Sarah Jones Simmer is the Chief Operating Officer of Bumble, the social network that connects people across professional networking, friendship and dating. In her role, she oversees core business strategy, growth and marketing initiatives, and facilitates the expansion of Bumble’s rapidly growing team headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices around the world.
What is a quote that you find meaningful and inspiring, and why?
There’s a book called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, and I go back to it frequently because it’s so poetically written. In every chapter, there’s a part where the children ask the Prophet, “Prophet tell us of (fill in the blank).” For example, “Prophet, tell us of marriage” and “Prophet, tell us of children.” There’s a chapter on Work—“Prophet tell us of work.” It’s a really beautiful description of the meaning that work can have in our lives, and that the outpouring of work is sort of your contribution to the manifestation of love in the world. The exact quote is, “Work is love made visible.”
That has really resonated for me, as someone who loves to work and finds so much meaning in my work. I wake up every morning, and find inspiration in thinking of my work as helping to contribute meaning to the world. This passage helped me see that work is a way we demonstrate love—not only to one another, but to the planet. I think when you get to work on things that you care about, and work alongside people you enjoy being around, work really is a representation of love in the world.
Why do you choose to use your time mentoring others?
Our company [Bumble] is rapidly scaling, and the work I do requires a lot of my time, so sometimes it can feel hard to add one more thing to the list. But I also think it’s one of those things that makes me better at my day job. Being a mentor doesn’t feel extracurricular; I think it’s really fundamental to the work that I’m doing day to day.
Being a mentor doesn’t feel extracurricular; I think it’s really fundamental to the work that I’m doing day to day.
I also feel that by being a mentor, I’m helping to “pay it forward.” There are so many wonderful men and women who have been mentors to me, taken me under their wing, and coached me through business decisions or career milestones. I wouldn’t be who I am professionally without them. I’d love to play whatever small role I can in providing that same type of support to someone else on their journey.
There have been stages in my career where I was trying to navigate a new situation—like being a working mom for the first time—and knowing very little about how to proceed. For example, when I was pregnant with my first child, that was such a vulnerable time. I’m particularly passionate about supporting women as they’re working through those phases…working while pregnant, and the re-integration period following maternity leave. As a woman who’s a leader in business, and particularly at a company that has an 85% female workforce, I’m really dedicated to tackling issues surrounding parenthood and work, and the choices women and men need to make around that.
How has mentoring impacted your own journey?
I’m incredibly grateful for the mentors I’ve had in my career. I’m a first-time COO, and when I accepted this role and challenge, a friend put me in touch with some amazing people who knew what I was going through. I call on each of those people on a monthly basis—sometimes it’s as quick as a text message, sometimes it’s a more formal phone call, depending on the situation. I don’t think any of a us can advance in a vacuum—we need to call on the expertise and experience of others. Having someone who can do those volleys back and forth with you is crucial. Sometimes they’ve been through this situation themselves, or sometimes they have a framework for helping you think through decision-making. I don’t think anyone gets there alone; it really does take a village. Thankfully, there are a lot of generous people out there who want to see others succeed and thrive. It’s just about asking the right questions and not being afraid to call on those people.
I don’t think any of us can advance in a vacuum—we need to call on the expertise and experience of others. Having someone who can do these volleys back and forth with you is crucial.
What advice would you give to a woman who is starting to serve as a (formal or informal) mentor?
I think that it is never too soon to start! When I was initially approached by [Ceresa Founder & CEO] Anna, I felt that I was still growing in my own career. I was leaning on so many wonderful mentors in my own life, so I thought, “Am I really ready to start passing counsel along?” Don’t be afraid to take that leap, because as you’re growing, you’re learning so much that’s valuable to the person that you’re mentoring. You don’t need to wait until retirement to start giving back in that way.
One thing I would add is that yes, we’re all busy, but think of mentoring as something that strengthens your leadership muscles. When you work with a mentee, if helps you to consider questions you should be asking yourself, or asking your team, which helps reinforce your own professional growth. It’s not an extracurricular activity or a charity when you’re devoting your time to this. You’re really investing in yourself and this mentee, and it pays dividends for both of you.
Ceresa is a professional development platform focused on the mission of closing the women’s leadership gap. Our “Mentor Spotlight” series shares stories and insights from Ceresa mentors.