali
Special thanks to Carlyn Sylvester for the interview