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Best Advice From AAPI Leaders

May 26, 2022

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, we turned to founders and leaders in GGV’s portfolio (and our employees) to share some of the advice that not only influenced their trajectories but also kept them going. 

From taking risks to learning how to rebound from mistakes, check out the best advice they’ve ever received—and their hopes for the next generation:

Pick a direction that you care about

Eric Wu, CEO at Opendoor
Schools attended: University of Arizona
Advice for the next generation: Knowledge, context, and networks compound over time so pick a direction you care deeply about and be patient enough to let that compound over time. 

Don’t worry about finding the perfect job 

Laura Lewis, General Counsel at StockX
Hometown: Palo Alto, CA
Schools attended: New York University, NYU School of Law
Advice for the next generation: Don’t worry about finding the perfect or dream job right away. Concentrate first on opportunities for learning skills, breaking into your desired industry, and working with talented people. 

When looking for jobs, remember that at the end of the day, the interviewer is deciding whether they want to work with you on a daily basis. Qualifications are increasingly important as you get more senior, but in the beginning, make sure you convey that you not only have good judgment but also a personality!   

Don't feel like you need to reach a level or role by a certain time frame

Nancy Xiao, CEO at Mason
Hometown: Seattle, WA
School attended: University of Michigan
Advice for the next generation: Stay curious! This is an exciting time for you to branch out, experiment, and try new skills or roles. Careers are a long marathon, not a sprint. Be proactive about creating your own journey. Don't feel like you need to be at a certain level or role by a certain time frame—focus on figuring out what brings you energy, pinpointing what kinds of people you thrive with, and spending time with people who can help you grow. The rest, like titles and opportunities, will follow.  

Give yourself the chance to take risks

Eric Wei, Co-founder & Co-CEO at Karat Financial
Hometown: Moorestown, NJ
School attended: Harvard University
Best advice I’ve ever received: Try to align your head and heart as much as possible. So when you feel you want to do something, don’t get in the way of yourself by overthinking it.

Advice for the next generation: No one really knows what’s going to work for you—so give yourself the chance (and forgiveness) to take risks.

If you don’t ask, they don’t know

Ruth Wang, Head of Consumer at Snappy
Hometown: Jinan, Shandong, China
Schools attended: Cornell University, Harvard Business School
Best advice I've ever received: "Don't wait for the next opportunity or promotion to come to you by just keeping your heads down and doing hard work. Tell people your goals and ambitions, and ask them for guidance and help. If you don't ask, they don't know." 

This advice I received earlier in my career particularly applies to Asian women—there have been implicit biases against Asian women being docile hard workers rather than leaders in the workplace. It's important to advocate for yourself and challenge the stereotypes.  

Find people who you really respect 

Kurtis Lin, Co-founder & CEO at Pinwheel
Hometown: Cupertino, CA
School attended: UCLA
Advice for the next generation: I owe my entire career to the mentors who offered their valuable time to teach me, counsel me, and open doors for me. Find people who you really respect and want to be like, and offer to help them with whatever they're working on or provide support in whatever way you can. Build and invest in those relationships, and they’ll pay off more than you’ll ever know in the long run. 

Go forth and set the world on fire

Hien Kaplan, Co-founder at Function of Beauty
Hometown: Coshocton, OH
Schools attended: University of Houston, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Best advice I’ve ever received: "Go forth and set the world on fire."

Don't let perfection get in your way 

Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital
Born in Taipei, grew up in LA
Schools attended: Stanford University, MIT Sloan School of Management
Advice for the next generation: Don't let perfectionism hinder your ability to make decisions. Don’t try to ace every test in front of you, but think several steps ahead to where the puck is going. Learn to synthesize all the information you have to make the best decision available, even if it’s not perfect. You can iterate, improve, and be more prepared with each step. 

Frame decisions in terms of trade-offs. Scenario planning the impact of a key decision is also integral to good leadership. If someone disagrees with your idea, don’t jump in to defend yourself immediately. Step back, and ask thoughtful questions to understand where they’re coming from. What are their assumptions and past experiences that led them to have that perspective?

Own the decisions that you do make, and don’t be afraid to admit mistakes or ask for help and advice afterwards. Being self-reflective is a sign of strength, confidence, and emotional maturity and will win you allies. Turn your superiors and more senior colleagues into your mentors. When there’s mutual trust and goodwill coupled with real-time communication, you can turbocharge your working relationships.

Create your own personal board of advisors

Robin Li, Investor at GGV Capital
Hometowns: Hong Kong and East Brunswick, NJ
Schools attended: Rutgers University, Hunter College, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Best advice I’ve ever received: Just as a company has a board of directors, you should also have your own personal board. Create your own group of advisors who can help give you perspective and advice, and check in with them a few times a year. Add people to it over time as you progress. I only recently started this, but it’s super helpful!

Trust that no one path is right for you 

Jessie Hao, Director, Investor Relations at GGV Capital
Hometown: Palo Alto, CA
Schools attended: Carleton College
Advice for the next generation: As a liberal arts grad, I started off thinking my career had to be limited to just the “normal English major path.” But don’t be afraid to stay open-minded to a whole range of careers (and trust that no one path is right for you). I never thought in a million years I’d be in the financial industry, let alone VC. I’ve learned over time that no one is going to shortchange your value-add unless you do it to yourself. 

Trust that you have a lot to offer beyond just technical skills—leverage your thoughtfulness, willingness to learn, and ability to listen and extend empathy.

Start off hungry

Justin Wu, Senior IT Manager at GGV Capital
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Schools attended: UC Davis, DeVry University
Advice for the next generation: Start off hungry, and try to take on as much as you can. At this early stage, you can soak up information like a sponge, and learn in an unbiased fashion. Also, find role models and mentors early on in your career who can help you.

Focus on building relationships and developing your soft skills 

Norman Ho, Senior Legal Counsel at GGV Capital
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Schools attended: San Jose State University, Santa Clara University School of Law
Advice for the next generation: Working hard is important but also important (if not equally important) are factors like networking, building relationships, developing your soft skills, etc. It can be easy (and even natural for some) to put their head down and work hard, but those other factors can open doors and result in opportunities—actively focus on those other factors as well.

Look for an influential mentor 

Alice Xu, Associate CFO at GGV Capital
Hometowns: Nashville, TN and San Mateo, CA
Schools attended: University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business
Advice for the next generation: Besides how well you do your job and how skilled you are, look for an influential mentor within your company. This person can help identify opportunities for advancement, guide you through challenges, advocate for you, and help you build relationships—all of which will pave the way for success in your career.

Never underestimate the power of consistency and hard work

Kavya Khurana, Analyst at GGV Capital
Hometown: Punjab, India
Schools attended: Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi
Advice for the next generation: Keep an open mind, and be hungry for knowledge. Be humble. Whether it’s learning about a sector or completing a task, try to absorb as much knowledge as possible and try different avenues of work. Every experience early on will be helpful in shaping up your career. Having the right role models and people to look up to can really help you through the journey.

Be your authentic self, and you’ll have no competition

Dimitra Taslim (林新祥), Vice President at GGV Capital
Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia
Schools attended: London School of Economics, Harvard Business School
Best advice I’ve ever received: Be your authentic self, and you’ll have no competition. I used to worry about being mediocre in a world with billions of people. How can I possibly set myself apart? How can I make my mark in the world? Trying to figure this out was exhausting and tiring. I worried about competition and comparisons. 

Figure out who you are, and align with yourself every single day. When you know who you are, you can be wiser about your dreams, your expectations, and your strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths, and surround yourself with people who can plug your weaknesses. Once you figure out your “flow,” never swim against the current (unless you have a very good reason to). 

Don’t be afraid to fail

Yatine Lee, Associate Partner, Investor Relations at GGV Capital
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
School attended: University of California, Berkeley
Advice for the next generation: Don’t be afraid to fail. I grew up in a very conservative Asian household where I was expected to do everything perfectly. Self-worth is not based on being perfect or always having the right answers. My biggest accomplishments in life have come from my mistakes and how I choose to learn, iterate, and improve myself.

Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses

Raymond Wang, VP, Data Analytics at GGV Capital
Hometowns: Shanghai, China and Atlanta, GA
Schools attended: Georgia Tech, Stanford University
Advice for the next generation: Discover your strengths, and nurture them. Find jobs where you can maximize these strengths and make them your superpower.