Meet Carly Cooperman, the millennial CEO of one of NYC's top political consulting firms. She was the firm's first hire 13 years ago — her first job after college.

  • Carly Cooperman, 35, is the CEO and partner at Schoen Cooperman Research, a consulting and analytical firm based in New York City. 
  • Cooperman joined the company in 2007 straight out of college and held nearly every position at the firm until being appointed as CEO in July of this year. 
  • She was the lead pollster on Bloomberg's 2020 presidential run and helped Democrats take the House in 2018. She has also worked with HBO, Apple, and Snapchat,and helped uphold San Francisco's ban on e-cigarettes. 
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Cooperman talks about her rise in political consulting and how she manages often being the only woman in the room. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Carly Cooperman always thought she wanted to enter politics, but never thought she would end up in polling. Little did she know.

She studied political communications at George Washington University, and during her time in Washington DC, worked internships at NPR, Fox News, the Washington Post, on Capitol Hill, and at a political advertising firm. 

In her senior year of college, she was working for a small political advertising firm when a conversation with the head of the company led to an interview in New York City with Douglas E. Schoen, a huge name in the field who was striking out on his own.

In 2007, Schoen made Cooperman the first hire at his new firm, Schoen Cooperman Research, and just this past July, the 35-year-old Cooperman was named CEO.

"Carly Cooperman is a brilliant researcher, a sophisticated analyst of public opinion, and a natural choice to be the CEO of Schoen Cooperman Research," Schoen told Business Insider.

He said that she "represents the best of the next generation of survey researchers — technically sophisticated, client-focused, and extremely well organized." 

As for Cooperman, she recalled moments when she would show up to meetings, and in addition to being one of the few women in the room, she was also one of the youngest people to take a seat. 

Here's how she worked her way up and landed big-fish clients along the way, from Mike Bloomberg to HBO.

The first hire for a new firm, mentored by an industry legend

When Cooperman met Schoen in 2007, he was coming off a long tenure at top consulting firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, which he cofounded in 1977 with another famed political strategist, Mark Penn, who among other things, coined the "soccer mom" term in the Clinton administration of the 1990s.

Previous clients for Schoen included former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and former US President Bill Clinton. 

Schoen was referred to Cooperman by her consulting boss from her college days, who passed on her resume to Schoen at a book party. A few days later, Schoen called, offering a huge opportunity, but without certainty attached.

As Cooperman recounted, Schoen told her, "I'm really not sure where this is going to look like, and I will offer you a six-month job, and just come work and you can learn the business and see what it is."

She decided to bet on herself. "I just figured I was young and I should take a chance," she told Business Insider.

At the time, she says, it was just Doug and his assistant, making her the new firm's first official employee.

"I loved the idea of taking numbers and data and hard science and using it to inform messaging and communication strategy," she said. "It just hit home to me." She said she went on to hold essentially every job at the firm before being named CEO earlier this year.

Today, Schoen Cooperman has grown to a team of 10, and it doesn't just have political heavyweights under its wing — it also has big media players such as HBO, Vice, and Snap, in addition to Equinox, Walmart, and Major League Baseball.

But political initiatives remain a huge area where the firm makes its presence felt, often with longtime client Mike Bloomberg.

Schoen Cooperman played a big part in helping to uphold the ban on flavored e-cigarettes in San Francisco, a major Bloomberg initiative, and, also working with Bloomberg, helped the Democrats take back the House of Representatives in 2018. (Cooperman said her firm has worked with Bloomberg for the last 10 years, dating back to his tenure as mayor of New York City, while Schoen's consulting relationship with Bloomberg goes back two decades.)

In 2018, she recalled, Bloomberg wanted to do whatever he could to help the Democrats win control of the House. Her consulting firm helped him identify about 80 swing districts and narrowed down 24 that were worth targeting with different ads. 

"In New Jersey, we were talking about taxes, in California, we talked about climate issues. In Oklahoma, it was a Republican district, but voters were moved by pro-choice issues," she said. "And 21 of the 24 candidates that we supported eventually won; 15 of those candidates were women." 

Schoen Cooperman is still very involved with the former candidate, she said, now working with him on behalf of Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the swing states of Florida, Texas, and Ohio in the 2020 presidential election. 

"As Mike said, he's committed to helping whatever Democrat gets elected," Cooperman says. "He felt like the most important thing is to defeat Donald Trump. And so that's what we're doing now to try — to help execute on that vision."  

Personal relationships are key to success

Personal relationships are a big aspect of Cooperman's success in the field, she said, since most of her clients come from word of mouth. Apple, for instance, was referred to Schoen Cooperman by Richard Plepler, the former CEO of HBO, with whom Schoen Cooperman had worked as the media giant sought to launch its streaming service to compete with Netflix.

A few years later, that work led to them helping Apple launch Apple Music to compete with Spotify. "They were trying to enter a market where there was already Spotify and other music streaming services," she said. "And they were like, 'Hey, how do we make this launch? How can we enter this space stronger? How do we attract people's attention? How do we pull them away from these already competing, and existing spaces?"

Plepler also referred them to Snapchat and Vice for later work, Cooperman said.

Cooperman's ease with other people has been a hallmark of her time in consulting, according to her employees.

Sam Turer, a senior strategist at the firm, said Cooperman taught him about the importance of maintaining personal relationships, whether it's with clients or coworkers.

Another strategist, Saul Mangel, said Cooperman's friendliness has helped inspire the team to perform its best. "There is obviously the hierarchical relationship of her as the CEO," he continued. "But I know I can go to her informally and casually."

"When she says something, it's less 'the boss says this' and more 'Carly says this,'" Mangel continued. "Because she's more experienced and educated on anything we do than we are." 

Attention to detail pays off

Married to this friendliness is an attention to detail, according to both Cooperman and her employees. 

"Carly has preached that speed is fine," Mangel said. "But she would rather get something from me that is maybe 30 minutes later, but [that] I have double and triple-checked." When Mangel first joined the firm in May 2019, he said he would focus on getting tasks done quickly, often missing out on the "little things." 

Turer shared a similar observation that Cooperman "still gets in the weeds with the work, and that is something I believe is critically important for upper management."  

"The way she is able to take such a bird's eye view of everything we have going on, compartmentalize it, and make sure everything is running smoothly is incredibly impressive," he told Business Insider.

"When the system is run by men that are making the calls and running things, it's almost like an echo chamber, '' she said. This attention to detail may come from another place: that Cooperman is the top-ranking woman at her firm in a field still dominated by men. 

She recalls the moments when she would show up to meetings, and in addition to being one of the few women in the room, she was also one of the youngest people to take a seat. 

But she said she has learned to handle that over the past 13 years, mostly by making sure to walk into each room prepared, full of confidence, and full of competence. "Most of the people in the room are men," she said. " There's this feeling of working 10 times harder to be able to prove yourself and to hold your own in a room full of men." 

"I know what I'm talking about and I know the material that I'm presenting," she continued. "I walk in there knowing I have a better understanding of what we're about to share with the client than anyone else."

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