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#ItStartsWithConversation: On Mentorship, Following Your Passions and Finding Your Community

Posted in:  Highspot News

Conversations are powerful; they are how we connect, learn and grow. As we honour Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked three Highspot employees to share stories of the conversations that have changed their lives, from finding your mentors to following your passions.

“All I needed was one person to believe in me. I was lucky enough to get two.”

Being the firstborn child of immigrant parents, immediately, the bar was set high.  Being the firstborn child to graduate from college was not only expected but expected to be done in the time allotted of four years with a plan set for the future. The tricky part was no one actually knew what this meant.

My senior year of college, one of the classes I needed to take in order to graduate was full. I was in panic mode, hoping that the professor would have the heart to add one more student to his class. Dr. Roesch walked in with a t-shirt, shorts and sandals. He wasn’t the typical professor, he was cool and relaxed. I shyly thanked him for adding me to his popular stats class and asked to talk with him during office hours.

The very first office hour I ever went to in all my time in college was a pivotal moment in my life. I asked him questions about what I can do with this degree, what were my options and told him what this would mean to my parents. He understood quickly and without judgment and created a plan that I could follow to fruition. He offered me a research position while I studied for my GREs. A year after graduation, I received a call from another professor, Dr. Christensen, to personally accept me into their Masters’s program.

I went to continue my doctoral studies at the University of Nebraska. My parents couldn’t believe I was leaving San Diego for Nebraska – neither could I! At times, I wanted to give up completely and I couldn’t handle the -20F winters. Dr. Roesch and Dr. Christensen supported me through it all. Their expectations for me were only to become the person they always knew me to be: a confident student with worthy things to say, a talented researcher with great ideas and a capable human being.

When I graduated, they never asked me what was next. They were not disappointed in my decision to put motherhood first. They were not disappointed I didn’t go into academia. They were just so proud and amazed at what I could actually do.

Twenty years later, we send pictures of our kids and wonder how we’re getting so old. They have given me a gift of a lifetime, one that I carry in my pocket as I make my way through my tech journey. All I needed was one person to believe in me. I was lucky enough to get two.

– Kate Mangubat, Software Development Engineer

“It became another goal of mine to help create opportunities for people.”

I have always been driven to follow my passions. In the early 90s, when the internet had just arrived in India, I was introduced to Microsoft’s technology and was hooked. I promised myself that I would own one stock in Microsoft before I died. At that time, I didn’t know what a stock was, nor that you needed to be in the US to buy one. But I remember telling close friends and family about my dream.

I pursued it aggressively. But in following that passion, I discovered another: helping people solve problems. As an intern, I had the opportunity to work both in engineering and support. I realised that I loved interacting with people, problem-solving and challenges. The Support function allowed me to do all three things, so I continued to grow my career in that direction. And yes, I did achieve my first dream of working at Microsoft and owning the stock. But my story wasn’t over yet.

As I got deeper into the support world, I realised that this function has a problem with attrition. I’ve worked on teams where attrition was 100% – which means whole teams are turning over. I saw many people leave support not because they don’t like the work but because they don’t see a future for themselves. It became another goal of mine to help create opportunities for people within the team.

At Highspot, I get to marry these three passions: tech, helping others and solving problems. We are facilitating career growth, providing paths for people to move into new roles and creating opportunities within the support organisation so that they have the chance to pursue their goals – just like I did.

– Abhijit Kini, Head of Customer Support

“The opportunity to hear and learn from my community at work has been invaluable.”

My journey as a woman and as an Asian American has been one of self-discovery but also of representation. In college, I decided to minor in diversity studies, specifically Asian-American studies. Within that class, I was able to learn about my identity and culture, as a fourth-generation Japanese American and second-generation Chinese Canadian. It also exposed me to the vast amount of other cultures that exist within the identity of Asian or Asian American and made an impact on my perception and value of self now. In short, it solidified the importance of representation for me.

At work, I’ve seen our Asian community grow and it’s definitely impacted my experience. I’ve been able to see people who have similar identities as me in positions of leadership. Our employee resource group can gather to talk about current issues, history and take action to support our community and other marginalised communities. But at the same time, we can have casual conversations, where we share our stories, or just talk about food. It’s that one place where you can feel safe and comfortable.

The opportunity to hear and learn from my community at work has been invaluable – and it’s something everybody deserves to have, wherever they are.

– Staci Kato, Program Manager, Recruiting Operations

It Starts with Conversation

What conversations have impacted your life? Share your story with us on social media using the hashtag #ItStartsWithConversation – and be sure to check back for more stories from our Highspot team.