Come into My Office
eBook - ePub

Come into My Office

Stories from an HR Leader in Silicon Valley

Mai Ton

  1. English
  2. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  3. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

Come into My Office

Stories from an HR Leader in Silicon Valley

Mai Ton

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti

Informazioni sul libro

In today's technology companies, only 10% of women find themselves in executive roles. This book offers a fresh, anecdotal look at why - and provides an insider's view of life in a tech start-up.

In Come into My Office: Stories from an HR Leader in Silicon Valley, you'll dive head first into the start-up world through the eyes of award-winning executive Mai Ton. Having pioneered leadership roles at a wide range of start-ups, often as one of the first women and minorities in a senior role, her perspective offers a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of today's most powerful industries.

As you read her stories and advice, you'll discover:

  • How young tech CEOs navigate the ever-changing life of start-ups
  • How I found out that men's bladders can expand to the size of a basketball
  • How it feels to be the only woman at the executive table

Come into My Office is a must-read for tech leaders, HR professionals, women, and anyone who wants to know what really happens behind closed doors in private moments.

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Part 1

Love to Hate

Chapter 1


My Life as a Social Worker

My days as a newly trained social worker consisted of eight appointments where I would interview the families, collect certain data, and determine if they were eligible for free social services like food stamps and AFDC. Sometimes, whole families would show up and cram into my windowless office to emphasize the magnitude of their families and how dependent they were on these free programs. They were trying to escape the cycles of poverty that had gripped their families for too long.
I’ll never forget Darryl Phillips, one of my clients at that time. He was merely seventeen years old, went to school off and on, and had a steady girlfriend. One day, he came into the building and asked at the front desk to see me. For most social workers, their days are packed back-to-back with appointments that are typically booked months in advance. It was abnormal to pop in and see your social worker. Since it seemed urgent, I let the guards know that I was available to see Darryl. I assumed it must be some sort of good news for him to drop by my office in person like this.
I didn’t want the conversation to last for too long, so I remained standing as Darryl came into my small office in downtown Houston. “I have some really important news that I wanted to tell you in person, Ms. Mai.” He was the only client who called me by my first name.
I smiled and told him I was excited to hear it.
He took a deep breath: “Ms. Mai, my girlfriend is pregnant, and I’m so excited to become a daddy. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time!”
I looked at him in shock and disbelief and sat down. I couldn’t handle the weight of what he told me. Here I was, a young college graduate hoping to change the world by breaking the cycle of poverty. Here Darryl was telling me that he wanted to be a father when he was barely an adult himself.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t congratulate him. Instead, I asked, “Are you going to stay in school, and how are you going to support your new family?” I’m sure I took the wind out of his sails. I couldn’t believe that Darryl was excited to become a father when I couldn’t see how he was going to be successful without taking care of himself first.
That was the day I said that I couldn’t stay in social work. How was Darryl going to support a family without a high school education, a job, or even a plan? In that moment, I realized that I had a life of privilege coming out of college, landing a job, and earning a steady income. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like for Darryl who didn’t have that fortune. I could not solve the pieces of the puzzle to help Darryl. He needed someone to mentor him and guide him, which couldn’t be me because I didn’t know how to be helpful.
Some might say I gave up on people that I should have supported. To them I say, I learned very quickly that the world isn’t all rainbows and glitter like I thought. I was on my own journey to discover who I was, what I cared about, and what I could do to change all the bad luck that made life tough for so many underprivileged and poor people throughout the country.
It makes me wonder where Darryl is today and whatever became of him. My intent was always to be helpful to people in need, but as a young college graduate, I could not figure out how to break a pattern of generational poverty.
This experience of working in social work quickly dampened my idealistic dreams of developing a more equitable and kind society.
According to the Urban Institute, the United States’ spending for public welfare programs in one year, totals more than $673 billion, which represents 22 percent of the general budget.4 This figure identifies the mounting price tag we must afford to help those that need these programs the most. During my time as a social worker, I had no idea that so many people needed help. I was determined to find work that would make me wealthy enough to help whoever I could so that they would never have to go on a government-sponsored welfare program. This was the first time that I thought about money and how I was going to make any with my liberal arts degree.
Darryl must have felt alone and isolated. I did too. How was I going to help people when I didn’t have enough experience in the real world?
As I looked for my next job, I swung from the direction of more altruistic tendencies and toward the ability to make a lot of money. I tried my hand at a myriad of other jobs to find my true passion. I served as a claims adjuster for an insurance company, a telemarketer, a market research coordinator, and a recruiter. Despite trying on so many different jobs, and after all those experiences, I felt I still hadn’t found my true passion. I had career switches associated typically with the millennial generation. According to a study by EdSurge, an award-winning education news organization, “Millennials will change jobs an average of four times in their first decade out of college, compared to about two job changes by Gen Xers their first ten years out of college.” 5. I was a Gen Xer acting like a millennial.

My Days in Investment Banking

It was a new world for me, and I thought I could make a lot of money and retire early like so many other investment bankers I grew to know.
The first few months were overwhelming. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I did whatever they told me to do. I worked with three bankers, and they had me busy all day long. Some days were spent doing research on the internet about various companies and individuals, while other days were spent creating PowerPoint decks that captured tons of data points on the market value of a potential merger between two companies. Some of the decks we created were one hundred pages long and were never used since the deals never came to fruition.
The work was intense, and the people I worked with sacrificed their personal lives for the potential of financial rewards from handling these multimillion-dollar transactions. With the long hours and grueling travel schedules, people who worked in this field never seemed to have time to be with friends and family. One of the bankers I worked with didn’t even make it to the birth of his first child, having spent sixteen hours in the office that particular day. He took a taxi to the hospital after his child was born.
As I became more acquainted with my colleagues, I realized that many of them went to prestigious Ivy League universities for both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. “Why do we ONLY recruit from Ivy League universities?” I asked our recruiting leader at the time.
She responded, “We’ve been really successful getting English and history majors to join our junior teams, so we figured out our sweet spot-on specific campuses.”
I always wondered how Abby, who had a degree in 1865–1900 English literature, chose to work in investment banking. She said, “My English degree helps me communicate with these ...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Contents
  2. Foreword by Emma Pai
  3. Introduction
  4. Part 1: Love to Hate
  5. Chapter 1: Beginnings
  6. Chapter 2: Where Was HR?
  7. Chapter 3: The CEO Chapter
  8. Chapter 4: On Being (Not) Black
  9. Chapter 5: Meditation & Ping-Pong Tables
  10. Chapter 6: The Calm before the Storm
  11. Chapter 7: Burping, Farting, and Other Noises
  12. Chapter 8: On Being a Woman in Tech
  13. Part 2: Hate to Love
  14. Chapter 9: On Perks and Privileges
  15. Chapter 10: Jimmy Choos
  16. Chapter 11: Continuous Learning
  17. Chapter 12: On Working with Millennials
  18. Chapter 13: Burnout
  19. Part 3: Love Conquers All
  20. Chapter 14: Consulting
  21. Chapter 15: My Second Act
  22. Chapter 16: Hopes for the Future
  23. Acknowledgments
  24. Appendix