YPDaily: Karen Lin

Karen Lin left a comfortable job at Microsoft in Seattle to pursue a career that’s more fulfilling back home in Toronto. She now works as a senior developer at Bell Media and has plenty of insightful advice for other young professionals in today’s YPDaily…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am a senior developer working at Bell Media. I am responsible for digitizing the contents for all brand channels such as CTV, CTVNews, TSN, MuchMusic, Discovery, Comedy, etc. I am also a local union representative for CEP Local 723.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I started working for Bell Media because I wanted to try something different, something that is closely related to creative art. I started working for Microsoft soon after graduation and climbed my way up there. It is one of the best places to hone your skills if you are a Comp Sci or Comp Eng grad. I was doing really well at MS, getting really great results in my performance reviews. However, gradually, I started feeling my work has become a routine. It was neither fun nor challenging. It was more like me figuring out how to best adapt to the corporate system. I know, sounds like I am whining, but sometimes, it does take some guts to leave a comfort spot. I left Microsoft shortly after I got promoted because I believe there are bigger and better things I want in my career and life. I chose Bell Media because it is a little bit different than the typical mega IT corporations I was used to. I get a chance to work with so many talented people who have incredibly creative minds, ranging from our web designers to web producers and artists. We get together and discuss what we want to put on a site and how we want to present it to our viewers. That is icing on top of a great sundae. And besides, I get to see celebrities WITHOUT makeup. What gets better? I am being facetious of course.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of what I do is that I know the fruit of my labour is viewed by millions across Canada, if not billions around the world. That is pretty amazing to me, at the very least. I have to say the most challenging part of my job so far is to work with people who come from entirely different backgrounds than I do. I work with people who are writers, artists. And by default, they usually have a very strong personality, which is great. But sometimes, it does make communication a little bit more difficult. So my goal has always been to covey my ideas while making others feel that they have been heard. I am a true believer of active communication. No matter where you are, whom you work for, if you want to do well you have to be able to communicate with people around you. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Are you kidding me? This is like a standard interview question nobody answers honestly! I will try my best here. I hope in 5 years I am still edgy, sharp and, most importantly, funny. Humour is extremely important to me. One of my friends told me if I ever get kidnapped, I will try my best to crack up the perpetrator rather than negotiate a ransom. I am still enjoying the technology sector. I really like what I do now. And I hope to serve Bell Media when you talk to me in 5 years, too. Professionally, I don’t see myself changing career paths, although I might consider stand up comedy as a side job. 

What does success look like to you?
Success means different things to different people. To me, it is never about how much money I make, what kind of car(s) I drive or how far up the corporate ladder I have climbed. Success is about exploring new ideas, new things in life and not afraid leaving your comfort zone once in a while. Success is about finding passion in life. You have to be passionate about at least one thing in life. If it is getting up in the morning and counting your money, so be it. But at least you have to love something; otherwise, what do you have going for you? Success is also about breaking stereotypes. People seem to have a very negative image of women who work in the tech sector. They think we wear thick glasses, come to work in slacks, don’t know how to handle people, and, worst of all, they think we hide behind a desk all day. I hope more women in our industry will be willing to embrace our femininity and intelligence at the same time and hence prove those two qualities ARE NOT mutually exclusive. You can LOVE science and math while still looking fabulous. It is not a crime. 

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
My most memorable milestone in my career has to be when I have decided to come back to Toronto from Seattle. It was not an easy decision. Some of my friends didn’t really understand why I would leave Microsoft after working there for a long time. But what can I say? Home is where the heart is. Sometimes when you need a change in your career or life, you have to be able to take action and make that happen.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I am going to quote Joan Rivers, one of my all time favourite comedians. And this is what I tell our interns who are finishing up at Bell Media and looking for full-time jobs:

“Second Choice, Just Fine. Get Your Foot In That Damn Door First|.” Today’s job market is so tight because of the horrible economic situation globally. A lot of companies aren’t willing to hire young grads full-time. So what? Do contract work, do freelance work, even volunteer – anything that is going to help you build that first job experience on your resume. Don’t like your first job? That is OK, hang in there. Because tenacity pays off. Use that first job, no matter how unpleasant, as a stepping stone. After you feel you have learned enough and can do better, move on!

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I used to be a sponsor for World Vision. But in recent years, I have decided to shift my focus locally. I am a big supporter of the Toronto Public Library. It is not a charity, but I donate a lot of time, money and books. I believe having access to a comprehensive library system is so crucial to our children. We owe it to them.

What to you is notable?
Charm. It includes audacity, compassion, confidence, intelligence and most importantly humility.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Android of course! I am an avid supporter of the open source community. It is an inexpensive way to get people, especially young people, involved without paying a leg and arm.