Unraveling

My name is Charmaine Ng, and I'm fond of tech, words, and noodles. I'm also a total klutz who often takes things literally. Here, I contemplate my professional and personal paths and how they intersect.

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I’m not a runner. As hard as I try to make it a thing, I’m just not. It’s time to accept that it’s not for me.

I guess what I’m really after is the drive that pushes runners in their training and during races. I want to want to master something so much I’ll dedicate all I have to that process. I want to impress myself and others with my ability. I’m chasing that runner’s high, that feeling of accomplishment after months of training. That thing you can say you did.

I’d love for this year to be the year I stick with something and learn a skill that *wows* that I also enjoy.

All I know right now is it won’t be running.

The power of the written word cannot be underestimated. We see lives transformed on a daily basis, throughout the aisles of our store and across our online community, by books and their ability to inform, entertain and inspire. We understand that we serve readers who are as unique and complex as the books on our shelves. We are disciples of the magic of readers and writers brought together.

At the beginning of this month, I freaked out. OMG how is it March already? “March” just sounds like spring is coming. Now, at the other end of this month, I’m exhausted and can’t wait for the next month. I’ve been living like this for a while, and I suppose that’s how time flies by after college. You work every day to get to the next day, the weekend, and the next week and the next month.

It’s been a big month of changes for the product and for the support process. I feel like we’ve been so engrossed in handling these changes that they all happened ages ago.

One big thing is that our team is experimenting with peer reviews. We answered a series of questions on a simple strongly disagree to strongly agree scale and left comments if we wanted to. When we leads first discussed this with our manager, I thought it was a great idea. It would allow concerns and feedback to get out in the open, without causing drama. It would also be a way to recognize the good in what people do.

This week, our peer review results have been coming out, and I’m surprised by how they’re going. People are upset. Seemingly more upset than they were by their annual performance reviews. And as someone who sort of leads people in my role, that concerns me. My first question is, why are people upset? Secondly, are they rightfully upset or can they not handle criticism? (I’m not terribly good at that and would understand.) Thirdly, what can we do to make the peer review process better? Because I do believe in its power to be useful *and* not feel like a dentist appointment. These were all the questions giving me a headache on the train ride home.

It’s really hard to balance motivating people who work in an inherently tough environment and also giving them constructive criticism. I struggle with cushioning the blow and giving tough love. If these people were just my friends, I’d be a lot blunter. These people are my co-workers first and friends second, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to navigate these waters in a sensitive manner.

I want people to be better at their jobs, and I think there’s a lot more we can do to help people be better. But how do you approach that without insulting people?

I wonder if we’ve set the bar too low, as there has been a lack of accountability, and someone’s gotta be the bad guy. I almost wonder what it’d be like if we had college interns on our team. I remember being desperate to impress, learn, and improve. That’s all we talked about doing when we were in college. You had to be amazing; you had to be learning all these skills; you had to come in early and stay late. You had to really FIGHT for the job you wanted. Now, we have our jobs, and where’s the fight?

(This post might make me sound high and mighty, but my flaws could take up their own post. I’m not the perfect employee, and I hope this didn’t come off as too arrogant. I just think a lot about all the moving pieces.)

1YR

Today marks my one-year anniversary at Credit Karma. When I first got this job, I said I’d wait and see if I was still happy after six months. Six months came and went without any doubt that I was still in the right place for me and my career. In the past year, I’ve…

- answered 1000 tickets in one day
- discovered a love of finding bugs and the hard part of waiting for them to be fixed
- learned how to talk to engineers
- seen my team triple in size
- seen Credit Karma double in size
- been promoted to a lead role
- gone through credit 101 (let me tell you about hard inquires…)
- sat at three different desks on two different floors

Last week, a fellow lead and I dropped by a customer service meetup hosted by UserVoice. One attendee asked me when I knew I wanted to do customer service for a living. I paused and answered that I made that decision when I started at Credit Karma. Taking that offer meant that I believed more in customer service’s ability to push me than doing social media ever did.

A year later, I feel fortunate that I could do social media/marketing in college and then confidently and successfully make customer service my new thing. Work is still immensely challenging in good and bad ways. I love successfully explaining a confusing feature. I love answering people’s simple questions. I love making work easier for other specialists and finding out cool things we can do with our ticketing system. The bad? It’s frustrating figuring out different ways to communicate the same thing to members. It’s frustrating trying to get engineers to fix things. Several times, I’ve lost my cool. Then there are times when you’re bored out of your mind. You feel like you couldn’t possibly answer another ticket. But you keep going.

Last month, CK’s social media manager and I attended a social media for customer service conference. I don’t know why, but I was shocked at all these things I’d never thought or heard about. It also boggled my mind that there are people out there who LOVE doing customer service. They have a real passion for helping people and finding ways to do that efficiently and effectively. But they also have fun with it - “surprise and delight” was one my favorite takeaways. There’s so much more about this industry that I have to learn.

At the same time, I’m hesitantly branching out again. One downside to working in the real world is that it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind. I’ll admit that for a really long time, I stopped thinking about my future and goals. College Charmaine was bonkers obsessed with that stuff. Adult Charmaine had a job and nothing else mattered. But nothing is permanent right? I still have other skills that I should brush up on. I’ve been nervous about writing again. I’ve never felt like I could write well about anything other than my own life. I was worried that I wouldn’t meet these expectations that were based off a life that I left behind. And I was really worried I’d be bored to death and hate, hate, hate it.

Then, I wrote my first article in months yesterday and it flowed. It took two hours to research and write, but damn was I pumped about it. I was surprised by how satisfied I felt with the process and the results.

So who knows what the next year will bring?

The founder of Credit Karma always says there’s more we can do in the space and for our members. I feel the same way about providing support to our members and I’m genuinely excited to see what’s next and what my part will look like in this big, ever-changing craziness that is Credit Karma.

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This turned into more of a rumination on my career because that’s been on my mind lately. It also would’ve been boring and braggy to list all the things I love about Credit Karma. But I love it, I do. The dogs and fruit snacks, especially. Oh, and the people. And my boss.

As the clock on Christmas strikes and we move onward to the next celebration, I’m blowing my nose into tissue like I haven’t since The Great Break-up of 2012.

I’m moving out.

OK, I haven’t signed the lease yet, but if everything is fine, I’ll be moving to the Central Sunset next month after only 2-3 weeks of scouring Craigslist. Finding a place moves quickly in SF. And I was not prepared. Neither were my parents.

I never really meant to move out, you know? I didn’t think I’d find a place; it was still like a fantasy in the distant future. But I had that *feeling* when I found this listing, when I headed to the viewing, when I left and couldn’t stop thinking about the place. When I applied that night and when the realtor emailed me back the next afternoon.

That’s a feeling that - in spite of the nerves, tears, and arguments - you can’t ignore.

I’m stubborn as all hell. My parents and even my brother (hardened after his own renting experience) have disagreed with me on this all year, but I believe in renting in order to achieve a sense of independence and live in the real world. I have ZERO desire to own property, to have a mortgage on my back, or to pay rent to my parents. Renting is a perfectly normal thing to do. When did it become so criticized?

Even though I’ve lived on my own before in college and NYC, this is legit. This is real money coming out of my real paycheck every month. That scares the shit out of me. But it’s been a long time since I really shook up my life, and I’m looking forward to some excitement, making adjustments, learning new things about myself, other people (my housemates are total strangers), and my surroundings.

I believe it’s important to stand on your own two feet, to hold your own ground.

And I wish my parents would be excited for me.

sdiaz101:

chroniclebooks:

In honor of National Book Lovers Day, we salute fiction’s most beloved heroines.

Illustrations and quotes from Well-Read Women, by Samantha Hahn.

Must-Have.

Watercolor and quotes from literature? Count me in.