Spinning Strife Into Gold

Marielle Miller, Consultant at BCG and Head of Strategic Planning at the streaming start-up Sensical, has managed to work through the challenges of her youth by way of asking questions, conducting research, and spinning her observations to create a positive impact for others.

A turning point in Marielle’s life happened when she was 11 and her mother began to exhibit signs of mental illness and, on a bus ride back from the beach, these symptoms came to a boiling point. Marielle and her older sister were with their mom when she stood up and asked the bus driver to stop so she could use the restroom. He obliged, she got off and came back. She proceeded to do this a few more times until the bus driver grew frustrated and told her he couldn’t stop the bus so many times as they were on a schedule. She then stormed off, leaving Marielle and her sister alone as the bus driver continued his route. This was the beginning of what would be a long-term struggle with Bipolar Disorder. 

Spinning Strife Into Gold

Spinning Strife Into Gold

Marielle Miller, Consultant at BCG and Head of Strategic Planning at the streaming start-up Sensical, has managed to work through the challenges of her youth by way of asking questions, conducting research, and spinning her observations to create a positive impact for others.

The Excitement of

Letting Things Be

In a recent study conducted by Nielsen, TikTok was the only app where “to lift my spirits" was a top reason for using it. This, and many other reasons, is why Sera Unlu is excited about her role as Global Marketing Director for the content-creation platform, TikTok (which just reached 1 billion monthly users).

Originally from Turkey, she has always displayed a sense of discipline—from being a competitive tennis player in school to working her way into Forbes Turkey’s 30 Under 30. Over the years, she’s learned to dose this discipline with a bit of carpe diem energy, allowing her to truly live in the moment.

Sera considers herself someone who experiences the world through the eyes of a student—curious, energetic, and passionate. Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, she credits her parents for never pressuring her to pursue a certain career. Instead, they encouraged her to pursue what makes her happy and, above everything, to maintain her core values.

“I think it reduced any of the pressure a child could feel. I always felt like ‘Okay, even if I fail at something, I failed at something that brought me joy.’ We valued being a good person and being kind, and understood that everything else would come through eventually.”

After high school, she went on to study business at Koc University in Istanbul. She wasn’t entirely set on what she wanted to do, and business was a degree with which she could play around and use in many industries. During her studies, she became enamored with the idea of San Francisco.

“I’m a believer of manifestation. At that time, I was convinced that being in San Francisco was like being in Florence during the Renaissance, due to the level of innovation and profound advancements happening in Silicon Valley. For an art class assignment, I decided to paint a bridge that connected the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.”

A few months later, she was offered a full-time job at Google’s HQ in California. “Of course,'' she says,

"Manifesting is only one part of it, and there’s always a little bit of luck, I can’t discredit that. However, I think working hard and not resigning myself after being rejected was the most important. If I found that a certain door was closed, I’d go to the next one, and knock until it opened, or I’d find allies that would direct me to the right door.”


Sera also believes in the value of being a polymath; someone with a diverse base of knowledge. She referenced how tennis players who grew up playing a number of different sports develop more skills, thus becoming better players, and how Da Vinci worked with cadavers to understand how different muscle groups work, which helped him perfect the Mona Lisa smile.

“We need to build bridges between different disciplines. If we’re only focused on our field, our brains will be just one color.”

During her time in California, she earned a degree from Stanford and one from the University of California, Berkeley, and found that working in technology was ultimately what she aspired to do. In 2020, she started her current position at TikTok.

“We have this saying, ‘It starts on TikTok,’ and it’s so true! Since everybody has the potential to inspire and uplift others, build community, and express themselves authentically, it creates these viral yet relatable, cultural moments.”

This aspect of TikTok is one that puts a smile on Sera’s face as she talks about it. She appreciates that the platform’s algorithm works with the user’s interests to craft a feed, the For You page, that will generate joy and connect them with like-minded content.

As her career has progressed, Sera has adopted a form of living that doesn’t rely on long-term planning and, for her, it has made all the difference.

“I used to plan things heavily in advance because I’m such a perfectionist. But nowadays, it’s liberating to not have a 5-year plan. The pandemic was a great example of how sometimes things don’t go the way we expect them to and, often, the opportunity you weren't expecting is even better than the one you thought you wanted. So, it’s good to have an idea of who you are, what your core values are, and to have some sort of compass, but life happens when you’re busy making other plans. If you have a short term vision that makes you happy, you know, just do that. Worry about the next thing when that time comes. I wasn’t always able to do that, but now that I’m trying to be in the moment, things feel more optimistic.”

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To keep up with Sera's work, follow her on LinkedIn here.