Take the Leap with Anna Prell

Sophia Witherington
February 8, 2021
Anna Prell

The Startmate Fellowship works to create pathways for talented women to find their sweet spot in a rocketship startup.

For Fellows, the program fast tracks your knowledge, network and presence in the startup world. The Fellowship connects you to a powerful network, works with you to translate your skills and experience into startups, and helps you land your dream job. 

By showcasing women who had taken leaps and risks in their career — from corporate to startup, or from one career into something seemingly unrelated — we hope to have inspired our broader community to join our Fellowship program.

Let’s hear directly from women in the ecosystem who took the leap, before anything like The Fellowship existed...

Anna Prell is Chief of Staff to the CEO at Forage. Forage partners with global organisations to create virtual work experience programs so job applicants are able to develop the skills and confidence to work at these organisations, from the safety of their own home, for free!

Prior to the Chief of Staff role, Anna was a product manager at Forage, and before that, she was a corporate lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills.

What was attractive about climbing the corporate ladder? What do you miss?

It was challenging, which I loved. I’m a problem-solver so I enjoyed the process of analysing and solving problems for clients.

I loved working with some amazing people as well. I learned a lot from the people I worked with, much of which I think is still very applicable in my role today.

At what point did you decide to leave corporate?

There wasn’t so much a ‘point’ as there was a gradual realisation that I didn’t feel fulfilled in my job.

The harder question for me was not so much when to leave, as it was what to do next. Even though I had known for a while that I wanted to try something different, it took me a really long time to work out what that was, and I had to exercise a lot more patience to arrive at the answer.

All told, the process took a full year from deciding to try and find a new job to actually landing one!

How have your career goals evolved throughout your career?

To be completely honest, I’m not sure I had any particularly noteworthy career goals before I started at Forage, so I guess they’ve evolved immensely because now I have some!

I think I used to rely heavily on the idea that I would be fine to just jump at every opportunity that came my way but not actively seek out opportunities or structure my career around particular objectives. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that approach, but now I find that I feel much more fulfilled in my career because I understand what my values are and I can structure my current job and develop future career goals around those values.

It’s still a work in progress (and I don’t think it can ever be fully done; I will keep iterating constantly) but it helps to have a compass.

“Be open to conversations. Even if you think you have nothing to gain from an introduction, everyone has a story and you never know where a piece of advice or a further introduction might land you.”

How did you build a network out of corporate and land a startup job?

I told everyone I knew that I was looking for a new opportunity. This led to a lot of really interesting conversations and introductions. People were super generous with their time.

It also didn’t matter that I didn’t specifically know what I wanted to do, and I could treat those conversations more like a process of elimination.

In the end, I got super lucky that the CEO of Forage and a close friend of mine, asked me whether I’d be interested in applying for a role. Had I not been really open with everyone that I was looking for a new opportunity, he might never have mentioned it!

Who have been your mentors?

I am lucky enough to have been surrounded by wonderful women my whole life who have all played a role as mentors at different times.

In particular, the women I worked with in my legal career are real role models for me, even though our careers are panning out differently, I have a deep respect for their ambition in a career and an industry that (still) provides a lot of challenges for women to succeed.

What is your advice to people wanting to make a change

1. Be open to conversations

Even if you think you have nothing to gain from an introduction, everyone has a story and you never know where a piece of advice or a further introduction might land you.

2. Don’t worry if you don’t have a clear path or goals

Even just knowing you want to make a change is a good place to start. It is often easier to decide what you know you don’t want to do and then go from there.

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