Career Spotlight: Greg Mak, Director of Strategy at Ticketmaster, Co-Founder at Accelerate, Previously: Google, Snap, Accenture
Working at the world's top companies, approaching your career through the lens of breadth vs depth, and the value of mentorship.
Every month, I feature a high performer on a ‘Career Spotlight’ and interview them on their journey, mindset, and habits.
Last month, I interviewed Jason Shen, Product Manager at Meta / Facebook—to chat about founding multiple ventures, breaking Guinness world records, and the value of experimentation.
This month’s spotlight will be with Greg Mak — Director of Strategy at Ticketmaster / Live Nation and Co-Founder at Accelerate Career Services.
This career spotlight is a pretty special one.
I’ve written about the value of mentorship and having advisors, mentors, and teachers—this interview is with my very first career mentor.
10 years ago, Greg helped me put together my first resume. And since, he’s continued to be a huge driving force in my career—helping me land my first few jobs and navigate the corporate world of strategy, analytics, and operations.
I haven’t talked a lot about my journey from Toronto, Canada to New York City—from traditional industry to Facebook / Meta. The TL;DR is that it took a good chunk of effort, as you can imagine. Namely: interviewing, writing, networking—and iterating on those processes. But prior to putting forward that effort, I needed to know the ‘how’.
Greg helped shape the ‘how’:
How do you reach out to someone in your network?
How do you prepare for a 5-hour interview loop?
How do you sell yourself and convince someone to hire you?
And on top of that, how do you do that from another country?
Fast forward to 2 years ago, Greg helped me recruit, network and interview at some of the most competitive companies (Facebook, Google, Spotify, Uber … and so forth). He’d provide feedback on my resume, review my interview materials, and on several occasions, even wake up at 6:00AM to mock interview me.
He’s had an incredible career spanning strategy and operations at the world’s top companies—Google, Snap, Live Nation / Ticketmaster, Accenture—and has now taken that experience to start a career development venture, helping early-mid career folks with end-to-end career planning.
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that Greg was built for this. He’s had a massive impact on my career journey and I trust he’ll be a great asset to others as well.
P.S: I am NOT compensated for any leads I drive. I truly believe in Greg’s ability to help others.
You began your career in management consulting, a hot target industry for students and working professionals. Tell us about your experience.
Management Consulting gave me an unparalleled jumpstart into the business world and an unusual amount of optionality early in my career.
Upon finishing undergrad, I was in Strategy Consulting at Accenture from 2010-2014 advising North American clients in TMT (telecommunications, media, technology), financial services, and retail across strategy, finance, M&A, product, marketing, sales, operations, customer support, people, and organizational management.
Consulting was a career playground offering breadth and depth hard to find elsewhere. Most consultants eventually choose between breadth (generalist across multiple industries/functions) vs. depth of experience (specialist in selected industries/functions). I had a personal mission to explore both paths.
In my first two years I wanted breadth. I took on all types of projects, met leaders and colleagues in multiple industries/functions, and intentionally consulted across many business functions. It was exciting to connect dots and learn across disparate worlds.
Conversely, it was difficult to be an expert in any topic.
In my last two years, I prioritized depth by focusing on growth strategies for telecommunications clients (e.g. new revenue streams, modern marketing frameworks, data-driven analytics). It was exhilarating to be a trusted subject matter expert in telecommunications where the frameworks I worked on were relevant for so many use cases. On the other hand, it was hard to satisfy my hunger to learn about new industries and functions.
Summing up my consulting experience, I achieved my goal to learn the value of breadth vs. depth of experience, which would become a swinging pendulum in my career. I better understood ownership and mentorship; ownership meaning I was truly the only person accountable for my career in all situations, and mentorship meaning I should not ignore the value of investing time in my colleagues/stakeholders, even if the immediate benefit is unclear.
Why did you move into tech? Google on one end, Snap on the other. How did you make the move and what did you learn? What were some of the best perks/attributes of working for such iconic tech companies?
Joining Google was driven by a desire to be less of a generalist, and instead build greater depth of experience so I could make more impact.
After Accenture, I wanted focus and subject matter expertise in a single industry at an inspiring company. This led me to join Google Toronto in 2014 as an Account Manager (AM) advising telecommunications companies on marketing strategy using Google’s solutions for sales, customer engagement and insights.
It was a dream come true to join Google, one of the most defining and influential players in the tech industry.
My fondest takeaways at Google include their brilliant ad-driven flywheel business model (mimicked by many other companies), appetite for innovation, employee care (gourmet food, countless health/wellness programs) and amazing employee community (many of whom are still my good friends today).
But, I didn’t stay in account management because I still sought more breadth of experience. Snap showed me hyper-growth operations/teams and how to build a business from the ground up.
In 2015, I proactively became involved in special projects at Google for sales strategy, global operations, and virtual reality. It was eye-opening to see the far-reaching impacts of tech, and as a result I wanted to scale my experience and skills to business functions beyond account management. This led me to Snap in 2016 - a lesser known, earlier-stage tech player with exciting growth potential.
Not to mention the offices sat along on the sunny beaches of Los Angeles - another beautiful scene right out of my dreams.
I joined Snap as an Operations Lead to build, scale and manage processes for Customer Operations. I built end-to-end operational frameworks and workflows for multiple support functions, oversaw project plan execution and partnered with teams of agents, leads, and engineers to achieve higher efficiency and performance in helping Snapchatters, content creators and advertisers with all their needs.
My role changed many times because Snap was rapidly evolving - I was brought into many unrelated ad-hoc projects like user & product insights, standing up new business functions via hiring, mass on-boarding and training, moving physical offices, and global operations expansion.
Working across so many unrelated functions, it was difficult to plan my long-term career at Snap.
Despite this, I built new skills and learned how to operate new business functions more quickly than ever before.
Snap was one of the most unique, diverse and fun places I’ve worked at. Everything we did was new or rarely done anywhere else.
I worked, ate lunch with, and got to know almost 100 wonderful colleagues.
I dined in the most amazing cafeterias, heard from legendary guest speakers and witnessed mind-blowing technology betas.
It was also the most challenging place I’ve ever worked at - with countless re-worked deliverables, last-minute changes, and conflicts between balancing strategy with execution.
Nevertheless, this environment tested my adaptability and professional maturity, and reminded me I need to always fight for my career and interests, no matter the company, industry, or role I’m in.
Looking back, the breadth of experience in consulting enabled me to jump into any business area at Snap with confidence. Combined with my deep focus on execution at Google, I was able to drive the highest level of impact in my career to date.
After 10 years of building my career, one of my biggest learnings is truly understanding the enormous and life-changing impact of mentorship.
Critical in my move to Google was a former Accenture colleague I mentored. It was fulfilling to share my knowledge to grow their career, while being inspired by their ambition. My mentee ultimately pursued a career at Google, and our relationship allowed me to learn about Google in detail, speak candidly about my career goals, and ultimately join the iconic tech company.
Similarly in my move to Snap, I landed upon the opportunity through a mentor at Accenture - a seasoned, strategic, and thoughtful executive leader who I worked with on a project and often turned to for career guidance. This mentor joined Snap to set up a new team, and when they needed an operations leader with consulting + tech experience, they thought of me.
In both cases, I built relationships with folks who believed in me and I believed in them. As a mentee and a mentor, these folks were pivotal in the most life-changing stages of my career.
I’m sure many people have asked you this question: Why did you pivot away from tech and Snap?
It’s easy to think that only the well-known tech giants bring the best tech careers.
After a long search focused on my fulfillment and impact, I was astonished at the amount of opportunity out there.
I couldn’t ignore this growing desire to get closer to missions, products and services I resonated with - to smile fondly upon the industry I worked in. I thought I would be at Snap for a long time, and it was difficult to realize otherwise.
After moving to LA in 2016, I saw more concerts and sports games than ever before. I was fascinated by the irreplaceable emotions and memories stemming from live events, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing digital revolution.
I was also fascinated by many other areas: renewable energy, e-commerce and healthcare, to name a few. This resulted in the longest and broadest job search of my life.
I considered so many paths and roles because I wanted to balance my personal fulfillment vs. capabilities. I considered ops roles similar to Snap, but not in an industry/product I cared for. I applied for roles that didn’t match my experience but the products/services really resonated with me. I even pondered going back to some companies/roles I’ve worked at before.
This career exploration process had pros and cons:
The positive part was seeing how many exciting tech, strategy and ops roles existed in so many different industries under various titles and levels of depth and breadth.
The negative part was that I was too scattered - it indicated to me I needed focus, patience and agility. I knew the live entertainment industry was a top choice. I also came to the realization that my “generalist” skill set, aka constant desire for breadth of experience, was one of my most critical core strengths.
As a result, in 2019 I joined Ticketmaster at Live Nation Entertainment leading strategy for the North American Commercial team to develop, validate and launch revenue streams outside of our core businesses.
After years exploring both breadth and depth approaches to building experience, I sought to combine them in a single role at Ticketmaster where I can own an entire business function and directly influence results.
Ticketmaster seems quite different from your previous experiences. What are the most exciting things you do? What are some of the most challenging?
For once in my career I am able to focus on a single industry and business function. Instead of quick, broad advisory, I have time and resources to deeply evaluate all pillars of our strategy.
At Ticketmaster, I build, optimize, evaluate and launch profitable commercial opportunities beyond the core ticketing business. This encompasses direct event add-ons like VIP experiences, merchandise, parking and more.
It’s not just about finding and rolling out products, but building scalable technology that will change how fans and clients experience live events.
I began as a Strategy Manager where I defined and valued business roadmaps for our most top priority initiatives, directly partnered with product, engineering and operations to prove new technology concepts, and led analytics teams to build brand new data repositories to optimize our businesses.
A year later I earned the Director of Strategy role with expanded global scope and two new business lines: payments and fraud - both highly complex and exciting businesses with untapped monetization opportunities.
My biggest challenge was understanding the scale, intricacies, and robustness of Ticketmaster.
But once again, mentorship enabled me to stand up to the challenge.
Coming from Snap and Google, I had grand visions of more modernized fan experiences and new technology solutions, and I wanted to quickly implement them.
I was thrown off by the unimaginable complexity of the live entertainment and ticketing businesses and it took me a while to grasp all the different business lines, global technology solutions, and diverse teams.
Though I was confident my own investigation and research could provide the necessary understanding, I enlisted the help of my inspirational, supportive and invested leaders, to connect the dots across businesses quickly and dive into my role as a strategy leader with confidence and results.
They became my mentors to teach me about the business, shape my career, and empower me on my own path of executive leadership.
Having mentorship from these leaders has once again proven life-changing and more influential than company brand, salary, or job title alone.
Finally, you started your own career development venture, Accelerate Career Services (ACS). What prompted you to do this and what's in store for Accelerate?
Mentorship has been pivotal to my career success, so I wanted to help create similar opportunities for others, especially during the pandemic.
Mentorship has helped me tremendously in the most critical moments of my journey - gaining confidence in major career pivots, fighting for what I truly want, and finding voices of reason in confusing situations.
Mentorship always added value, knowledge and clarity to my decisions.
Looking back on my career journey in early 2020, I reflected on how beneficial mentors have been to me. My next thought was, “How can others unlock more of their potential through mentorship?” Having the opportunity to positively impact careers for so many ambitious professionals is a mission that deeply resonates with me.
As the pandemic evolved, I wanted to help by providing career support to as many people as possible.
In April 2020 I invited my LinkedIn network to reach out to me if they wanted or needed general career advice. This quickly ballooned into helping 150+ people through 1:1 half-hour career counseling sessions.
Though it was overwhelming to balance my day job, personal life, and lockdown craziness with waking up early/staying up late to provide career advice, it is one of the greatest experiences and honors of my life.
Accelerate Career Services was inspired by the power of mentorship and founded with the belief that mentors with deep industry and business experiences providing 1:1 career advice can uniquely help ambitious professionals unlock their potential.
In mid 2020, while working with Paij Premji (Google Account Executive, Live Nation Strategy Director, Deloitte Consultant, UCLA MBA), we discovered we both had spent substantial time providing career development advice to others in our communities. From there, we put our minds, resources, knowledge, and aspirations together to form ACS.
We doubled down on ACS because we felt for people impacted by layoffs, pay reductions, stifled career advancement, and personal life challenges. We wanted to be there for folks who were caught in these tumultuous times, and we knew that dedicated career advice and support can really help some of these people overcome these major obstacles.
With 20+ years of career development experience between Paij and I, ACS can help you with career exploration, job searching, interview preparation, offer negotiation, MBA applications, and much more.
Thank you, Greg!
Greg has been kind enough to put an exceptional amount of effort, detail, and reflection into this post.
You can reach him below:
If you have any direct feedback that you’d like to share with myself or Greg, feel free to respond to this email (it won’t be a reply-all).