Stripe Stories: Meet Amber Feng
Below is an article originally written by Amber Feng at PowerToFly Partner Stripe. Go to Stripe's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
When I first joined Stripe, we were tiny–I interviewed with everyone at the company! Without the lure or credibility of Stripe's reputation or brand, what really attracted me to the company was the team.
I wanted to work with people who were brilliant, and everyone was not only that (it was an impressive roster of folks who'd started or built previously successful businesses and products, built popular open source frameworks, and so on), but also the most down-to-earth and most humble people I'd ever met. Today, we're a team of over 450, but we've worked hard and preserved the same feeling: incredibly high-caliber and thoughtful teams, with a culture of transparency, humility, and respect.
Stripe is rapidly expanding in so many ways, and it's a really exciting place to be. We've been able to take on the projects we could only dream of as "wouldn't that be awesome to have someday" a few years back, like Atlas, and I can only imagine what we'll be able to accomplish as we continue to grow.
One of the things I'm most excited about is "leveling the playing field" for new businesses. The world is full of great ideas, and we've made it so much easier for anyone with a great idea to immediately start iterating and building a business–you shouldn't have to need deep partnerships or teams of people to build a unique payments model (an incumbent's advantage!). We're hoping this will only get easier with the infrastructure we'll be building to power businesses around the world. I'm looking forward to it!
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
If you told Paula Manchester that you weren't good at math, she wouldn't believe you.
"That's a global indictment," she says. "'I'm not good at math' implies that you don't have the ability to nurture that muscle. And then I'd ask what kind of math? There's a lot to math."
Instead, she'd introduce you to a growth mindset perspective: "Try 'I have not yet been exposed to differential equations. Let me open the book and start studying, let me get access to teachers and tutors who can help me understand this, let me begin to practice,'" she says.
"A growth mindset says, 'There's nothing that I can't do. It's just that I need to learn how to do it, I need to practice doing it, I need to have the right circumstances in order to achieve this goal.'"
Throughout her long career as a leader in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, Paula has leaned on her growth mindset when approaching new challenges, expanding into new responsibilities, and understanding her mistakes. (Because yes, even an expert leader still makes mistakes, and cultivating a growth mindset means there's endless opportunity to learn from them!)
We sat down with the Senior Director of Global Commercial Development at global biotech firm CSL to learn more about how Paula's growth mindset shows up in her life and her work.
Determining her path towards growth
When Paula entered Stanford as an undergraduate, she thought her next academic stop would be medical school. She started down that path, taking psychology classes where she first learned about concepts like the growth mindset.
Instead, she got an MBA at Northwestern.
In between those two educational experiences, Paula determined what kind of life and career she wanted to have.
It was during an internship at a historically Black college's medical school that made her realize that she didn't need to be in the room with patients in order to positively impact their experience. "My eyes were opened to the ecosystem of healthcare," she says, "and I realized it would probably be a tighter match between some of my interests in terms of how people make decisions. I knew I could make meaningful contributions without necessarily going to medical school."
Following her interest in how patients were informed about their health, Paula pursued a career in marketing and communications, working at Merck and GSK before taking on her role at CSL Behring. Now she leads the marketing strategy in the transplant space, partnering with the company's R&D team to bring potential new therapies for those patients into the world as regulatory-approved products.
"It's exciting because it means that patients who have been through so much might not have to worry about losing their kidney, going back on dialysis, and maybe even having to go through years and years of waiting for yet another kidney transplant," she says of an investigational treatment in development that aims to address antibody mediated rejection of transplanted organs like kidneys. "The work that we do every day means that somebody can hold on to that very precious gift of life that they've been given. That brings me energy every day. It gives me inspiration. It also allows us to be very clear...there's no question—we know we're impacting patient lives."
Growing with others
Business school was the first time Paula really had to learn to be effective through others. "You learn how to drive performance under very tight circumstances in order to produce a high quality deliverable as a team," she says.
Those skills served her well in her post-MBA roles, and have been especially useful now that she's at CSL Behring.
She accepted her current role for two reasons: first, she believed in the company. "When I got a chance to come to CSL a couple of years ago, I was thrilled because of what this company stands for. A lot of companies talk about being patient-focused, but this company lives it; it's woven throughout our DNA," says Paula.
Second, she was intrigued because the role came with a whole new set of responsibilities—and a new group of people to work with and through. "I was attracted not only because of the work, but also the challenge of a larger remit," says Paula. "I knew that I could work across boundaries, not just in my particular swim lane of marketing expertise, but to be accountable for leading a cross-functional team."
She was immediately proven right: her new responsibilities were significant. "People will laugh and say, 'What you wish for, you get,'" says Paula, smiling. "I wanted a larger remit, and that came to me in spades. There's just so much to do, which has taught me a lot about prioritization and flexibility."
Paula credits her ability to stay calm in the face of so much change with her growth-focused outlook. "Every experience I have is an opportunity to learn," she says. "As opposed to setting up a particular decision or opportunity as 'either I will fail or I will be successful,' every event is an opportunity for success because it's framed as an opportunity to learn."
4 ways to incorporate a growth framework into your own life as a leader
Paula has specific tips for anyone interested in becoming more effective by approaching opportunities with a growth mindset:
- Learn to listen well. From being able to pick up on subtle cues in meetings to unlocking coworkers' participation by making them feel heard, Paula says much of her success in seeing challenges as opportunities—and helping others do the same—comes from listening. "Quite frankly, given some of the issues that we're dealing with in contemporary America, I think that there's probably plenty of room for increased listening skills, right?" says Paula.
- Get comfortable reflecting in the moment. "Part of the growth mindset is the notion of not being perfect," says Paula. "There's always an opportunity to get better and better. By reflecting, you can ask, 'How specifically can I get better?'" Paula often will do a quick debrief with herself after conversations and meetings to reflect on how she conducted the conversation, how she listened, how flexible she was, and what her outcomes were. "Reflecting can be very, very powerful," she adds. "As a Black woman in corporate America, it's especially important because of the pressure to be excellent in everything we do. But for everyone, especially in 2021, with what we've been through this last year—COVID, disparate access to healthcare, social distancing, working remotely, the global nature of all this disruption. There's an opportunity to think about what we just went through as a society and to ponder what the lessons are."
- Practice long-term reflection, too. Paula leads after-action reviews for her team each quarter where she asks four questions: what happened, what worked, what didn't work, and why. "It's not a complex tool, but it enables you to remove the emotion, and reveal more of the concrete data. You can leverage the observations of others to provide that perspective that you may not be able to see as a team member," she says.
- Read, learn, and share. If you consistently seek out opportunities to learn something new, whether in the pages of a book or in a classroom or just from a peer, and then you go out of your way to help others based on those new insights, you're well on your way to practicing a growth mindset, says Paula. "Open your eyes and look around—there's somebody who needs [what you have to offer]."
Interested in growing alongside Paula and her team? Learn more about CSL's open roles here or click here to join an upcoming virtual event with Paula and other women leaders at CSL this Thursday, May 27th!
When Emma Woods decided to take her children out of school for six months and homeschool them while traveling around Australia in a caravan, it wasn't the first time she found a way to balance personal and professional growth. It was just a more extreme version of the types of choices she had been making throughout her career.
Emma started her career in the world of telecommunications, moving from IC to team manager, then to contract positions when she had her children and needed flexible scheduling. Now in her current role as an Engineering Manager at payment platform Afterpay, Emma continues to find ways to manage her personal and professional growth, and her family's well-being.
Along with a successful career in engineering management, she's backpacked Europe, spent two months in Southeast Asia, done a post-grad degree in IT, and had three children.
Now, as a manager of a team of platform engineers at Afterpay, Emma helps her team work through their own unique sets of goals. We Zoomed into the Melbourne Afterpay Hub to hear more about how she accomplishes that, and how she stays focused on growth for herself and her team while working at the fast-growing BNPL fintech.
Defining what's important
Taking that six-month holiday was a calculated risk. While it meant Emma would be out of the job market and would have to find something new when she came back, it also would allow Emma impossible-to-replace quality time with her family. "You only have those opportunities when your kids are young," she says. "I've got teenage kids now, and they would not be interested in living in a caravan with their parents for six months!"
At the end of the day, Emma knew it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up—and that solid career opportunities would likely still be there for her upon her return. "I've never seen it as you cannot pursue things in parallel," she explains. "You can raise a family and still develop your career, you can take some time out and get a decent job afterwards. I think it's healthy to not be a hundred percent focused on any one thing and to have a balance, and that's always what I've wanted for myself. I make decisions around what's important to me at the time."
Having both a career and a family life has always been important to Emma. Even when she went down to two days a week at work, she was still happy to have it as part of her week: "By the time I'd paid for all the childcare, it wasn't even really worth it—but for me, it was, because I was keeping an interest in my career, keeping current in terms of what I was working on," she says.
To set herself up for a solid transition back into work after the caravan trip, Emma decided to document her experience traveling with her family and homeschooling her children, creating a website that highlighted their adventure and showcased some of her technical skills.
It also helped that she'd just finished a 12-month contract role at Afterpay before leaving, and had a strong relationship with her manager. When she came back, he offered her a role. "I was really interested in a leadership role in engineering management, and that opportunity had come up, so it was perfect," she explains.
Now, she works four days a week, leaving her an extra day to manage her family. "It lets me spend some time with them, but also not feel that I'm missing out on moving forward with my career," says Emma. "I have been lucky that Afterpay supports me working a four day week."
Four ways a manager can support their team's growth
Emma's career at Afterpay started when the company was gearing up to launch in the UK and the U.S., and ever since then, it's been a period of serious growth and momentum. Now, as an engineering manager, her favorite part of her job is the people she works with. "It's really satisfying to work with a team of really smart people to solve problems," she explains.
Here are some of the tips she has for how to set your team up for success:
- Back your team. "That's the most important thing I do in a day," explains Emma. "I see it as championing their projects, promoting their work, and raising the visibility of the projects they're working on, using my networks at the company to get that stakeholder buy-in."
- Evolve the way you communicate. Afterpay's workforce is expanding quickly, which means the practices that worked well when there were dozens of engineers don't necessarily work well with hundreds. Emma is careful about when she uses showcases, virtual or face-to-face meetings, and asynchronous communication to keep her team informed, motivated, and connected to their stakeholders.
- Focus on your core customer. As a manager, Emma's core customer base is her engineers—and their customers are the internal product engineers that build features on the platform that her engineers provide. Keeping those customers front and center helps when it comes to prioritizing growth goals. "You can't please everybody," says Emma. "You've got to learn how to prioritize, and that will mean sometimes saying no."
- Work to reduce silos. Emma is always looking for opportunities to combine succession planning with personal growth goals. When she sees that one person is siloed with a particular type of work, she makes sure to spread assignments of that type around to deepen her bench of talent and to keep each individual's plate of projects interesting and diverse.
3 tips for pursuing your own growth as an individual
Maybe you're not a manager of people. You still have your own career and personal goals to take charge of, though. Emma recommends:
- Set big goals. "Apply for jobs that you might think you're not a hundred percent qualified for," says Emma. "And when you get them, work hard. The networks I've established through my jobs have really helped me to keep growing my career."
- Stay competitive in what interests you. Emma went back to school when she realized she wanted to work in technology and needed a different background to support it. "I made a whole lot of new contacts from that," she reflects.
- Put your personal goals at the same level as your career goals. If Emma was laser-focused on her next promotion, she might've never taken that caravan trip—and she would have regretted it. "I've never been afraid of taking time out," she says. You can have that fear of missing out, that everybody else is building their careers. But when the trip was over, I was really excited to be heading back to work."
Tips from SeatGeek's Anuja Chavan
From engineer to product management: the best of both worlds
And that's just the beginning of the synergies.
5 things PMs should do when working with engineers
Here are some other things Anuja does to create trust and respect between her and her team:
1. Keep engineers shielded from noise, not strategy.
2. Use technical understanding to predict problems.
3. Unstick problems with other PMs before they impact engineers.
4. Communicate visually.
5. Ask engineers what their preferred choice of interruption is.
2 ways for engineers to collaborate better with their PMs
1. Think of the big picture, and communicate that you understand it.
2. Be open to explaining engineering concepts to your PMs.
When it works, it really works
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Drop the guilt and give yourself grace
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Learn more about Pluralsight's open roles here.