May 5, 2021 Culture

Brent Seals’ Career Journey at DoorDash

As you look back at your personal career journey, you may see something that resembles a bit of a windy road, a straight and narrow path, a bumpy start, smooth sailing or anything in between. We sat down with Brent Seals, General Manager, Canada to learn about his experience navigating career changes at DoorDash over the last six years.

At DoorDash, we are part of something that is changing constantly while also improving and getting stronger at its core––and Brent’s experience with upward mobility highlights the many new and exciting opportunities that exist across the company. If you are at a point where you’re ready for something new, that next step might be closer than you think.

Here are Brent’s answers to 10 questions about internal mobility at DoorDash.

QUESTION 1: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do at DoorDash?

ANSWER: My name is Brent Seals, and I am the General Manager (GM) for DoorDash in Canada. I’m based out of our New York office, but prior to Covid, I spent most of my time in Toronto or our other offices across Canada.

I’ve been at DoorDash for a little over six years, starting in February of 2015. I joined as a Launcher and was responsible for getting new markets up and running. At that time, DoorDash was only in five cities, so we had a lot of work to do in order to expand across the U.S. and then later, into Canada and Australia.

After joining DoorDash, I moved from San Francisco to D.C. to launch the market with Penn Daniel (former Launcher, now GM of Chowbotics) and another Launcher who no longer works at DoorDash. The D.C. office was a two bedroom townhouse in suburban D.C. where, in scrappy startup style, we worked downstairs and slept upstairs. After launching D.C., I then moved to Brooklyn to launch New York City with Chris Camp (former Launcher, now VP of Sales) and Dylan Richter (former Growth Manager, now Director, Revenue Growth) out of our first New York office — a three bedroom apartment. There, we had to deflate the air mattresses that we slept on every morning, so we could lead driver orientations in those rooms. Things have certainly changed since!

After New York, I hopped around the U.S. & Canada for about a year and a half getting new markets set up. I eventually moved to the New York office full time, and was promoted to lead the entire Launch team as we expanded throughout the U.S. In late 2018, I moved into my current role as GM for Canada.

QUESTION 2: How did upward mobility work? Has the process changed much over time?

ANSWER: Over the past six years, the process has changed quite a bit, but there have been some things that have remained the same. The way we think about promotions is still largely rooted in asking, “Has this person already been operating at the next level?” It’s important to think about what that next level looks like and understand how to get yourself there, so that when the time comes, you’ve already proven your case.

At DoorDash, employees need to be consistently performing at the proposed level for at least six months prior to being promoted.

QUESTION 3: As you reflect on your career at DoorDash, were there times when you were unsure about what you wanted to do next?

ANSWER: Yes, there were. At times, I have had questions about where I was going and felt stuck, but eventually realized that there is a ton of opportunity within DoorDash to explore a number of paths. Before I took on my role in Canada, I had been on the Launch team for almost 4 years and felt like I wasn’t learning at the same pace that I had been. There were still plenty of markets for DoorDash to launch, but I wasn’t sure if I was challenging myself enough and developing new skills. I remember considering whether or not the right next step for me was at DoorDash or if I needed to look elsewhere.

Around that time, I had a great conversation with our Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Payne, who helped shed light on the various opportunities that existed within the company. Because I had been on the Launch team for so long, my focus was very narrow, and I couldn’t see where it was going to take me next. What I needed to do was think about the things that interested me, the skills that I wanted to develop, and look to see opportunities within DoorDash that could get me there. That ultimately led to identifying this position within the Canadian team.

I’m not Canadian, and I’m based in New York, so it’s not something I would have considered as a possibility — but when it was presented and I expanded my scope, I realized it was something I was really interested in doing, and would help me continue to grow and develop in my career.

QUESTION 4: What advice would you give someone who is feeling stuck in their current role?

ANSWER: It’s really important to make connections with people across your company. Every time I’ve reached out to someone on a different team at DoorDash, whether I knew them or not, they were more than happy to hop on a call for 15 minutes to talk about what they are working on. Through those conversations, I’ve learned things that might be interesting for me or might help me in my current role. Whether it leads to a new opportunity or not, developing those relationships is great and it helps you realize what else is out there.

QUESTION 5: What would you say to external candidates who are joining for one role, but know they want to move into another department eventually?

ANSWER: The best way to position yourself for other opportunities is to knock things out of the park in your existing role and prove that you can not only do that, but also take on more outside your core role. People want top performers when they are building new teams or hiring for a new role. My advice would be to develop relationships and excel in the role that you’re in first.

At DoorDash, employees need to be in their current role for a minimum of 12 months in order to be eligible for an internal transfer. Positions that are determined to have faster on-boarding and ramp up periods require a 6 month tenure for eligibility.

QUESTION 6: Do you currently, or have you previously had mentors, coaches, and/or sponsors at DoorDash? How have those relationships influenced your career?

ANSWER: I’ve had external mentors as a part of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) Career Advancement Program (CAP), which I was able to join through DoorDash’s sponsorship. I was assigned a coach through MLT CAP who I am still in touch with. Their advice has been incredibly valuable.

MLT is an organization that helps Black, Latinx and Native American professionals with their career development. They have various stages, such as helping college seniors get their first jobs, business school application support, and career advancement programs. The MLT CAP that I participated in gives professionals the tools they need to unlock their full potential — things like being a better leader and manager, better listener, communicator, etc. DoorDash has sponsored a number of employees to go through the MLT training cohorts, which typically involves a one week long intensive seminar, followed by a year of career coaching.

MLT CAP is a career accelerator for highly-talented Black, Latinx, and Native American mid-career professionals who are on the acceleration trajectory and considered a valued employee with high potential for leadership. We partner with our executives to determine high potential employees of color for enrollment.

Additional Underrepresented Talent CAP currently being offered at DoorDash include: ELEVATE, Power of Peers (POP Circles), Project Boost, Women’s Leadership Forum (WOLF), and Inclusive Leadership Coaching Circles.

QUESTION 7: How frequently do you talk to your manager about career growth and what do those conversations look like?

ANSWER: Outside of DoorDash’s existing semi-annual performance review cycles, I talk to my manager about career growth every month or so. Those conversations are centered less around titles and more around developing my skills and understanding where I need to grow in order to get to the next level. For example, we might discuss things like how to be a better leader, how to be a better cross functional business partner, or how to improve communicating upward. If those are identified as the areas that I need to work on and I successfully improve those skills, it will make my case stronger when a promotion becomes available. I’ve gone from being a Launcher > Manager > Sr. Manager > Director in my time here, and have always been less focused on getting to that next level for the sake of having a title, but more so developing my skills and being able to make a bigger impact for DoorDash.

Annual Feedback Cycle: Focuses on assessing employee performance through self, peer, upward, and manager assessments, paired with calibration. This is the period when annual promotion and compensation decisions are made, and occurs from January to March each year.

Mid-year Feedback Cycle: Focuses on providing feedback that matters. It is a lightweight, yet high-quality touchpoint to ensure employees understand where they are excelling, and where they can improve. It is an important opportunity for two-way dialogue between managers and their direct reports.

QUESTION 8: How do you support your team’s growth?

ANSWER: I support my team’s growth by helping to identify areas where they want to grow, and putting them in a position to be able to do so. It’s important to proactively have career conversations and not wait until the Mid-year or Annual Feedback Cycles. I see myself as someone who is there to help my team develop as individuals, while also making sure that we are hitting our team goals. People are going to be motivated to do great work when it’s something that they are really excited about doing, and in an area they want to dedicate their time and energy. Once you understand what each individual’s goals are, you can regularly check in and ensure they achieve them.

QUESTION 9: What advice would you give managers that have direct reports interested in making internal shifts?

ANSWER: Our mission is to empower and grow local economics, and DoorDash’s success is tied to the success of the audiences we serve. If you have a team member who is interested in other opportunities outside of your area of focus, it is your responsibility to help them identify where they are going to be able to develop personally and contribute the most to that mission.

If someone on my team were to come to me and say they were interested in learning more about being on the Product team or were interested in getting involved in our next international launch, I would figure out who I should connect them with to have that conversation. I’m also keeping an eye out for opportunities that come up in conversations that I’m having, so I can line up my team to work in areas I know they are interested in.

QUESTION 10: What does the next big challenge look like for you at DoorDash?

ANSWER: There are a lot of challenges that we are trying to solve every day, but ultimately, it all comes down to serving our merchants, Dashers and consumers in the best way we possibly can. We’ve made significant progress over the last two years in Canada, and I’m happy with where we are heading; however, there is still plenty of work to do.