So, you went through ALL that trouble to finally land that new exciting job. You probably want to avoid going on ANOTHER job hunt anytime soon. So, how do you start your new job on the right foot?
With a new job, “hitting the ground running” isn’t always the best first move.
With the average job search taking around 6 months and sometimes up to 1 year, chances are you’re not going to be keen on starting a new job search anytime soon.
And while there is no such thing as a “perfect job”, there are definitely things that are within your control that you can do to create a better onboarding and work experience for yourself.
The first 90 days on the job are usually seen as an evaluative time period on the job, as you and your new manager or team will be getting to know each other and deciding whether you each made the right choice.
That might seem a little scary, but don’t let it get to you. The company that hired you wants you to succeed. It is extremely costly for them to have to go through another job search process, and so you should always go into a new job assuming best intentions.
I always recommend that my clients take some time to reflect upon how they want to show up differently in this new job, and make sure they’re not bringing any baggage from their previous role.
What kind of employee do you want to be? What kind of boundaries do you want to set? How will your work environment be different and how will you shape it?
To get you started, tune into today’s episode. On today’s episode, Al Dea (Founder of Betterwork Labs), shares a few best practices for new employees who are starting a brand new job.
We discuss the following:
Why “hitting the ground running” isn’t always the best idea when starting a new job
Why being in listening mode can help you build trust with your new colleagues
Why you should identify the “weak ties” that will still impact your day to day work
How to have a powerful 1:1 conversation with your new manager so that you can avoid working style issues down the road
Listen To The Full Episode:
So, you went through all that trouble to get your new offer and your first day on the job is coming up.
Loving this episode? Leave us a review if you’re listening on Apple podcasts and be sure to follow us on Instagram!
On Episode 54, learn why it’s so critical that you network aggressively during your job search!
On today’s episode, guest Rupal Desai shares how she shamelessly networked her way into a corporate consulting job (at a Big 4 firm) a few years out of college without a degree in business or any private sector work experience.
On this episode, you’ll hear Rupal Desai’s story and how she pivoted into corporate consulting a few years out of college without a business background!
What you’ll learn from this episode:
How Rupal made it work after graduating into an economic recession in 2011 (it involved waitressing in DC)
How Rupal broke into an international development job in D.C., using her networking skills
How Rupal used LinkedIn and “shamelessly” approached 2nd and 3rd degree connections to get referrals and interviews
What Rupal did when she realized she was “bombing” an interview – how she recovered and GOT THE JOB
Ready to make a career change?
I got you! Download our 20-page FREE guide to get career clarity on where you want to go next.
Full Episode Transcript:
Hey, are you thinking about changing careers? Then you need to head over to my website, ecmpodcast.com, and sign up to get your free 20 page guide that I wrote with YOU in mind. I wrote this guide to help you change careers and get really clear on what it is that you want to do next. Career clarity is key to a career transition journey. All right, can’t wait to hear what you think about it. Have a great week.
On Episode 35, Nicole Cruz (Life & Leadership Coach) talks about her journey of walking away from a 9-5 corporate life and pursuing joy
“Find a secure job, work hard, keep your head down, and stay in your job for as long as possible” – sound familiar? This is a common message that is passed down by immigrant parents to their children – and this formula can work, to an extent.
On this #lifecoach spotlight, Nicole Cruz talks about how being a child of Filipino immigrants impacted her career decisions up until her early 30’s. One day, she woke up and decided it was time to change her life trajectory and create a new playbook set on her own terms.
What you’ll learn from this episode:
Why your immigrant parents’ formula for success may not work for you long-term
How silencing and/or muting ourselves in the workplace can lead to eventual physical and mental burnout
The value of questioning long-held beliefs about “grind culture” and loyalty to a job
What to do when you hit a major roadblock – like when your graduate degree investment doesn’t yield the career goal you had in mind
Ready to make a career change?
I got you! Download our 20-page FREE guide to get career clarity on where you want to go next.
Full Episode Transcript:
Hey, are you thinking about changing careers? Then you need to head over to my website, ecmpodcast.com, and sign up to get your free 20 page guide that I wrote with YOU in mind. I wrote this guide to help you change careers and get really clear on what it is that you want to do next. Career clarity is key to a career transition journey. All right, can’t wait to hear what you think about it. Have a great week.
When you think of “pharmacist”, you probably think of your local friendly retail-store pharmacist who fills your prescriptions, right? On this episode, Manasa Murthy talks to us about being a different kind of pharmacist that works in a hospital ICU setting, watching people fight for their lives everyday. Manasa walks us through how she became a critical care pharmacist, and why she decided to leave that path behind to take a huge risk: get an MBA and lead healthcare strategy to fix the structural issues she experienced first-hand as an ex-pharmacist.
Manasa Murthy: I would oftentimes see someone almost die every single day, so really realizing that life is short and you really want to make sure what you’re doing with your life is something that makes you happy and provides meaning and so similarly, I think when you’re evaluating different paths, everything is not going to always be greener but just really making sure that you’re doing something for the right reasons and that you feel good about it and ultimately, you don’t want to have any regret.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Welcome to the Early Career Moves podcast, the show that highlights remarkable young professionals of color killing it on their career journeys. I’m your host Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger, proud Texas Latina, daughter of immigrants and lover of breakfast tacos. Meet me for a coffee chat every Friday as we dive into a special guest story and hear all about their challenges, milestones and lessons learned. If you’re a young professional of color and you’re feeling lost in your career or just need a dose of inspiration, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Hey, everyone, welcome to Episode 28 of Season One of the Early Career Moves podcast. Today, I’m really excited to introduce to you Manasa Murthy. Manasa’s story is really cool. She was a… or still is a pharmacist. She has her PharmD from the University of Arizona and for several years she was a clinical ICU pharmacist working in super high intense situations in hospitals and on this episode, she’s going to talk about what that career path was like, what it took to get to that point and also why she decided to take a step back from being a pharmacist and decided to get her MBA to pivot into more of a health care strategy role and today, Manasa works at H-E-B which is a pretty big deal, a grocery retailer in Texas and she’s leading their health care strategy and yeah, it’s just like been behind the scenes working on a lot of health care initiatives. So, really excited to share her story with you. I think her last point at the end of the episode, she talks about her perspective on career and how being a pharmacist has informed her perspective in terms of taking risks and not having any regrets. So, make sure to tune in for that but yeah, enjoy this episode. I think it’s just really cool to see behind the scenes what it means to be a pharmacist, what it takes to get there and also, what it’s like to step away from such a prestigious career. All right, enjoy.
Okay everyone, today we have a very special guest. We have Manasa Murthy and super excited to welcome you. Welcome to the show.
Manasa Murthy: Thank you, Priscilla. I’m excited to be here.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Yeah. So, why don’t you go ahead and get us started by sharing a little bit about your personal background.
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, sure. So, I’m originally from Southern California. My parents are from India and they immigrated here and have lived in the US pretty much longer than they’ve lived in India now and so I grew up in Southern California and growing up, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. My whole family’s pretty much kind of a bunch of doctors and health care providers, so I always was interested in that space. My dad’s a dentist and he would do a lot of community work in a lot of rural areas and there’s also a professor at a university. So, I was really interested in a lot of the science behind that and what it brought but I was always really scared of blood and so I hated going to the doctor, the dentist and ] all of that and so when it came down to going to college and deciding what I wanted to do, I always knew I wanted to do science but I was like not into going into medical school or nursing school or dentistry just because the blood aspect and we happened to have some close family friends who were pharmacists and they weren’t retail pharmacies.
They worked in hospitals and the husband was a professor at a local pharmacy school. So, I got to shadow them and I thought that was a really interesting field to play in; the science field but not have to be directly involved in patient care and so, with that, I decided to embark on a pharmacy career. So, I was debating between where to go for college and growing up in California, generally, I always thought the UC’s are where I’d end up but I randomly applied to the University of Arizona because at the time, they had a really good pharmacy school and they also had this pre-pharmacy program. So, I applied, not thinking much of it and then I was accepted but they also gave me a pretty big scholarship to go. So, I figured, why not change it up? And I mean, a pretty big decision to go out of state without knowing anybody and decided to go to U of A for undergrad and that was a really great experience. So, that’s a little bit background, I guess.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Yeah. So, with the PharmD, like what does that path look like? Like do you have to start in undergrad to get your PharmD? How does that work?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah. So, a PharmD is very like a similar pathway to an M.D. or a DDS, so you need to do undergrad first and then apply so it’s a graduate degree. The nice thing about pharmacy school though is you can do a lot of the prerequisites and still apply for a PharmD but it’s become pretty competitive. So, for me, I finished undergrad in two years and applied but there were only two people with that. The majority of people had an undergrad degree and I think more so now, everybody else finishes a four-year degree and then applies to pharmacy school and then pharmacy school itself is four years after undergrad.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Okay, so you were in school like six years total?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, so I did six years and then after that, I… within pharmacy, there’s a lot of different options. I think people traditionally think of retail, CVS, Walgreens but there’s a lot of other roles for pharmacists outside of the retail setting. So, whether that’s in the hospital or an ambulatory care clinic. So, clinics that help you with chronic disease states or research or even in pharma and so for me, I always knew I wanted to be more on the clinical side of pharmacy because oftentimes, you learn a lot in pharmacy school, it’s the same, it’s equivalent of medical school in terms of duration but you don’t necessarily get to use all those skills in the retail setting. So, I knew I wanted to go on the hospital side of it so I decided to pursue a residency which is generally how you can be more specialized in pharmacy school and the residency processes, again, it’s very similar to medical school. So, it’s a match system, you interview with a bunch of hospitals and then wherever match, you go so it can be anywhere from one to two years.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And so, back then, did you think like, this is going to be my forever career?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, back then I did because I still think pharmacy and a lot of these health care professions have a lot of opportunity and reach within them. Like I mentioned, within pharmacy, there’s a lot you can do and I ultimately specialize in critical care, so working in ICUs and what not and I thought that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life because even within that, there’s kind of a career ladder you can grow ultimately to have your own ICU or have the mix of patient care and leadership and teaching and so, that’s really what I set my goal out to be going out of… graduating from Pharmacy school.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Yeah, I honestly had no idea that there were pharmacists in ICUs but now that I think about it, that makes total sense.
Manasa Murthy: People don’t realize because again, you always think pharmacists are just retail but like in the ICU setting, your average patient has anywhere from 20 to 40 medications and so you think about it in medical school or nursing school, they probably get one to two semesters of pharmacology. So, even though they’re great from a physician perspective, you really have the skills to diagnose and assess the patient. The therapeutic side is really where the skill of the pharmacist comes in. Understanding the evidence behind how you treat and what you should use is really important there.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: What do you think people, like young people should know about pharmacy school? What are the things that they should be prepared and get ready for?
Manasa Murthy: I mean, I think very similar to all of these health care degrees, they’re all pretty competitive to get into but I think they’re all worth it. There’s a lot of opportunity within the health care field and pharmacy school itself is not easy either. There’s a lot of science and what not that goes into it but I think what they should know is I think the field of pharmacy is also really growing and changing and it’s an interesting time now, more so to be involved within it, especially as you look at some of these trends in health care where… when I graduated, I graduated Pharmacy school 10 years ago, I was pretty young when I finished and then a lot of the trend was go to hospitals and I mean, it’s more specialized but now, when we think about health care, there’s a big focus to try to make it more localized, essentially to help improve outcomes and save costs and so you can see that with changes in retailers where even things like companies like CVS and Walgreens are trying to bring medical care within the retail footprint and with that, comes changes in how pharmacies practice which ultimately, in my hopes, is to drive towards more of the skills that we’ve learned in school and not be just focused on dispensing medications but really using more of the clinical knowledge that you learn.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Mhm.
Manasa Murthy: So, yeah, that’s what I would say.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Yeah and who do you think is a good fit for this career, like in terms of strengths or interests?
Manasa Murthy: I mean, I think now it’s really interesting. I think, before, it was more of a focus on science and the ability to learn and distill down information because there’s a lot of information you learn within pharmacy but I think a big… a really important skill within pharmacy, regardless of where you work, is the ability to communicate. Working in hospitals, for example, everybody knows what the role of a physician is, what the role of nurse is, the pharmacists role can change depending on where you are because even the idea of a clinical pharmacist, meaning a residency trained pharmacist, is not widespread or the same model everywhere and the ability to communicate your knowledge and provide recommendations in a meaningful way is ultimately how you can drive value for cost for patients and so I think communication is a really big key aspect that we might have the best recommendation but if you can communicate it, that’s a really important skill. I think another one is in analytics, ability to understand how things come together, especially now when more of that is driving the trends towards pharmacy and it’s really interesting when I had students who are learning a lot more analytics within pharmacy because the pharmacy space itself is really being disrupted by a lot of these [0:10:11] companies and even tech companies. So, I think if you could have those skills, you can create your own career or changing career than what we traditionally thought of as pharmacy.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And so, now, take us to the point where maybe you finish your residency. Like, how old were you at that point and what was your first job like as a pharmacist?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, well, I did two years of residency. My first year was just a general pharmacotherapy residency. So, that’s really how you understand how hospitals work, working with… and you’re essentially rounding with different medical teams just like you do when you’re a medical resident. So, that’s how you get really good training and just that’s foundational to understand how health care is provided in a hospital setting. The second year where I specialize in critical care. So, working in nine different ICU, the pediatric ICU, the neuro ICU, cardiac, all of those because there’s a lot of nuances on how you treat those patients and so after that, I had an ICU job. So, like I said, I’m originally from Southern California, I did my residency in Northern California at UC Davis Med Center in Sacramento.
My first job was at Cedar Sinai in L.A and there they have I want to say six, I forget now, six ICUs and I would rotate between all of them essentially and it’s a really cool experience because as you start to realize like each hospital has its own kind of way of functioning and protocols and what not. So, Davis, where I trained, had a huge ICU kind of population. We had burn and different patient populations and a lot of trauma. Where at Cedar’s, Cedar Sinai, there’s a lot of other level one trauma centers there. So, there’s like UCLA, USC, all within kind of a short distance. So, Cedar’s was really interesting because one of the things that was different is they had a big transplant population. So, we did a lot of cardiac transplants and kidney transplants and liver transplants. So, I got to basically see different types of practices and that was really valuable.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: So, a lot of exposure in your first two years.
Manasa Murthy: Yeah and just learning about how people practice differently and even just different kinds of care. As you know, Cedar Sinai is an interesting hospital because, again, you have celebrity doctors who can come in and practice, where UC Davis is your traditional academic teaching center, where it’s much more protocolized and research heavy. So, just learning about the different fields, about how these systems work was just really valuable I think.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: So, working on the ICU sounds very high pressure, like a very high pressure environment. Did you thrive in that or what was that like for you?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, I mean, I enjoy that. So, for pharmacy, I think ICU or emergency medicine, two of those are probably the more kind of high pressure environments because again, like I never worked in a pharmacy, I wasn’t touching drugs, you’re rounding with teams and telling them what they should prescribe and monitoring of patients and working very closely with physicians and nurses and other allied professionals. So, it’s really cool because you have very hands on experience with that and I mean, the irony is I didn’t go into these other fields because I didn’t like blood but working in the ICU, you pretty much blood everywhere, you are and you get accustomed to it but it is high pressure, in the sense, you have to be able to make pretty quick decisions and especially, when there’s kind of cold blues where somebody’s lost their pulse and the pharmacist role on that is really anticipating the drugs to draw up and help understand like what’s the reasoning behind these codes. So, you play a pretty big role in that as well.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And there’s also like no margin for error, right? In this role or what does that look like?
Manasa Murthy: I mean, I think the value of having a pharmacist within especially the ICU, I guess you can say is, again, evaluation of appropriateness of therapy and so, you do… you’re there as a way to not only recommend and provide guidance there but also, yeah, to your point, be there as a way to reduce errors and I think that’s a really big value that pharmacist’s bring to health care in general of understanding how we can minimize medication related errors and that happens very often in the hospital setting or in the health care system in general and so, yeah, there is that pressure of like really making sure when you’re verifying medication that it’s appropriate and there’s not issues that are going to cause it but I think you get used to that as you work. So, it’s a fear that lessens as you become more and more confident in your skill.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Makes sense. Yeah. Okay, so obviously you’re no longer a pharmacist that’s practicing, right? How did you get to the point where you started to even think about leaving this career behind?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, So, I’m still… I mean, I still have my licenses, so I still have my pharmacy license in both California and Texas. You don’t practice clinically but mean like I said, I never really envision going outside of the profession but like I said, I graduated pretty early and I worked at various health systems. So, the most kind of recent hospital system that I worked at before transitioning was Ascension health in Austin and the health system there is called Seton and I had a pretty interesting role, in the sense that, I had my own ICU of 24 beds but I also had more of a leadership role. So, it’s this dual thing where, in addition to taking care of patients, I was in charge of clinical guidelines and network for the entire network of hospitals in Austin. So, there’s 12 of them and with a lot of these health systems, the focus is really on improving efficiencies and outcomes but also, minimizing costs and just in health care, there’s such strong, there’s a lot of waste that happens and there’s a big effort to reduce the waste and improve outcomes for patients but what I was finding when I was working is a lot of my time was focused on how do we cut costs, how do we cut costs?
And a lot of that’s great but sometimes, it’s not necessarily best for patient outcomes and when you work in hospital settings, what you quickly realize is that people oftentimes making the decisions are not clinicians themselves, they’re people in leadership and the people in leadership are generally MBAs or MHAs but a lot of them have never really taken care of a patient and so, although I love working in patient care and had really strong relationships with all the physicians and nurses that I work with, I started to get really annoyed by just how a lot of these decisions were being made and a lot of it came down to dollars and cents and not necessarily outcomes and then a second piece of the decision, I guess, to transition to a different role was, I felt like being in the ICU, I saw the sickest patients.
So, we would always take care of them, we’d fix them essentially, or make them better and then they’d be discharged only to find that, a week or two later they’d be readmitted and the point of that is that we weren’t really solving an underlying issue, it was just, okay, they came in for heart failure, we’ll treat them by getting rid of fluid but then the problem is not that they had the flu in the first place, the problem is that they’re noncompliant with their medication, they’re noncompliant with their diet or a lot of these underlying things and nobody’s really doing that well. So, those two things combined made me complain a lot essentially and my husband’s like, “Stop complaining about it, do something” and so I decided I probably should get these skill sets to have more of a leadership role beyond pharmacy but more on the hospital or health care lens and that’s when I realized I really didn’t have the background to understand the financials of health care and some of these other things that impact it. So, I decided to go and apply for business school.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And you talked about coming from a family of a lot of doctors and this was just maybe it was expected for you to go this path and stay in this path. Was it a scary kind of decision to make or to let them know about this change or was it pretty natural?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, it actually was because I had worked pretty hard to get to the role that I was and I was fortunate in the sense that, when I moved to Texas, the role that I got would have been a role that would have taken me probably 20 years if I had stayed where I did my residency because there’s so many trained clinical pharmacists and so it was a pretty nice job in the sense that working in the ICU is I didn’t have to work weekends or nights which doesn’t really happen, especially in critical care. So… and then in Austin specifically, like there’s not as many jobs for highly trained pharmacists or residency trained pharmacists and I was at the place where they employed those people. So, I was essentially giving up my job to do that and so it was a very… it was scary at the time because I’m like I had this nice job, there wasn’t really anything wrong with it but I just felt like I wasn’t completely happy and I knew I wanted to do more.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Okay, so now talk to us about the MBA like experience for you. How do you think it helped to equip you for what was next?
Manasa Murthy: I think the MBA, like for me, again, my background was completely science based, right? So, I had never even taken any business classes, like I didn’t even know what accounting was or what do you learn in finance besides how much money you have and very basic understanding of these things and so, for me, I think a lot of it was extremely valuable as, especially now as we think about how health care is changing, to understand how you can make impact like you really do have to understand dollars and cents and what’s happening from a macroeconomic perspective and I think business school is really helpful to get this broader context outside of just taking care of patients and how hospitals work for me to understand, like where can you actually move the needle?
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And so when you are thinking about like your summer internship and what kind of roles you would have after the MBA, how did that evolve for you over time?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah and so, again, like going into business school, I was like, well, I know I want to do something in health care. I want to do something where I can have an impact and I want to do something where I can both use my clinical experience as well as whatever I’ll in business school. I didn’t really know what that looked like and so all throughout business school, I was just trying to put my hand in anything that was health care related and understand like is this meaningful to me? Is this something that’s actually going to drive impact and something that’s going to make me happier than what was doing before? And so, I tried different things but for my internship I was at… I tried pharma essentially because I felt like there was a lot of opportunities in the pharmaceutical space and it seemed like there… I’d had never really given that a shot even in pharmacy school. So, I was like, why not?
So, for my internship, I was at J&J and I did a marketing strategy role within Janssen which is a pharmaceutical arm of J&J and I focused on one space which is immunology which is one of their highest growing areas within the company and it was just really interesting to see how marketing works, especially from the lens of a pharmaceutical company, how they leverage their physicians and pharmacists and marketers and data to do different things. So, it was really interesting on this other side because another thing that you do as a clinical pharmacist is you do a lot of cost containment. So, you’re trying to think through like how do we make sure we’re not spending a lot of money on these expensive drugs that don’t really move the needle on outcomes? And so, a lot of what I did was police that to some extent because I was really well versed in the evidence behind it. Now, here in J&J, my role was being on the opposite side to be like, how can you get this past these hospital formularies want to pay for these?
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Mm.
Manasa Murthy: So, it’s really interesting to understand the other side of it.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Okay and so I know that now you’re the Director of Health and Wellness at H-E-B which is so cool. Lots of Texans just like love H-E-B. What does that role look like and how did you land this role?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, so it’s an interesting story as well. So, like I said, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do post B school and I was just applying for a lot of different things that had some kind of health care flavor or opportunity within them. So, looking at consulting or pharma or even more on the startup or VC side I was hoping a lot of things and trying to recruit as well which is really hard and also was trying to stay within Austin or Texas in general and so that kind of narrowed a lot of my opportunities and the H-E-B option came up really out of luck I would say because I was pretty involved with a lot of the health care stuff at McCombs and one day the CEO of H-E-B, Martin Otto, he routinely comes to McCombs to speak. He’s really into teaching and education and so he was at the Marketing Fellows talk and he’s really just passionate about health care. So, I think he was talking about H-E-B and what they’re doing for the community but I think he also went off on this discussion around health care and how there’s a lot of waste and there’s a real opportunity to provide more efficient offering of health care and ultimately, move the needle for outcomes and so one of my friends, Mario, was there and I think he was also really interested in pursuing H-E-B as an option post business school.
So, I was walking outside of McCombs and he’s like “Hey Manasa, would you ever be interested in looking at H-E-B?” And to me, at the time, I was like, well, I know they have pharmacies and they’re probably doing something in the space but I wasn’t really sure what they were doing. So, I was like, “Of course, why not?” So, he’s like “Send me your resume.” And so, he sent it to Lamar, who’s a professor at Marketing Fellows and he’s like, this looks good and he’s friends with Martin and just sent it off to Martin and Martin sent it to their recruiter, who basically sent me a bunch of interviews for a job that I didn’t know I was interviewing for. So, that’s how that happened.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: So, cool. Definitely like a preparation meets luck type thing., right?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, I would say that for sure.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Okay and so, when they finally told you about this role, how did they sell it to you and what made you say yes? Yeah. I mean, so I had these ideas of what it would be and again, like, I didn’t even know what they were thinking of, what this role would be and they offered me two different roles and this one was more of a customer facing role, ultimately, like how does H-E-B play in the health and wellness space from a customer lens. The other role is more kind of clinical operations. We have clinics that we’re hoping to scale as well and so for me, I felt like I had done more of the health care stuff, even working in the hospitals and this seemed more of a challenge. I was really excited about this role and so where we see this, I guess this role of where we’re playing, our ultimate goal is to really be a destination for customers in our communities in Texas. We serve such a broad population in Texas itself and have a pretty big footprint here and we think we can really leverage a lot of our businesses and offerings to ultimately move the needle on health for our communities through with a primary focus on food first but also providing solutions through clinics, pharmacies or dieticians, as well as just how well integrated we are with community and so my role is really in charge of the strategy behind all of that and how does it all ultimately come together. Everything from building that journey and what that looks like to our end user customer across these businesses but also how digital and data and marketing and all of those kind of supportive businesses help support that come to fruition.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And so this probably felt like such a different kind of role that you had ever had, right? What has the adjustment period looked like for you? I know you’ve been there now for a year, right?
Manasa Murthy: So, I actually started during business school, so my second semester I started. It was an internship but mainly I was like, I don’t know anything about groceries, let me just try to learn about it and I ultimately just ended up doing my full-time job then and it was nice to really learn and meet people early. So, yeah. So, I started in business school, I guess, almost two years now. A year and a half, I guess you could say.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: What has been like the biggest learning curves for you.
Manasa Murthy: I mean, I think it’s different working in a business setting obviously than straight health care. Here, it’s a matter of working with different business stakeholders to make sure we’re aligned with goals and communication, again, is key. So, that I think that’s a similarity but a difference is even if you have an idea, you really have to make sure that idea has legs or backing it up with financials, data and having a real strategic point of view is really important. So, I think that was what I anticipated but that, I would say, is different from working in the health care setting where you’re just going patient to patient or working on projects but here, it’s like working across a lot of different stakeholders and I think, especially working at a big company like this, realizing how many people work on so many little details that I never realized until I worked in retail itself. So…
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: What excites you the most about what you’re doing now?
Manasa Murthy: I think I’m most excited about just the opportunity to actually create impact. Like I said, I think the biggest… for us, our biggest piece is like, how do we really play starting with food? Because I think food plays such a role in chronic diseases, both from how we prevent them but also how we treat them and if you think about the populations in Texas, we have a huge population of diabetics, overweight populations and we’re primary grocery store in those towns and nobody’s really doing anything to address those things and I think if we can start to get enabling people in communities to understand how you can eat healthier and live better without the guilt and judgment that people traditionally feel around food, that really can help support that and move the needle for our customers around health and then that combined with these services, so, specifically, pharmacists who are providing more clinical services outside dispensing roles or dietitians who have more expertise in more detailed or specific dietary lifestyles, as well as just our clinics which are much more focused on holistic care than kind of this fee for service model. I think all of those things combined can really move the needle. So, I’m excited about how this can actually come to life.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: That is really cool and I wonder if H-E-B is one of the few grocery retailers that are really thinking about this. Have you seen this across the country? Have you seen other models that are doing this?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, I think a lot of… it’s interesting. I think a lot of different retailers are starting to see this and it’s not just grocery retailers. It’s even non-traditional retailers like companies like Best Buy that are trying to get into health care and then your other companies like tech which just see a huge margin in waste and an area to disrupt. Like I said earlier, I think people are starting to see the value of localized care and that’s where a lot of grocers are starting to understand, like, is there an opportunity here, especially because a lot of them already offer pharmacies. I think where we can probably win is just the heart that we have for a lot of what we do which shows in a lot of our products and the experience at H-E-B in general and sometimes, when you go to other retailers, especially because they have a national footprint, sometimes that personalized feel doesn’t come across and I think that’s what you really need also in health to make people feel seen and make them want to change their behavior so that they’re ultimately healthier.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: I love that. Okay, so my last question for you. What advice would you give to someone who might have been… might be in your shoes that you were in when you were considering going this different path? Like what kind of tips or advice or things would you have them think about?
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, I mean, for me, like, again, so one thing that I really valued about being in the ICU is this idea of like just perception and how you… your view of life. I would oftentimes see someone almost die every single day. So, really realizing that life is short and you really want to make sure what you’re doing with your life is something that makes you happy and provides meaning and so similarly, I think when you’re evaluating different paths, everything is not going to always be greener but just really making sure that you’re doing something for the right reasons and that you feel good about it and ultimately, you don’t want to have any regrets. So, using that framework to decide what you think because at the end of the day, like even when I went to business school and embarked on this path, I was like, okay, well, suppose I just like suck at business school and I fail and all of this? Worst case scenario is I could still try to find a job as a pharmacist somewhere. It might not have been the ideal pharmacy job that I had pre business school but at least I tried and so really trying to frame that perspective I think would be really helpful so it doesn’t seem as daunting of a jump because I think you, essentially can do anything you put your mind to and even for me, going to business school is scary. I didn’t know anything and then I was in this room full of people who are accountants or came from banking or marketing, all these really core business skills that I just didn’t even know what these people did and so I think, if you put your mind to it, you really could do anything but just really having that perspective at the end of the day, you should be happy with your decision.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: This was such a delightful conversation. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Manasa Murthy: Yeah, no problem. Thanks, Priscilla.
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: Thanks for tuning into the Early Career Moves podcast. Be sure to visit ECMpodcast.com to join the conversation, access the show notes and become a part of our newsletter community and if you love this episode, head over to iTunes to subscribe, rate and leave a review. Talk to you next week.
Have you ever thought about the story that you’re telling others when it comes to your career? On this episode, Aaron Wilson tells us about the career story he’s been crafting ever since he graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in business. As a Black-Asian child of working class parents, Aaron’s story has included: moving to the West Coast to change functions and industries, navigating the ad agency world, deciding to pursue elite management consulting, and eventually landing at McKinsey, post MBA, as an associate.
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Aaron: I remember I had a mentor at Capital One. He was Asian so he looked out for me. He knew I was half Asian. But he told me like some people at the company knew that I used to play football and I’m black. So if I walk around slow, people might think that you’re not super energetic or something like that. To a 21-year-old, coming fresh into a job, you’re just like, “What does that even mean?”
Priscilla: Welcome to the Early Career Moves Podcast, the show that highlights remarkable young professionals of color killing it on their career journeys. I’m your host Priscilla Esquivel Weninger, proud Texas Latina, daughter of immigrants, and lover of breakfast tacos. Meet me for a coffee chat every Friday as we dive into a special guest story and hear all about their challenges, milestones, and lessons learned. If you’re a young professional of color, and you’re feeling lost in your career, or just need a dose of inspiration. You’re in the right place. Let’s get started.
Priscilla: Hey, everyone, how’s everyone doing? I am really good, actually. You know, yesterday, the CDC came out saying that you don’t have to wear a mask anymore if you’re vaccinated, which my brain still can’t really compute that. I feel like we’ve been through such a roller coaster ride in the last year in terms of guidelines. It’s been a trippy year where we don’t even know what to do or whatever. So But anyway, I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and so that brings me a lot of joy because I do feel excited to start to incorporate some socializing and just seeing people in my life again, safely. And so, anyway, that’s just on my mind. But welcome to episode 24 of the first season of the early career moves podcast. Today, you’re going to hear from Aaron Wilson, who went to UVA Darden School of Business, he is an MBA, and he also went to UVA for his undergrad, his bachelor’s in business where he focused on brand management and actually worked at Capital One after he graduated in brand marketing. But later made a series of pivots that took him to work for Sony Pictures and for an ad agency, but the whole time you’re going to hear in his story that he was always sort of thinking about his next move in a very strategic way, even if he didn’t know exactly what that would look like.
So I think Aaron is a really great example of someone who stays ready, like he was doing the work, whether that was building a super marketable skill set that he could use later, or asking himself, you know, did he get what he needed to get out of a sort of experience? Where was he trying to go next? Not everyone is like this and that’s okay. But, you know, Aaron is someone who you can tell his story, is very much thinking long term, playing a game of strategy in his career, and it’s definitely paid off. Aaron is an associate McKinsey, one of the most elite management consulting firms in the world. And I won’t be surprised if one day we see his name as CEO. Okay, I’ll stop here. Enjoy the interview. Let me know what you think. So I’m excited to have you share your story of how you went from brand marketing to analytics to working at an ad agency all the way through Business School, and now working at McKinsey. But before we get into that, will you share a little bit about your own personal background?
Aaron: So, yeah, hello everyone. I’m originally from Washington, DC. My family are from the Northeast area of Washington, DC. But my father, he was originally from Chicago, the West side of Chicago, father’s black. My mother’s Korean, she’s actually from South Korea, so she was an immigrant. So most of my time, I was raised in Northeast DC, but also spend some time in Washington, Maryland, which is PG County, and then Alexandria, Virginia. So like a real full around DMV. So I went to high school in TC, played football, track, basketball as well and then played football at the University of Virginia in the ACC. When I first started, I studied Business Commerce at UVA, which was a pretty prestigious at that time. And then, once I graduated, I actually went to Capitol One for brand marketing.
Priscilla: Okay, so brand marketing was your first job. How did you ended up deciding to go down that path? And what was it like being in that program?
Aaron: So, yeah, I originally did brand marketing for Capital One straight out of undergrad. One of the reasons why I chose to do brand marketing was more of like, my mother was a cashier. Father, he was in the military. So I’d never saw what professional jobs looked like in the past. So for me, it was like, “Oh, marketing, would love it. Would love to do that type of job. It has a lot of outreach, a lot of influence.” And then if I ever got to the position high within the company, then I could be the one making decisions of how we’re utilizing that budget, and making differences in the world beyond just adding additional profits for the company. So that was my original thought trying to go to Capital One doing brand marketing. And on the other side of that Capital One was a heavily invested sponsor for the University of Virginia, so there was a big relationship there. A lot of alumni that came from the University of Virginia so it just made sense at the time. I oved it, great people, gained a lot of skill sets that I never had before, thinking strategically as well as working with advertising agencies. So I worked at Capital One for two years as an Associate Brand Marketing Manager. During that time, I was actually exposed to advertising agencies and seeing how they work. So it was very interesting in that time, because at Capital One, we were doing a lot of the strategy, providing a lot of the insights from data that we have within the company. But the cool things that usually think of as marketing goes is usually what the advertising agencies do, the advertising and the media agencies. They’re the ones who actually create the actual creative based upon the original strategy, and execute to expose it to the consumers. And in a way that makes sense. So there’s a lot of components to that I was intrigued, very interested, I wanted to see what that side of the world was like on the agency side, and additional opportunity popped up to move to Los Angeles. As I mentioned before, I’ve always been from the Washington DC area, went to UVA. So DC, in Virginia, Maryland, that whole scene is something that I knew majority of my life. So I thought, “Hey, why not? Let’s try something new and get exposure to a whole another area.” Who wouldn’t want to go to West Coast to do a little LA action, surfing and all?
Priscilla: Yeah. So before we get into you moving to LA and changing jobs, I would love to hear just your first job at Capital One. What were some of the stumbling blocks that you faced entering corporate America for the first time? What was challenging about it? How did you manage that?
Aaron: Sure. So one thing I want to start with is capital was an amazing place, very smart people, high caliber. But with that, I don’t think there will be one company that’s perfect. There’s always a lot of good things with it, but and then sometimes some setbacks. So one thing for Capital One, everyone was super high performing. But with that, it’s hard to get promoted, right? It’s hard to move up within the company if everyone’s high performing. The company treats everyone well. No one really wants to leave. You don’t really find that many opportunities that fast. And then beyond that, it’s like, how do you separate candidates who are all doing their job well? So the thing that I would say was, like separating people is more of like, how much do you like this person, right? Do they seem like they’re fully energetic? Do you feel like they’re super nice and willing to help each other? A lot of those things that aren’t pretty subjective. And honestly, like me, coming out of college, black Korean guy, there was maybe two other black people in the whole brand department of Capital One at the time. Right now, this is Sunday, so I’m feeling energetic. But when I was at Capital One coming out of college, like, I wouldn’t jump out everyone like, “Hey, how’s your day going?” And those are the things that can cost you at moving up in the company, or standing out as someone who’s 14 players, fully smart, etc. So those are some of the things that I struggle with, some of those things that it’s not on paper that you learn you should do to move up in the company or in the world, so I struggle with that. And this is probably even more personal level. I remember, I had a mentor at Capital One. He was Asian so he looked out for me. He knew I was half Asian. But he told me like some people at the company knew that I used to play football, and I’m black. So if I walk around slow, people might think that like, you’re not super energetic or something like that. A 21-year-old, coming fresh into a job, you’re just like, “What does that even mean?” So those are some things that I dealt with just trying to like navigate through like, the political system I will probably say within corporate world. I didn’t really fully understand that at the time. But I think that was just also just being young in my career.
Priscilla: Totally. I really liked that story because I remember when I was young, getting similar feedback like that I seemed disinterested, or that I didn’t seem enthusiastic. And later on, you realize that’s really highly valued. So totally understand that. But yeah, so let’s jump back into your story and what was the job that you moved for in California? Like what happened next?
Aaron: So I went over there for this media advertising agency called OMD. So that’s an agency under the umbrella, Omnicom. So similarly, like consulting firms and similar to some law firms, just like a big four of agencies. And Omnicom is one of those big agencies that’s worldwide, very prevalent in New York City and Los Angeles and Chicago. So I switched to that side and I was very purposeful with what position I picked. The position was for Marketing Analytics. So this is what like, end of 2014 beginning of 2015. I definitely wanted to get exposure to analytics because I knew that big data was going to be a big piece for all types of marketers out there, whether you wanted to be on the brand strategy side, or whether you wanted to be on the execution side, or whether you had aspirations to become an executive, big data was always going to be important. So I switched over to work for OMD in Los Angeles. There I worked on two accounts, I worked on the activation Call of Duty account, so think like Call of Duty Black Ops 3. I work on that campaign. So I did everything from what is the strategy like, what type of partner should we use in media? And what that means is like, yes beyond just like the Google search and featuring advertisements there and working with YouTube, via Google for YouTube videos. There’s a component outside of social media, which also includes like programmatic channels, where it’s a little site that people go to whether it’s blog sites, whether it’s a website site for video gamers, they may know like IGN, you’re featuring advertisements where people go to, and that’s kind of like what the media agency job is.
Priscilla: Okay, cool. Yeah, that’s sounds like such a huge change, right? Like, not only did you move from the East coast to the West coast, where you didn’t have any routes, but you also changed industries a little bit and also function. So what was that like making those switches and what was maybe hard about that?
Aaron: Yeah, I remember telling some friends that, “Hey, I’m going to move to Los Angeles in a month.” Some people thought I was joking. It was just something that I had to move with before I second guessed myself, because I knew I just wanted to change for myself, just because I’ve been in the DMV area for so long. So that’s what just prompted me and pushed me over the edge in order to do so no matter what the challenge is. As far as how I dealt with, like the switch, functionally in and from an industry standpoint, I think it was just pure curiosity. One thing that I think stands out to me no matter who I worked with and in any industry, any company is, if a person is intelligent, and they have the will to learn and work, I think you’ll be fine anywhere. When I started working at the media advertising agency, very different world than a financial bank, especially like a fortune 100 company. So the media advertising agency, I mean, was totally different from a culture standpoint, like we had a basketball Court, inside our building, you can have your dogs at work, we were working with entertainment companies left and right, Disney was another client of ours for the advertising agency, etc. So it was a shift, but hey, I’m not going to complain about those things like, I loved it. I think the biggest thing was more the fact that just showing that I was passionate and which was authentic like, I was excited to work at this advertising agency and try something new. I think that’s something that people have heard over time, who are very successful, when they make transitions, it’s usually because they felt like the position, they were previously in felt stale, or they weren’t learning anymore. I think whenever you’re in a position where you’re not learning anymore, like it will come across to other people that you really aren’t learning more, and then your passion and curiosity might falter. So I really leaned on that when I was starting a new function in a new company. I showed that I was curious, I was attentive, I learned and picked up fast. And then, I just let that kind of carry my weight all the way through. Put in the beginning, it’s obviously going to be more time and effort, but over time, started gaining more expertise, and then just kept trying to push the boundaries of what we could do at some of these media advertising agencies, and even leveraging my past experiences working at Capital One, knowing that I was on the client side of advertising agencies in the past. That kind of gave me like, a leg up of oh, this is probably what they may want to see or what they’re looking for what type of insights will be most helpful? So, again, I think two parts, really leaning on that curiosity point, learning fast. And the second point of utilizing past experience, whenever it fits, I think that’s always shows like a unique perspective, and showing how you’re a unique asset.
Priscilla: What are some things that you think people should know about the advertising agency world if they’re considering entering and breaking into this work? Sure.
Aaron: So I would probably say there’s probably like three different things. One, I would say location does matter, especially, if you’re thinking entry level. The cities with the most agency activity and opportunity would definitely always be Los Angeles and New York City. So I’m just going to be very straightforward on that front. That’s not to say that there aren’t advertising agencies and other big cities in the US like, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, there are, but nine out of 10 there’s way more opportunities and job openings in New York City and Los Angeles. So that’s just a very direct piece of advice, at least from my perspective. The second piece, I would say is, there’s different types of positions they’re looking for in agencies. One, they’re looking for creative, so that’s what you think about as graphic designers, people with artist in skill sets, and craftsmanship, photographic or video recording skills, that creative sector. They’re also looking for analytics. That’s actually a growing space in advertising agencies. Utilizing data and measuring especially for digital media just, because everything is gravitating towards that. Budgets increasing, advertising spend in the digital space, so if you have any type of analytic skills, that’s working with Excel, working with SQL, working with Tableau, it’s huge. So we definitely highly recommend leveraging some of those skills and those platforms in order to get a leg up in the advertising world. And then, three, which some agencies are known for are more of the strategist. So those are the people who don’t have as much heavy analytic skills. But I would say and pre-warn like, that’s more based upon pure experience. Strategist can move up and become VPs, executives, etc. But the road from the beginning is going to be a little difficult because in the beginning, I don’t think that pays huge for strategist coming in to agencies. But as far as like, how to get in, it’s literally more of just like, making sure your resume matches up finding the right opportunity and the right timing, if you want to come in as a strategist.
Priscilla: Okay, so you were saying that you were at the ad agency, what ended up happening next, how did you end up moving up and getting to the point of going to business school.
Aaron: So then, I got promoted, worked as a manager within the media agency where I shifted. And there, just working on different accounts really shine light on how you have to change your strategy and the tools that you utilize to reach out to the consumer. A video game, for instance, like they release once a year, annually. So what you’re doing is you’re trying to build hype and engagement throughout the year slowly but surely until the person like, unconscious things like, I have to get this game, versus Levi’s and Dockers, where you’re dealing with retail, people are usually thinking about buying clothes two times the year, at least, which is usually spring and fall. Preparation for the wintertime and spring when you’re preparing for summer, as well as getting close for that spring and fall season. So that’s how like campaign shifted, the type of sites and partners you will utilize, the way we were analyzing engagement was totally different, and that was one of my responsibilities was at the agency OMD. Before, I actually shifted again to work for another agency, a media agency called Universal McCann. And that’s where I was contracted out to Sony Pictures. So that’s where I spent my last year and a half two years before going back to my MBA program. I am working for Sony Pictures, doing audience targeting for all the different Sony Picture movies like, Spiderman Homecoming, Jumanji, Welcome to the Jungle. So this was back in 2017. That’s what I was doing before the NBA.
Priscilla: So when you were making all these career decisions in your 20s before you went to business school, what were the things that you were looking for in your next opportunities? Like how did you think through that?
Aaron: Yeah, for sure. I was thinking about if probably from a 3.1. I was like, “Where did I want to live?” As far as city position, what type of lifestyle that I want as far as what job I was going to choose? People I think automatically guys like compensation, what account, is this any work. So that’s like the short term. So that was like the bare top superficial things I was looking at for jobs and switching jobs. The second piece I’ll probably say is, I was thinking about what story like my resume was telling and how I wanted to grow. And it wasn’t just literally like jumping back and forth from like a zigzag standpoint, but more of like, it didn’t have to incrementally stack up on top of each other as far as how my experience was building. But how was I growing? How was I evolving as if I want to be as an executive. I think I have a very heavy marketing background, but also marketing and strategy. And I knew that something that I wanted to be a part of my core of what I would be known for whether it’s five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. So from that standpoint, I always wanted to make sure I had a little bit of piece of what I did when I first started working way back when I worked for Capital One doing brand marketing. And I did Sony Pictures was a little bit different, because every movie is going be totally different, right? The way you’re marketing a movie for Spiderman is going to be very different than you do for Peter Rabbit kids movie. So that changed a little bit. But that job, for instance, was still connected to my previous job doing marketing analytics. I was building upon what our to learn about data. And then, I was targeting audiences, so I was building further from my previous job working with Sony Pictures connected to OMD working at that agency. So that’s that second point, I was talking about is how was my resume building over time, incrementally, from position to position. And then, the third piece, I wanted to mention was like more long term, the thing I was thinking about is, how could it put me in a position. For instance, I knew I wanted to eventually switch to management consulting will put me in that position. I was thinking about that probably since 2015. And I graduated from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in 2020. So there were some thought into that, will put me in the best position, what would tell that story of why did I want to get there. So that was the third piece that I think played a role in how I was choosing positions and companies.
Priscilla: That’s really cool. It seems like you were really intentional about your strategy throughout the years, which is I would say pretty rare and unique, but obviously it really served you well once you were in business school and you knew you wanting to do consulting. At what point did management consulting get on your radar? How did you know that that was something you wanted to pursue?
Aaron: From the undergrad business school from UVA, there’s actually quite a few people who go into consulting. I wasn’t exposed to it just during that time. I didn’t even know what to look for. So my mind was always brand marketing. But soon after, when I was at a Capital One, and I started talking to some more friends, meeting more people and find out, “Oh, that’s pretty cool.” Like consulting, you get exposure to multiple different companies, you get to travel, something that piqued my interest, not something that I was sure that I wanted to do, but it was something that was like, potentially in the future. And on top of that, before I move on to the second time, I want to say like, at all times, when I was building my career, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to be. But it was more of thinking about, I wanted to leave room where it made sense if I went that way. So like if, say, if I wanted to go into music with Spotify, I will want to have works that could connect me to be able to go that direction. So I never exactly knew like, hey, I always wanted to be at Sony Pictures when I was at Capital One but it was more of a thing like, I was always incrementally building upon my past experience, so that I could be able to go that direction. So just wanted to make that clear. So after the first point of when I was exposed to consulting the second point, I was actually exposed to one of the MBB firms when I was working with Sony Pictures. And that’s when, you know, I was fascinated. The team was very smart, very intelligent, structured, high performing, move fast, and I learn more about them. The fact that the type of work they were touching, even at a young age, I just knew like beyond just the opportunities that were open for management consultants at high prestigious firms was the soft skills that they developed. How exact and professional they spoke with their client. Every meeting wasn’t just a meeting just to have or cover track, it was always with intention in mind to move the problem solving and trying to find the solution faster and forward. People know. Sometimes I imagined who’s listening to this podcast. Sometimes you have meetings where it’s just kind of cyclical. And then, there’s just another thing you have that meeting but then no one steps back and as like why like how are we pushing, you know, the solution in these 20 minutes to make sure that we are further along than we were 20 minutes ago. This is what this firm did. And that really spoke to me. So I would say that was time I was like, hey, like whether something I will want to do for the rest of my life afterward. I know that I will want a career in consulting because I want to develop those skills almost at an unconscious level. So that’s probably the second time I got exposed and I was like, Oh, I could see myself in the consulting industry.
Priscilla: Okay, so now let’s talk about your MBA journey. You decided to go to UVA Darden, you had other options, you got a McKinsey internship offer, you accepted a full-time offer to join McKinsey. And that’s where you are now, McKinsey is one of the top three management consulting firms, one of the most elite, right? A lot of people would say, it’s the best one. MBB, for those who don’t know, stands for McKinsey, BCG and Bain. And so, yeah, like what did it feel like for you to get that internship and to now be in this full-time like, that must have been like such a huge accomplishment.
Aaron: I was ecstatic. It was a hard road. I’m not going to lie. The networking and the case prep, I was extremely excited. One, just the amount of work I put in but two when I was working at Sony Pictures and even applying for the MBA programs, my thought process as far as like applying. What I will want to do post MBA was always like consulting firm like McKinsey, right? Like, I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity to work for McKinsey so it was always a consulting firm like McKinsey. So at the back of my mind, like it wasn’t only the hard work that I’ve done, but it was also the fact that I felt like it was a dream come true. The people I met at McKinsey were amazing folks that well, they weren’t just smart, they knew how to engage how to influence and I was very happy about that Atlanta office, in particular, there are already three women black partners, so they mean to just say they were about diversity, they actually had them in leadership. So a show like this company actually stood behind what they said. So I was Yeah, I was very happy about getting that offer.
Priscilla: That’s amazing. So switching gears here a little bit, I want to talk about imposter syndrome. We talk about it a lot on the podcast and I just want to hear like, did you experience imposter syndrome throughout your 20s? How did you manage that?
Aaron: Sure. So yeah, I’ve had it a few times across my career. I think the first time ever was when I first started working for Capital One doing brand marketing. At the time, I was working on the Quicksilver credit card so I was pulling it then. I was working with all this senior leadership that’s had excellent past experiences and expertise in the field and I’m the one trying to add my piece to make this national campaign happen. I started second questioning myself. Oh, is this work? Absolutely. 100% unequivocally correct. I don’t want to be that black guy who got something wrong, but over time, it was just trusting myself. I had mentors and sponsors who spoke up for me And when you keep Hearing it again and again, you start thinking like, hey, you’re right, I did do good work. And I did it again. And then again, like maybe I am fit for this. So that was probably the first time. The second time was probably when I first got promoted to manager at OMB, the advertising agency, and I was actually managing someone who’s about the same age as me maybe even like a year older. So one, there’s different dynamics going on there from how comfortable they feel talking with someone who’s their age, and then trying to walk that line between should I be doing this? I am the manager. How do I do this? Am I even cut out for this? Maybe I got promoted too soon. These are the things that were running through my mind. and managing is not easy. Like I think that should be highlighted a lot more in a lot. A lot of corporations like management is not just about being able to do your job. Well. It’s also about being able to build relationships and adapting to the working styles of the people that you’re managing. So it was definitely a learning curve. And I would like to say that I got it correct. The first time I don’t think I necessarily did. But I think maybe like the second year, when I started managing a new person, I started learning how people’s personalities were different and how it could adapt. That’s when I started thinking like, okay, at least I think I’m somewhat competent at it and something that I can definitely do in the future. And then the third time was definitely here at McKinsey. There’s like Olympians walking around everyone’s valedictorians, etc, definitely felt some of that. But I was very happy because even at McKinsey, we have affinity group called the McKinsey black network. And I cannot state how many times people have reached out to me to for support, or even on a higher level for the entire new NBN class of like we do good work like we’re very special people before we got to the firm. So not to ever lose sight of that because the firm did make a special, we were like that before we even got there, getting those reassurances were definitely helpful. And then again, sometimes just given a time, like, I definitely feel in a much better place than I did when I first started working again full time, even after the entire internship. So I think that feeling is always there. But it’s more of just like having patience, giving it time. And then building that support network around you to get that gain reassurance.
Priscilla: I totally agree with everything that you just said. It’s almost like learning how to live with it and creating systems of support to slowly build our confidence over time. But yeah, so my last question for you, Aaron, what kind of advice would you give to someone who was in your shoes maybe a few years back and is trying to move forward in a similar path to yours?
Aaron: Yeah, I think my one piece of advice would be what do you want to stand for? And what I mean by like, what do you want to stand for? This could be at a personal and professional level? Like, do you want to stand for hard work, then come to consulting? Because you’re going to be seeing a lot of hard work? Do you want to be known for impact? Like what type of impact do you know. I’m saying like what really resonates and matters most to you, because I think whatever you choose to do, as far as what you want to stand for, your curiosity is going to run wild. So you’re going to do good work, you’re going to learn you’re going to progress, you’re going to get better, you’re going to evolve. And then, if you’re finding out like what you stand for, I think that’s going to be good for you. When you’re even building your resume. You’re trying to pitch in interview with the different companies because if you know what you want to stand for, you can build, you know your brand of like what you’ve done in the past and what you will do in the future, it will start becoming a lot more clear when you start from there, like knowing like what you want to stand for, that will help you dictate what jobs what industries you want to work in, that will help you even focus on like what you’ve done in the past. Because no matter what, there is a path behind you and ahead of you that is connected. So I think knowing what you want to stand for is that connector to making sure that whole thing tells a story.
Priscilla: Yes, and storytelling and branding, like truly your own career path is so key to a lot of this is like, how do you sell yourself? How do you tell your story? So I love that you ended on that note. Aaron, thank you so much for being with us today. You’re such a great example of what’s possible when you work hard and have a plan. And so yeah, thanks for being with us.
Aaron: Absolutely. Thank you for having me much appreciate.
Priscilla: Thanks for tuning into the Early Career Moves Podcast. Be sure to visit ecmpodcast.com to join the conversation, access the show notes and become a part of our newsletter community. And if you love this episode, head over to iTunes to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. Talk to you next week.
Are you a woman of color seeking to transition or thrive in the tech industry? Are you someone who struggles with imposter syndrome, speaking up for yourself or prioritizing your wellbeing at work? On this episode, you’ll hear from mindset & career coach Rebecca Garcia, a daughter of immigrants from the Philippines and Mexico. Rebecca is a self-taught developer, ex-product manager and, as of the publish date, a program manager at Facebook. With experience working in tech startups and tech giants, Rebecca inspires women of color to step into their power in tech.
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And then there’s this playing big kind of fear where you’re like, I don’t know if I’m ready to take up more space. I don’t know if I’m ready to do these things. I think I can do them but I don’t know if I’m ready yet. And so whenever you start to inch towards that playing big fear, that’s how you’re going in the right direction because you’re growing and you’re starting to take those risks.
Welcome to the Early Career Moves Podcast, the show that highlights remarkable young professionals of color killing it on their career journeys. I’m your host, Priscilla Esquivel Weninger – proud Texas Latina, daughter of immigrants, and lover of breakfast tacos. Meet me for a coffee chat each Friday, as we dive into a special guest’s story, and hear all about their challenges, milestones, and lessons learned. If you’re a young professional of color and you’re feeling lost in your career, or just need a dose of inspiration, you’re in the right place! Let’s get started.
Hey everyone, today you get to hear from Rebecca Garcia, a mindset and career coach for women of color looking to transition into tech. Rebecca is a first-generation American and daughter of immigrants from the Philippines and Mexico. She’s worked across tech startups, big tech giants in several different roles as a self-taught developer, a product manager, and now a program manager at Facebook. I really love this conversation with Rebecca because she has a very calming presence and she helped me reframe a lot of different ideas that I had around imposter syndrome and how we really need to prioritize our mental health and wellbeing above all in our careers. So if you’re looking to transition into tech, look no further, check out Rebecca Garcia and check her out at MindsetCoachForWomen.com.
Priscilla: Okay. Welcome, Rebecca, to the show.
Rebecca: Thank you for having me, so excited to be here.
Priscilla: Yeah. So why don’t we start by just having you share a little bit about your background so that our audience can get familiarized with who you are or your personal background, and then what you do today?
Rebecca: Absolutely. So I’m so excited to share my work as both a mindset and career coach. I specifically work with women of color and started off working with women in tech. And I have grown my career as a woman in tech as a self-taught developer turned product manager, program manager, doing a lot of different shifts along the way. And by day, I am a program manager at Facebook on the developer programs team, specifically working on a lot of different partnerships and events. And I’m also first-generation a daughter of immigrants. My mother immigrated from Mexico, my father immigrated from the Philippines. Growing up, I didn’t see anybody who looked like me and I didn’t know that there was a career path for me in tech. I had been learning to code as I was growing up, copying and pasting HTML and CSS on my MySpace, my Neopets pages. It was really fun and exciting.
I knew that when I was little, that I wanted to help people but I didn’t know at the time how to be able to combine that. I ended up starting to follow that passion and built my career as a self-taught developer. I was at Squarespace as it was growing from 250 to 500 employees. I found myself as a program manager at Microsoft, managing a full-time technical training program for underserved New Yorkers, helping them to become IT and assist admins. And in between, I’ve been a technical product manager at a handful of different startups most recently at a startup helping to end the gender pay gap, and most recently as a program manager at Facebook. So that’s my little journey in a nutshell with a lot of pivots and twists.
Priscilla: Yeah, that’s really cool. So tell us what it means to be a program manager, especially now at Facebook. What are you responsible for? What does that kind of look like for you?
Rebecca: Yeah. So at Facebook, as some folks may know, there’s a lot of different emerging technologies, whether that’s augmented reality, AR, or virtual reality, VR, or technology around natural language processing, NLP. Essentially, my role as a program manager is to help get more developers and more creators on these new emerging Facebook products. It’s really fun because I get to work with a lot of different teams. So I work with engineering, we work with marketing, and we get to dream up these different programs to get folks engaged and involved and give back to the community. Some folks like to ask me, “Well, why did you transition from being a developer or transitioned from being a product manager?” And honestly, I think the role that I’m in right now is just a really fun and exciting combination of my different various experiences and it helped set me up for it. So for anybody out there who’s thinking that you have to have a straight and clear narrow career path, I’m here to tell you that you don’t. If you think about the tech industry being a, quote-unquote “young industry” there’s so many different roles out there that didn’t exist 5, 10 years ago. So it’s like sky’s the limit and yeah, it’s just a lot of fun what I get to do at Facebook.
Priscilla: Now tell us a little bit about how you decided to become a career coach and then becoming a mindset coach, and what does that mean?
Rebecca: Absolutely. So a handful of years ago, I used to meet folks for coffee very often. So I’ve spent the last 10 years in New York City and I would get reached out to and folks say, “Oh, I’d love to hear more about your background. I’d love to hear more about your story. Tell me how you that into X role at the time, whether that was as a developer or program manager, product manager.” I used to meet them for coffee and, quote-unquote, “have them pick my brain” and I realized that a lot of these folks could use a more structured way to help them to define their unique value proposition essentially about themselves and their transferable skills and how to interview and move into a new role, because tech interviewing can be nuanced and some folks might seem intimidated or scared by it, but it’s actually not that scary. It doesn’t have to be that scary. So I transitioned into coaching because I wanted to help a lot of these women and especially women of color who were struggling with how to make those pivots and make those shifts.
So I’ve been doing that work for handful of years now, and I then realized that there was an even bigger gap with imposter syndrome that, you know, even though I helped these folks move into new roles, that the imposter syndrome still followed them. How can we start to dismantle the imposter syndrome and realize that it’s not just, “Oh, you need to work harder. You need to” quote-unquote, “be more confident” especially for people of color, it’s not that easy. So that’s the work that I’m doing today is to help people understand where imposter syndrome comes from, the unique challenges that come along with it as a person of color and how they can start to essentially reprogram their brains to stop feeling — not to stop feeling that imposter syndrome but to start realizing just how amazing they are and the skill sets that they’re building and the things that they’re learning that are so much more than their imposter syndrome.
Priscilla: Yeah. And so when you got your first job in tech at a big tech company, what were some of the immediate challenges that you identified when you were first starting out your career?
Rebecca: Yeah. When I was first starting out in tech, I think one of the biggest challenges that I realized was, especially starting out at some smaller companies, at some startups, I noticed that it was very easy to get sidetracked and to want to do all the things. That’s the exciting part about tech is being able to do all the different things. But I realized that I wasn’t helping myself for the long term, for my career and honing in on what were the strengths that I had versus trying to level up all the, quote-unquote, “weaknesses” and I think that this is something that prevents folks early in their career from moving more into a mid-level or senior role is that they become generalists. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting out, you start out as a generalist, but I have learned from Tim Ferris to become a specialized generalist. That’s essentially how I felt my career is as a specialized generalist, where I can do all the things but I know what I am not only, quote-unquote, “good at” but more passionate about, even though I can do a lot of project management, that’s not the only value that I bring. I bring innovation and I bring rallying people to the table. How can you start to figure out and narrow down on, “Okay, I’ve grown a bunch of these different skills. Now, what are the skills that I want to start to focus on that I’m passionately moving towards?” And it doesn’t mean you have to be good at them right away but that you’re letting them push you forward.
Priscilla: Yeah. So you help women break into tech. What are some of the pain points or maybe issues that you see, some of the people that you help get tripped up on the most? Is it something like in the interview process? Is it once they’re in the door and more of that mindset challenge? What are maybe one or two things that you’re like, “Oh, people really struggle with this?”
Rebecca: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve got a few. So one of the first ones is definitely discrediting their previous experience, and I’ll give an example of, say, somebody went to a boot camp but they worked in finance before. On their resume, they take out the stuff from finance because they’re like, “Well, this isn’t relevant to the job that I want as a developer”. They’re leaving off all that valuable professional experience, going back to your point about the soft skills, right? So they’re missing out on that they’ve worked on multiple teams, that they understand the product, that they have this background in finance that’s valuable. That’s the first thing is discrediting their experience. And when I say experience, it doesn’t have to be working experience. It can be volunteer work that you’ve done. It can be side projects that you’ve done and. Again, if you’re feeling that you’re lacking experience, these side projects or the volunteer work is a really great way to boost that. So that’s the first one is discrediting experience.
And the second piece on the interview process, what I tend to see goes one way or the other. The first way leans back towards that other one of discrediting their experience. And so they’re not really sharing their background and how it got them where they are. Usually what I see folks doing is they start off in their most recent experience. They say, “Oh, I’m a developer at this. And then before I did this and I did this, and then I studied this in school.” And so they’re doing it in the reverse order, where they should switch the order and they share what is it that led you to where you are now? How has that built up so that they can start talking about that. So sometimes they’re leaving stuff out, or the other thing that I see is that they’re over-preparing and just talking at the interviewer. They’re like, “Oh yeah, I practiced my elevator pitch. I did this and did that but they didn’t listen to me.” And well, it’s a two-way street. You got to ask them questions too, give them room to breathe. Instead of just talking at the interviewer, see the interviewer as a person and start to get comfortable asking questions, which as a person of color, it can be very hard because you might think, “Oh, in some cultures that might be considered disrespectful” or in some cultures you’re taught not to speak unless you’re spoken to or all sorts of unique experiences that people of color and people with different backgrounds have. Those are some of the common themes.
And then the last piece, the imposter syndrome piece, where for anyone who’s not familiar with imposter syndrome, it’s this idea that you feel like you might be a fraud, like you don’t belong there. Especially if you’re a woman, you might think this because I know for me I’ve many times been the only woman on a team. And so it can feel like, “Oh, I don’t know if I fit in. Do I belong here? Is this the right company for me?” And so you start to question your experience. You start to question your capabilities. And in terms of tackling imposter syndrome, I actually think that you can flip the narrative on imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome doesn’t mean that you don’t know enough. There’s actually a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect, where once you start to learn things, you realize how much more there is to learn. And the folks that think that they know everything, it’s because they are not willing to look at all the things that they could learn, so they’re staying stuck. You’re actually at a great point if you’re coming up against imposter syndrome. Yeah, because it means you realize how much more there is to learn and that means your potential is limitless, in my mind.
It doesn’t have to be something terrible that we keep trying to get rid of. That’s another thing that some of my work is going into, which is people from underrepresented backgrounds, we are taught to discredit our feelings. We’re taught to stay quiet or we’re taught to not let things get to us. When we push down those emotions, they bubble back up to the surface and all that resistance that you were having against taking action or against speaking up, it kind of daze itself in and it grows roots. So how can we learn to care for our emotional wellbeing instead of, I think a lot of the advice out there is “just be more confident and speak up” and the reason it doesn’t work is because it doesn’t feel safe as a person of color or it doesn’t feel right. Or maybe you’re like, “I’m an introvert. I can’t do that.” So understanding why it might not even feel right in your body and being able to work through that by working through your emotions and knowing that it’s okay that you don’t know everything. That actually means you’re growing.
Priscilla: So that’s really interesting, that phenomenon you mentioned about people who are probably doing the same thing feel confident in what they’re doing, right, because they’ve been doing it for so long. But yeah, try something different and I’m sure people will feel not so secure, right?
Rebecca: And just to that last point that you had on doing something new, I think there’s also a way that you can differentiate between the, “Oh, this is really scary and I don’t want to do this” or “I don’t know if I can do this” and that kind of “This is new and exciting. I want to do this.” Another thing I learned from the author, Tara Moore, is there is this kind of staying small fear, right, where you’re like, “I don’t know if I can do this. I’m not sure if I’m ready for this.” and you’re hiding. And then there’s this playing big kind of fear, where you’re like, “I don’t know if I’m ready to take up more space. I don’t know if I’m ready to do these things. I think I can do them but I don’t know if I’m ready yet.” And so whenever you start to inch towards that playing big fear, that’s how you’re going in the right direction because you’re growing and you’re starting to take those risks and you can start to see it as excitement rather than anxiety.
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Priscilla: Did you experience that in your career where it felt really unnatural and maybe kind of like, “Am I bragging on myself” by talking about your accomplishments or anything like that?
Rebecca: Absolutely. That is something that definitely comes up a lot, where I hear folks say that like you said, you don’t want to seem braggy, you don’t want to seem like you’re boasting. And maybe in your culture, I know that I was told be humble. I think that there is a difference between bragging and boasting and puffing out your chest versus sharing the work that you do or telling people the work that you do or the work that you’re excited and capable of doing, because that allows you to be of service to others. Because if you don’t speak up and you don’t say those things, then how are the opportunities going to find you? How are you going to make the right connections if you’re constantly — you’re waiting for somebody to tap you on the shoulder and give you a permission slip to be successful? You’re basically placing your success in somebody else’s hands versus you being able to pick the direction that you want to go in because that’s how opportunities come to you is when people know you for certain things. Or a lot of the early advice is like, “Oh, build your network”. I think of networking, it’s a long-term strategy. I think of it as a boomerang, right? You make connections and then they come back around and then they happen to be helpful later. But those connections are only as valuable as much as you let people know what it is that you want to do or what it is that you’re capable and excited to do. So just putting it out there as a reframe of it’s not you bragging, it’s you advocating for yourself, advocating for your career because you are the only person who can be that advocate for yourself. So not just a mentor, not just a manager, you get to pick the direction of your career.
Priscilla: What are some wellbeing things that you do or maybe even advise your clients, people that you work with to do to find some kind of sanity and separateness from work, because work is in our house now, right? It’s like at home all the time.
Rebecca: Yeah, that is a great question. One of the things that I like to do, especially after having a lot of Zoom calls, meetings, back-to-back stuff going on, is to take a nervous system break. I’m sure if I had just started spouting off to folks like, “Oh, you should meditate”. Everybody has heard that they, quote-unquote, “should meditate” but before even meditation, just giving your nervous system a break, meaning how can you get out of that heightened state of doing stuff all the time and go, right? Because we’re working from home, we have to create that. Whereas in the past we might’ve had it naturally built in, right? So I’ll give an example of when I worked in Manhattan, for lunch I was like, “Okay, I’m going to go walk and I’m going to go pick up lunch from somewhere and maybe I’ll listen to a podcast while I’m walking.” That was essentially a nervous system break. And now that we don’t have that built in, how can you build it in? One practice is to notice the things that help get you out of that going mode, and so whether that’s listening to a podcast or doing the dishes for 10 minutes or just being away from the computer, being away from your work. And make a list of those things that allow you to feel a little bit more relaxed and incorporate them into your day and don’t feel guilty about it because we don’t have those things built into our day now. If we don’t build them in now, it’s building these wellness practices into your life, everybody’s, “I don’t have time for that. I’m too busy.” But it’s learning to swim before you’re drowning, before you’re burnt out, before you’re really tired, before you’re just, “Oh, my gosh. I can’t function.” So just throwing that out there is taking a nervous system break here and there and the world will be okay. Your inbox, your emails will still be there. The notifications will still be there 10, 15 minutes later.
Priscilla: So true, yeah. I think those walks are just like creating your own version of a commute, right, like before or after work. It helps so much to get out of your head for sure. Well, my last question for you before we wrap up is just what is maybe your number one career lesson that you would want to impart on younger folks, especially those looking to get into tech?
Rebecca: Yeah. So one of the quotes that I love to say is from the author Jon Acuff, and his quote is “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” It’s really easy for us to look at other people and say, “Well, they have this thing. I don’t have that thing. I don’t have these skills yet. I don’t feel ready.” When you look at a job description, actually see it as a wish list. Don’t see it as you need to meet every single thing on that list. I say this as somebody who has worked in hiring and has worked with recruiters, and sometimes those job descriptions aren’t even written by the hiring manager. Sometimes they’re written by a recruiting team with the things that they would in an ideal world love to have, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow into doing those things. So that’s one thing to keep in mind.
The second piece is how important mental health is. I know that there’s a stigma against it in many cultures and where, “Oh, therapy is only for people who can afford it” or therapy means that there’s something really wrong with you or “Oh, meditation and yoga, it’s too woo-woo for me” or “I can’t do that” and you end up putting off all of these things. I wish that I had spent more time helping myself. It’s like that when you get on an airplane and they’re like, “Put your oxygen mask on first,” because how are you going to put out your most valuable work and how are you going to provide the most value if you are unable to function well? So taking care of yourself is important. It’s not a luxury. It’s a base need. So honor yourself, honor your feelings. You may have family members or cultures that don’t agree with this but at the end of the day, who is it that’s living your life and building your career? It’s you, right? So why not take that time for you? So I hope that’s helpful for folks out there who are thinking, “How can I become successful?” And I will tell you at the mid senior part of my career of working in tech at big companies and small companies, burnout is real and it happens at any stage in your career. And if you can take care of yourself now, do it. Put yourself first and keep putting yourself first.
Priscilla: Yeah, awesome. Well, Rebecca, where can people find you online and potentially even work with you?
Rebecca: Yeah. So come find me on Instagram at Mindset Coach for Women. That’s also my new domain MindsetCoachForWomen.com, if not, RebeccaGarcia.tech. I would love to connect with you, shoot me a DM, tag me if you listened to this podcast episode and you found it helpful. I do career workshops, as well as mindfulness and wellness practices, and I’m excited to help more folks with imposter syndrome. So thank you so much for having me.
Priscilla: Thanks for tuning in to The Early Career Moves Podcast. Be sure to visit ecmpodcast.com to join the conversation, access the show notes, and become a part of our newsletter community. And if you love this episode, head over to iTunes to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. Talk to you next week.