In the ever-evolving field of project management, professionals often find themselves considering the best path to success. Should they specialize in a specific area or gain a diverse range of experiences?
Galen Low is joined by Jean Kang—Sr. Program Manager at Figma & Founder of Path To PM—to talk about her journey of career pivots and how each pivot contributed to her current role.
- Path To PM: Jean’s Journey [01:37]
- Objective: Empower and grow the next generation of project leaders (program managers, project managers, etc.)
- Started in response to inquiries about Jean’s journey and interest in program management career path.
- Jean has made several career pivots, around seven in less than a decade, which has influenced her approach to teaching and discussing project management.
- The Role of External Perspective in Career Development [04:07]
- Emphasizes the need to empower people to navigate diverse career journeys in a space where conventional wisdom may not apply.
- The shift in the job market narrative is noted, accepting previously taboo aspects like frequent job changes, and Jean feels empowered to embrace her identity, resonating with others on platforms like LinkedIn.
- Jean agrees that career paths are not always linear, citing project and program management as an example where individuals often navigate challenges without a predefined route.
- Jean’s First Job and Its Influence on Her Current Role [06:45]
- Jean started with an entry-level sales job where she did cold calling and set up demos for account executives.
- Jean wasn’t cut out for sales but developed qualities like resilience, which she still brings to her role as a program manager.
- Qualities from her first job, such as resilience, tenacity, grit, and embracing ambiguity, are crucial in her current role as a program manager in the SaaS space.
- Jean emphasizes the importance of not being afraid of rejection, maintaining tenacity and grit, and embracing ambiguity, all of which contribute to her success in various career pivots.
- Transitioning into Project and Program Management [09:40]
- Jean shares her journey from sales to project management, highlighting her role as a client solutions manager at Pinterest where she unofficially took on project management responsibilities.
- Despite lacking the official title, Jean embraced the opportunity to lead a pivotal project, demonstrating project management skills like creating plans, rallying teams, setting up syncs, and handling risks.
- The confidence gained from this experience, coupled with effectively articulating transferable skills, helped Jean transition into a program manager role.
- Jean acknowledges the steep learning curve but emphasizes the mindset of giving oneself grace, seeking help when needed, and continuously growing on the job.
Give yourself grace that you might not know everything. Cultivate the grit to keep going, figure things out, ask for help when needed, and continually improve and grow on the job.Jean Kang
- The Value of Varied Career Experience [15:52]
- Jean advises understanding the general scope of a project manager’s responsibilities and considering why one wants to become a project manager.
- She suggests adopting the project management frame of mind and finding ways to weave in experiences that demonstrate project management skills, even from unrelated roles.
- Jean shares tactical advice for individuals with varied backgrounds, such as teachers, to focus on working with stakeholders, event planning, and showcasing measurable outcomes.
- The importance of knowing the “why” for choosing the project management path and emphasizing soft skills in communication, conflict resolution, and effective collaboration is highlighted.
What makes your story compelling is having a measurable outcome. It’s not just about creating project plans and RACI charts; it’s about articulating the impact you’ve had.Jean Kang
- The Role of Education in Project Management [22:50]
- Jean advocates for continuous learning and acknowledges the value of education but emphasizes the significance of on-the-job experience and soft skills in project management success.
- She shares a story where a certified project manager lacked soft skills and didn’t stay long in a role, contrasting with self-taught individuals who focused on learning on the job.
- Reflections on Career Pivots [26:31]
- Jean reflects on her career pivots, stating that she has no regrets about any of them.
- She emphasizes the importance of being willing to make trade-offs and challenging decisions in both career and life.
- Jean adds that there’s always ambiguity when making career decisions, and it’s crucial to bet on oneself and trust the ability to figure things out, even if outcomes are uncertain.
Meet Our Guest
Jean Kang is a trailblazing career coach and seven-times career pivoter paving the path for future program managers.
Jean worked in Project/Program Management and Operations at leading companies such as Meta, Pinterest, Intuit, LinkedIn and now Figma. She is the founder and CEO of Path to PM, a coaching service helping career pivoters and aspiring PM professionals land dream jobs without PMP certifications. On LinkedIn, Jean shares daily valuable project/program management and career tips She is also the creator of a popular course on Maven, helping professionals pivot to Program Management. Her content-packed weekly newsletter and guide provide actionable advice for driving impactful programs and supercharging your career.
You should understand the general scope of a PM’s responsibilities before you set on a path to become oneJean Kang
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Jean on LinkedIn
- Check out Jean’s “Pivot to Program Management” and LinkedIn Learning course “Project Management Power Moves: Leading with Influence“
- Sign up for Jean’s newsletter
Related articles and podcasts:
Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low: Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with The Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head on over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Okay, today we're talking about what kind of work experience you need to land a digital program manager role — specifically tackling that question of whether it's better to have deep, specialized experience, or pockets of varied experience — and how each may require a different approach in landing that dream job.
Joining me today is Jean Kang, a Senior Program Manager at Figma, a LinkedIn Learning and Maven Instructor, and someone who is perhaps better known as the founder and the face of Path To PM — where she helps professionals make the pivot to program management and thrive in their careers.
Jean, thanks for hanging out with us today.
Jean Kang: I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Galen Low: So folks listening, I've been sort of stalking Jean, because Jean, you've been making a real big splash. You're flying the flag for project and program management. You're out there on LinkedIn. You have a weekly newsletter. You are moving and shaking. And you are a very, in my eyes, a respected advocate for the craft.
And I was like, let's get her on the show and let's pick Jean's brain. Because I think you've got a really interesting story and we are going to get into this whole notion of work experience and how it relates to sort of getting either that next program manager role or that first even project coordinator role and how you can weave that story.
But before we get into it, I was just wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about Path To PM and just what motivated you to start doing what you do there.
Jean Kang: So Path To PM is my brand that I created to help just empower and grow the next generation of project leaders in general; program managers, project managers, etc.
And the reason why I created this brand was because about a year ago, people started DMing me about my journey, how I was able to pivot it and work at different companies. And more importantly, they're really interested about how they could also grow in this program management career path.
Galen Low: I love that. People are just like showing up in your DMs being like, Hey, what's your story?
Jean Kang: Exactly. Yeah. Some people are just very vocal. And sometimes like, I look for that. I loved how honest people were and you know, quite frankly, they were shooting their shot and kudos to them.
Galen Low: Fair enough. Absolutely. There's so much we talk about the job seeking process.
And we talk about job boards and everyone's like on Indeed or LinkedIn as a job post. And there's, an ATS that's going to scan your blah, blah, blah. But fundamentally, there is also this very human level of let's go talk to people and figure out, what their job is, how they got their job.
Let's like learn a little bit about somebody's path into their craft or into their current profession. It's not all just writing the right words on a resume and getting an interview. Some of it's just like learning about what it is that you want to do and how to get there. So I think that's super cool.
You alluded to the number of pivots that you've made in your career. And I know it's something you're really not shy about. I believe that I was reading one of your articles about you've made seven career pivots in probably under a decade. And it's like something that kind of underpins the way you teach and talk about project management.
Just wondering what made you choose that as the cornerstone of your story and also your business?
Jean Kang: Yeah, that's a really good point. And the short answer is I didn't come up with that tagline myself. I didn't originally just like, Oh, I had all these pivots count each of the jobs that I had. It was actually from one of those DMs that said, Hey, Jean, you pivoted at so many of these different companies.
Like I've, I don't think I've seen a lot of that. I would love to know your story. So that served as a lightbulb moment for me. Oh, you're right. I did pivot many times in my career. I do have a lot of these company logos under my belt. I should brand that. That should become my narrative. Thanks to the DMs.
Galen Low: Kudos to you for spinning it into a business, really. I love that external perspective, right? Where you're like, oh, do I have that thing? Oh, yeah, I do. Okay and honestly, some people would be like excuse me, you know, I've had a very focused career, thank you very much. Whereas I love that you're able to look at it and be like, yeah, I did pivot a bunch and everyone's path is unique and there's no sort of single journey up the ladder.
And that's something that we ought to talk about and sort of arm people to navigate really in this space. Where I think a lot of the time we're told, Nope, you know, you get job A, that leads you to job B, that leads you to job C, that leads you to job D. You get your gold pen and your watch after 45 years or whatever.
And it's like, I don't think that happens much anymore, and yet, our mindsets haven't really always caught up to the notion that, yeah a lot of roles are very multifaceted, and it's not really that linear, it's not as linear as people make it seem.
Jean Kang: Yep, the career path being linear. I, and I just to add on to that, I agree.
And I think even in just right now in this market, the narrative is shifting just the way people are viewing originally taboo things like being a job hopper was frowned upon a couple of years ago. And I think that's probably why I didn't call myself as one and now I feel empowered to embrace that as part of my identity and having this platform like LinkedIn.
I'm realizing that resonates with a lot of people. There's a lot of people like us who don't have linear career paths and even thinking about our path to project and program management, it isn't linear. Oftentimes you are thrown into the water and you find your way and here we are. So that's my journey as well. And I know that that resonates with a lot of people.
Galen Low: Oh, absolutely. Even in our community, we've got so many, you know, we call ourselves accidental PMs, right? We didn't ask for it. We didn't go to school for it. We were just in the right place - right time, wrong place - wrong time, however you want to look at it.
And someone was like, listen, can you lead this thing? You're good at X or Y and Z. And we said yes. And suddenly we're project managers. But you know, before that, a lot of us had very different path carved out for ourselves, let's just say, but it does happen a lot. And I think, like we're going to get into it, but I think it could be super valuable to have a lot of different experience.
Spoiler alert, that's my position on it. Ah, the end. But I thought maybe we can dig into your journey because you're based in San Fran and I imagine that you had some pretty interesting job options as you, came out of school. But I thought I'd ask what was the first job in your sort of multi pivot journey?
And what's something that you learned from that role that you use in your role today as a program manager, like in the SaaS space?
Jean Kang: So my very first job out of school was entry level sales. My title was a lead development representative. Basically, it's a cold calling role, you cold call businesses, and then you set up demos for account executives to close, so being in that very trenches of sales.
So long story short, I wasn't cut out for sales, but the qualities that helped me, like I still bring those qualities, my first job to my work today are things like resilience, right? You face a lot of rejection, as you can imagine. And, I don't get faced by that anymore.
So I think part of me, why I was able to be successful in my pivots was because I wasn't afraid of rejection and keep going. And that is also very important, not only as a job seeker, but as a program manager, right? If people say, no, you don't take it personally. You keep going, you find other angles, but you don't give up.
And then the other piece would be tenacity and grit. Grit is so important to keep going, just not be phased. And then also this is similar-ish, it's a bit nuance, is embracing ambiguity. In sales, you never know what you're going to get. And also in program management, like you're running projects. You don't know if it's going to be successful.
You don't know who it's going to impact, who you're going to work with, but you can't be scared by that. You have to embrace it and take it by its bull horns. And that's something that has been very just intrinsically motivating for me because I'm the type of person that like, give me whatever, I'll tackle it. I'll get it done. I don't know how, but I'll figure it out.
Galen Low: I love that sort of summary of grit. And yeah, I think it's downplayed. I mean, in a lot of conversations I have for folks talking about project management and like getting into project management, or, maybe they've been doing it for like decades, but you know, there is this notion of that control freak nature of things and being very organized.
And on the surface, it looks like the job is to make sure everything goes to plan, but like that resilience thing, the sort of like tenacity thing, like it really resonates with me because even when I'm hiring a project manager, like I actually don't really want someone who's had like a perfect streak of amazing, perfect projects. Because that doesn't tell me how they deal with adversity and ambiguity and things going wrong and not to plan.
And I think, yeah, I guess that's the like, the crux of project management is that on the surface, it's about making things go to plan, but beneath the surface, it's about pivoting and adapting and changing the plan and, making it all even out in the end, but like the actual journey is quite messy.
So actually, I really like that. I started in sales as well, actually. I'm not cold calling, not lead gen. That's tough. Respect to that. But it does put you in this headspace of dealing with people, trying to achieve a goal, getting rejected, getting treated sometimes quite poorly, and, dusting yourself off and getting up again. So, I really love that. I think that's really cool.
Maybe we can talk a little bit about your journey into project and program management. So, you started in sales, and then eventually, you got into your PM role. But I was wondering, what did you do or say to land a PM job without necessarily having PM experience?
Jean Kang: Ooh, yeah. This is like the million dollar question. So, this happened when I was a client solutions manager. I was a CSM at Pinterest. And when I joined Pinterest, it was still very much so like a mid stage startup, pre-IPO, very scrappy, right? So you're naturally wearing a ton of different hats. So even though I had a title of a CSM role, I was running a lot of different internal team projects, working with different cross functional teams like product and sales.
So I'm glad that it gave me that exposure. Now where the rubber met the road for me was there wasn't a unique opportunity presented by my manager where they said, Hey, this is very pivotal. We have a huge, huge program to launch. We have to work with our biggest clients to migrate over to this new product.
And we just need work to be done, right? It's like, we don't know what exactly it's going to look like, but we need somebody, our team needs to be involved. So naturally I just connected the dots. I was like, this is something that I want to have my name on, my finger on whatever shape, wear form. So I just went for it, raised my hand.
I said, Hey, it naturally, without even asking for permission, I grew myself into this, I don't know, this no title project manager for this project. But naturally, I optimized that experience where I am picking up and using, applying the skills of a project manager from what I had perceived a project manager to do.
Because like you said, I don't have the title, but I have my inclination of what that is. So creating a plan from scratch and getting buy in. Training up a team on new processes, rallying teams, setting up sinks, creating communication plans, measuring out on things, iterating, identifying risks, like all of that stuff happened naturally in that role.
And I had, like, what helped me the most was I grew confidence through that one experience. That was one. That confidence helped me and other people realize that I was really good at that. That people, my manager at that time told me like, Hey, you're a really good program manager. And I was like, Oh, okay, well, thanks for that.
And that gave me the push that I needed to search for that role opportunity there, like at Pinterest, unfortunately, they weren't hiring for that. But it gave me the fire to look externally because I knew that that's the role that I wanted to do. But in short, long story short, the two things that helped me was the confidence, the confidence that I know I can do it.
And two, the way that I'm able to articulate my transferable skills. It says, yeah, I don't have a title. I don't need the title because here's the experience and the learnings about what you said earlier. It wasn't a perfect journey, but I learned along the way. And that's what made me shine, in my opinion, in the interviews and what people cared about.
Galen Low: I love that. You know what? So many of these journeys, a common thread of steel behind a sort of stereotypical project manager origin story. Sometimes it just begins with saying yes to something scary, right? You said it pulled you in. You're like, you weren't even thinking about this as a career, but there was an opportunity to do something.
You wanted your name on it. You raised your hand and you came up with a plan to make a compelling case to have you in the role. And yes, an internal role, but yes, probably one where I'm imagining you're contending with other people who were program managers, like, at Pinterest, other people who, had experience in projects. But the one thing I love is that, you know, I think you're right.
I think that there are a lot of project management related skills that folks are probably already doing in their role and it's easy to like, be blind to it. Do you know what I mean? It's like one of those things where, you know, like the pivot thing you said earlier. You're like, yeah, actually I have done a lot of pivots.
Thanks for pointing that out. Where it's like, sometimes people don't know that they have skills to be a great project or program manager, but to your point, are the types of people who are thinking about what might happen or what might not happen, right? Risk. Are communicating effectively with their teams, having team syncs, and there's just this sort of almost just way of working that really lends itself towards project management and program management, which, I imagine there was probably some learning to do on the job beyond that once she landed it.
Jean Kang: Yes, steep learning curve, but also it's just like, it's that mindset, right? The mindset that to give yourself grace that you might not know everything. And that grit to keep going and figure things out, ask for help when needed and get better, grow on the job and get better.
Galen Low: Those are all such good things. But I love to tie back to you know, what's interesting is what hasn't come up, no one asked me how good are you at, building a RACI chart or like some of the more technical skills, because I think, there is this sort of combination of the soft skills and the grit, right?
And then combine that with just the willingness to sort of take a risk and put yourself out there. Learn as you go, and, just really try and keep up, and that creates this opportunity. And I think, the big sort of piece that I see often is a lot of the time folks probably have been involved in a project.
They might not have been leading it, but they might have experienced it. When I applied for my PMP, it's like, Oh, you have to have like years of experience leading projects. But I think, I mean, at least at the time it was like, what is your experience with projects? Whether you were called a project manager or not.
And I think that was really a really important lens to sort of build confidence to say, Oh yeah, I have been doing stuff like that actually. You know, even in my sales role, I was doing that. Even in my CSN role, I was doing that and sort of using that as part of the sort of conversation or pitch, I guess, of yourself and your skills.
That's super cool. I thought maybe we can dive into some of the tough stuff. It's not really that tough, but you know, I think we've been talking about your journey and I think, I guess arguably, you've been sort of working in a specific space. We're talking about, Pinterest, we're talking about sort of lead gen for a SaaS company.
I know that you have sort of varied experience, but I think some folks might be listening and they're like, yeah, that all seems pretty like related and transferable. You're working for some companies that recognize the companies you've worked for in the past. But, like I was saying in my community, there's lots of folks who have a little bit more varied experience.
Like their journey is, doesn't sort of seem as connected. For example, some folks have held roles as like a Montessori teacher or as bartenders or as electricians. And, they're making that pivot to project management. I'm just wondering, what advice do you have for someone who has a less related career path?
Like, how can they tell that story of how their background is going to make them an awesome PM?
Jean Kang: I think the first exercise I would do is, well, first, you should know what the general scope of a PM's responsibility is, because I think that is really important before you are set on a path to become one.
And then part two to that is thinking about, like, why would you want to become one? Those two things will help you craft your story and your narrative for when people are going to ask you, why are you looking to pivot from X to Y? You need to say something, right? It's not just, Hey, it's a sexy title. It's this company or I want to make more money, which surprisingly, a lot of people, those are some legit answers that you get.
It needs to be much more compelling than that. But when you are set on that path, what I recommend some folks is what you said earlier, it's like, how are you identifying ways to weave in what you know about driving projects in general? It's about adopting the PM frame of mind. One of the people that I helped through my course, she's an incredible force.
She was not a program manager before. She was in the HR recruiting space, but even her, she was able to make that pivot because she was able to open up her mind and realize, wow, I can exhibit these qualities, even though I don't have that title. And I think that's going to be the biggest unlock for you, right?
So teacher, for example, because I know some teachers, they are daunted, but I've seen a lot of successful teachers pivot project management. Tactically, some things that you can do is think about all the times where you had to work with all these different stakeholders, right? Or host events. I'm sure you're doing a lot of that stuff, creating a plan, getting buy in, working with different teams, event planning, coordination, right?
What makes your story compelling is when you can have a measurable outcome, right? When you can articulate the impact that you have. It's not just about how many project plans and RACI charts that you created, but what was the impact and telling that story is, I would say, makes it turnkey in the interview.
That's when people are like, wow, you're right. You would be a really good program manager or project manager. So it's about knowing your why for why you're choosing this path and your strengths, right? It's a lot about it is soft skills versus the technical skills. You can learn how to build a RACI or decision making framework, all of that good stuff.
But it's your ability to how, to know how to work with people to communicate effectively, conflict resolution, stuff like that. And then articulating that story, right? Of all the best accomplishments that you've had that was a project, what makes it a project? What was your role in that? And what's the impact that you had for others? And if you could tie it back to the company's goals and vision, slam dunk.
Galen Low: I love that. I love that. Like the notion of understanding the why of you. Like personally, like we started out with why do you want to have this role? What is driving you there? Yeah, sure. Maybe title, maybe money, but what's beyond that?
Also the why of like, why is this, prospective employer looking for a program manager and what do they want out of it? And I love how it ties back to, the values and goals of that organization. And the marriage of those two things really. And that's what kind of makes it make sense.
Again, it's project management is one of those funny things I find where I think conversations at the superficial level create a whole bunch of myths about what it is. They've gotten their PMP and they, have just written their exam and they still know, the PMBOK inside and out. And they're starting out and they're like, okay, how do I use all the tools like all at once?
And it's not really necessarily about all the tools and techniques, it's about driving that outcome. It's about, you know, for the time being, it's about humans working together to do a thing that's going to require soft skills. It's going to require, an understanding of the business context that you're working within.
And it's going to hinge around your like ability to learn quickly, no matter where you are. Like there's no such thing as knowing everything, I think anymore. And so if you can keep pace and, be learning, then yeah, those are, I agree with you. I think those are like the right ingredients for a good program manager.
Jean Kang: Program/project manager, you know, we're adjacent roles. I agree.
Galen Low: That's fair. Yeah. It's probably worthwhile clarifying that because I know that titling is funny in our world, right? In your role, program management, I think is multiple projects sort of within a related program to drive, a business outcome in the sort of strategic roadmap. Would that be fair to say?
Jean Kang: And honestly, I think that's, yeah, I roll my eyes sometimes when there's just so many different titles. I'm like, you're basically the PM, right? And program managers are an extension of a project. Man, you are driving a project, whether it's a big project or a small project. As long as you're driving a project, you're a PM.
Galen Low: It's actually funny because like in, in some of what you teach and write about, it's like path into project or program management and in some ways also that pivots sometimes from like into program management. And I've always took it to mean like sort of changing that mindset from sort of delivering one project to looking at it as, again, what you said about the impact and okay, well, what does this tie back into?
And I think talking to some folks about what makes a great program manager, it's understanding the business because fundamentally this program is part of an initiative that is meant to achieve some kind of strategic result. And just looking at it as like tasks that need to be done just isn't quite good enough.
But what I love is that it's interesting because I think in the way you describe it, and I think for you actually, it's not that different because I think you came into like project management, understanding that a project is part of a bigger sort of ecosystem. It's not just a project to be delivered.
Anyways, that's how I read into it. One of the courses you have, I feel like, is that pivoting into program management?
Jean Kang: Oh, the one on Maven that I teach, it's Pivot to Program Management. So that one is more about you already are in the role of a project manager, but how might you articulate your transferable skills to make that pivot into a more strategic role like program management?
Galen Low: The whole journey. I wanted to circle around to a tricky question because, I think part of your brand is this notion that you don't necessarily need to have these credentials to get a project manager role. Like for example, can't get a job without a PMP. You did. You're doing great. Tell me your thoughts just overall on like project management and education versus that gritty experience.
Jean Kang: Yeah, this is a spicy topic. The listeners and the community has thoughts around this. My stance is if you want to build up your knowledge and you're really passionate about project management, I think up leveling yourself through education, bootcamp courses, I think they're great for anybody even beyond just the topic of project management.
That being said, if your end goal is you just wanting to be, like, grow into that path, right, and be successful in the role, I don't believe that it's critical to get there. What I think is more important is learning live, applying the skills, and learning on the job. One of the things that I think somebody mentioned to me about the difference between hiring somebody who had all the certifications and then there was somebody else that was a self taught accidental one, right?
And unfortunately the one with the PMP didn't stick around long enough. And it's because that their soft skills were lacking, even though they had all the technical know-how. So all to say, everybody's different, right? You can have both and be wildly successful. And in my case, I index heavily on learning on the go, right?
And I'm fast to learn. And I was able to also treat every project brand new, treat every opportunity at a company brand new. So even though I had methodologies that I know work well, you have to be able to sometimes scrap it because every company and people that you work with operate differently.
And somehow that ended up becoming my secret weapon where I'm not, yeah I will pick and choose and come up with the right formula for that project for my people.
Galen Low: You know, it's funny. We often get asked, what makes digital project management different from project management? And my answer is usually you know, it's like, it's a flavor of project management.
It's not like a whole different thing. But some of the things you just described are things that are thematically always present in conversations I'm having about projects in a digital context. Because again, that notion of not being able to know everything, right? There's technology and like everything in the digital industry, trends are changing so fast, like you can't just know everything.
And because of that, not every project is going to be the same. So you might have to be a bit adaptable and you can't just, be tunnel vision, autopilot on anything because you're probably working with different teams. Suddenly you have a linguist on your team and it doesn't mean you can't use Scrum. But you might have to adapt your approach in one or more ways just with the mix of people that you have and the goals that you have, the technology that you have.
And then of course, the argument zooming out is like, well, isn't that true everywhere? And I'm like, maybe, maybe. But definitely in digital, I find that it's like, that is the skill. Learning fast, like being able to deliver on the soft skills to make sure everyone's in lockstep at pace and then just, yeah, being passionate about the role and like the outcome and the impact.
And I think like those are the things that really sort of tie it all together, not as someone who, has all the recipes up their sleeve for, delivering a great project, but someone who's, willing to read the tea leaves and understand what to do and how to get from A to B, even if it's not a straight line. And I think that's a really good skill.
Jean Kang: I agree. It's probably one of the best skills and it's it becomes a life skill too, how I approach things.
Galen Low: That's what I was going to say, actually. Yeah. I'm like, does this maybe apply beyond project management into everything? And I think the answer is yes right now, right?There's so much to learn, so much to know. Yeah, it's that adaptability that is the asset.
I thought I'd blend out with one last question. Because we've been talking about, your pivots. I'll throw it in the show notes, because I think you're quite open about it, about what your pivots have been in your career.
But I thought I'd ask, if you could do it all again, would you still do all the pivots, or would you try to invest more time into one role, one employer?
Jean Kang: Hopefully this is not a cop out answer. But, the short answer is, yeah, there's not a single pivot I regret, and I'm also the type of person that just doesn't want to regret anything in life because they always serve as a learning moment for me. And just to add additional color that a lot of people may not know is sometimes I had to pivot not because I wanted to, but because I had to, right? I needed a new job.
And sometimes I needed not to have a job because things happen in life, right? We all know that life happens. So that was important for me. And I think it really challenged who I am as a person, my character as well, because you have to be willing to make trade offs, difficult trade offs in your life and in your career.
And that also applies, right? There's life and also projects. You have to make tough trade offs and conversations with yourself, with other people. So, no regrets.
Galen Low: I love it. And not a cop out answer at all in my books. And what I really love about that is it stands to reason, I grew up this way as well, right?
It's like, okay, get a job, stay in that job for as long as you can suffer whatever you must suffer, because that's what's really gonna make it work for you. And, looking at it now, I'm like, yeah, there's so many not even just toxic work situations, but sometimes it's just not a fit.
And you can actually waste a lot of time if your, sort of, sole focus is to just stay in a role and experience as much as you can for, five years, and then you can move on. But, in the interim, if it's really not working for you, then that should be something that you have to sort of look at pivoting out of, or away from.
It's not the be all, end all like to sort of stay in a job for X number of years in order for it to make sense. You can still, you're still learning as long as you can you know, be again, like adaptable, make those tough decisions, then like that in a way is, that's what crafts the journey.
More than just the recipe of go to school, get a job, go to school maybe, get a job maybe stay in that job for, as long as you can. Some of the conventional wisdom isn't necessarily the thing that unlocks at least project management roles today.
Jean Kang: I agree. And one thing that I might add here is with me, I didn't know what my next step would be successful for me or not.
There's always that level of ambiguity. Is it going to work out? Is this the right move? Am I making the right decision? I've had all of those thoughts. And that's probably the same thoughts that are stifling people from considering leaving even toxic jobs or toxic bosses. And so one thing that I want to share there is there's an element of you just betting on yourself, right?
Even if it doesn't work out, are you okay with that? And do you trust yourself to figure it out? And for me, that trust was so big in my life. I always trusted in myself. It might be because I just had great support system around me. So I was not afraid for the worst outcome. And in reality, the worst outcome is probably in our head, not actually what happens in real life, so.
Galen Low: I love how it marries together that ambiguity and like confidence, like being confident that you can enter into ambiguity and trust in yourself that, yeah, you can make it work.
Jean Kang: Exactly. If you think you can, you will figure it out. If you don't think you can, you probably won't because that's the narrative that you're telling yourself. I think mindset just has a huge, plays a huge part in how things pan out.
Galen Low: I love that. That PM mindset.
Awesome. Jean, thank you so much for hanging out with us today. This has been a lot of fun. Before we say goodbye, how can folks learn more about you and do you have any interesting projects on the go that you wanted to share?
Jean Kang: I love this question. So I'm very active on LinkedIn, so please feel free to follow, connect with me, slide into my DMs, y'all are welcome. And recently I launched a brand new LinkedIn Learning course. It's for anybody who manages a project. You don't need the special title. And this one really harps on how you can become an effective project leader by indexing on your soft skills. So it's about leading influence.
Galen Low: Okay. Amazing. I will grab the link from you. I'll put it in the show notes as well. I might check it out. I love that notion. That's a whole different episode, like on itself. So I may hit you up and have you back, but that is exciting. And yes, I'll add a link to your LinkedIn as well. And we'll have some folks slide into your DMs asking about your pivots.
Jean Kang: Awesome. This was fun. Thank you for having me.
Galen Low: Thanks for being here.
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Until next time, thanks for listening.