“But I have no idea what I want to do.”
“I want to make a career change, but I have no idea what XYZ career actually entails.”
“I thought this was my dream job, but if I had known what the day-to-day was actually like – I probably would’ve pursued something else…”
I hear these concerns from all of you every single day. And who can blame you, right? There are so many opportunities out there, how do you discern which ones are for you? I can tell you from first-hand experience that learning from those that actually are in the jobs is the #1 place to start.
So, that gets me really excited to share with you our newest series: “What I Do Wednesday” (#WIDW). Each Wednesday we’ll profiling regular people in regular and not-so-regular jobs so that you can learn a bit more about what a career in [insert interesting job here] could look like!
Shawn, you’ve had a very interesting career path. Tell us a little bit more about where you are now and how you got there!
Haha – thank you! I’m on an interesting journey, for sure. Right now, I work as a Customer Experience Manager for Betterment. I love Betterment – it’s a product enabling people to do the best possible thing with their money when they are ready to invest.
I got here following God’s crumbs, so to speak! Does that sound cheesy? In school, I studied accounting. I never wanted to work in accounting – I just wanted to work in the entertainment business, and accounting seemed a surefire way to work in any industry. I wound up leaving entertainment altogether and going the textbook route – entering public accounting, studying for the CPA exam, and then entering private industry. Maybe not all in that order. Before I could complete testing for all parts of the CPA exam, I had already moved into roles which had a lot more to do with helping people, and I found that to be much more enjoyable. Betterment was an obvious fit. It combined both my academic background and my cumulative work experience.
So now you’re at Betterment. Congrats on the recent promotion – what’s the best part of your day?
Thanks!! The best part of my day is seeing how our product empowers people to do the right thing with their money in an easy, all-encompassing platform. It really has never been easier to make the right decision when you are ready to invest for your future. It’s a big thing to have people to trust you with their money, so I love it when a light bulb goes off for our customers. Also, hearing how enthused our customers are about Betterment and what our team has built over the last six years. People are really understanding the value of what we do, and that is so rewarding.
And the hardest parts?
The hardest parts are: staying agile the rapidity of a technology company, to always have your thinking cap on and see everything as an opportunity to learn from people smarter than you (almost intimidatingly so!), and learning how to manage other people. No one wants to be a sucky manager – I bet even managers who are sucky don’t want to be sucky! Oh, and giving yourself grace for when you make mistakes. Because… it’s going to happen.
Managing people is a whole other beast. They don’t exactly teach you how to do that in college. What advice would you give a new manager?
Care about the people you manage. Of course, there’s a fine line: managing people is not about being a people-pleaser, nor is it controlling everything to be the way you want it to be. The people you manage should ultimately feel they can trust you and that you are a safe person to talk to. How you build that trust with each person will be unique to you.
If you could do anything differently in you career, what would it be and why?
It is very cliché to say, but at this point, there is nothing I would change. I can see a little bit of how each job has taken me to the next one and find a lesson I’ve learned in each. That’s the most valuable. I would, though, warn my younger self to be a little more humble… I think my hunger and drive came out in very prideful ways.
I’m super passionate about how you don’t have to be in vocational ministry to minister in the workplace. How does your faith impact your day-to-day work?
Ooh, boy, this is an interesting question. I’m still learning what that actively looks like, or to be more cognizant of it in my day-to-day work. Of course, in my line of work, one can only succeed if you genuinely have the capacity to love others well. Customer Experience is one of the hardest and potentially thankless jobs, but it is critical in both product and service oriented businesses. Many people take Customer Experience for granted. My faith definitely fuels my perspective on people as a whole. When Scripture speaks of perseverance and loving others – I get to see and do that every day in my job. The day I don’t is when something is wrong.
Final question – what do you do for fun outside work? You’re incredibly creative – what pursuits are you investing in now?
Ahh, thanks for calling me creative! It’s such a validating thing to hear and I really appreciate you affirming that in me. I definitely didn’t hear enough of that as a child, lol. Right now, I’m throwing a bunch of paint on the walls to see which passion projects stick. I’m curating my personal website, shawnyli.com, with writing content – it’s all over the place at the moment but I’m having a lot of fun; collaborating with other creatives in my immediate network; and building relationships with people I find interesting. Specifically, I’m working with a Christian hip-hop artist named Heesun Lee on aspects of her business and I’m really excited to see what comes of that. As far as relationship building… people are just cool. I’m embracing my curiosities about others and being fearless in striking up conversations with strangers. I am building a network interesting people who want to collaborate for the greater good. It’s important to do that genuinely, so I view it as curating a killer group of cool friends who want to just kick it by being good. Bringing light to darkness, you know?
Ah, Shawn – Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! Interested in learning about more careers? Maybe some 1:1 attention might help?
What I Do Wednesday: Shawn Li
November 30, 2016