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Jane Guan, Biz Dev Manager at Universe

Natalie

Jane launched her first company before the age of 19, creating artisan baked goods and attracting clients like TedX. She later interned at Ladies Learning Code in Toronto and completed her Bachelor of Commerce degree abroad in Europe.

Currently, she works for Universe, a powerful event ticketing platform, in San Francisco. She is passionate about code, women in tech, and startups. She also volunteers with Girl Develop It SF on their marketing and social media initiatives.

In her spare time, she creates videos, blogs, codes, and designs. You can check out some of it on www.janedays.com.

Which quote do you look to when you need an extra push?

“You have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyonce”

I feel like we often get caught up in how much time we have to be able to accomplish things. When I look at everything Beyonce appears to do with the same amount of time, I’m able to take a step back and start prioritizing things.

Whose story inspires you to take action?

I listen to Oprah Winfrey’s interview at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DlrqeWrczs&feature=youtu.be)

She talks about her career and all the moments she had where she thought “I need to get out of my current situation” and began “doing the work”, as she calls it, to ultimately move toward her true calling.I find so many points in her talk that I relate to, especially when she speaks about all the things that went through her head when she first started out in her career and how important it is to be forward-thinking.

What's the last book you read that really connected with you?

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng. Lydia Lee, the prized daughter of a mixed race Chinese-American family’s body is found drowned in a lake. The story is based in 1977 in Ohio, and the family begins quietly confronting the things they’ve left unsaid for years to begin understanding why Lydia is dead. It also delves into themes of racism, mental health, and sexism in the book that resounded heavily with me.

There are rarely books or movies written about Asian-American families and all of the unique stories or struggles that they go through when acclimating to American culture. As a Chinese-Canadian, so many of the family’s memories and stories sounded like my own. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking book and it makes you want to tell everything you’ve kept quiet to the people you love.

Favourite tools?

We use Yesware at work, a paid email productivity tool, that I’m obsessed with. I use it to track views on my emails, schedule reminders to follow-up, and to send out mail merges. It’s such a time saver and keeps you on top of your work! Boomerang is a free tool that also has some of these features as well!

I also love Airtable. It’s basically Google Sheets 2.0. They have tons of pre-made templates to help you track Projects, your book catalog, your sales CRM, and event planning. You can change fields into checkboxes, multi-select options, or even attach files to help you stay on top of your project. I’ve been using it for work (to track prospects), for keeping track of Girl Develop It events and social media posts, and also for keeping track of all the books I’ve read this year!

How do you power through problems? Tips for battling procrastination?

Honestly, I find motivation and problem-solving to be a holistic thing. When I am surrounded by people who motivate me, go to a job that I feel empowered in, and have personal projects that makes me want to work when I get home, I am so on top of my to-dos. When my motivation dwindles at work and I begin feeling discouraged or overwhelmed by personal projects, crossing off my to-dos take a back seat.

When I start taking care of myself again, so that might mean mentally or physically, I find that I start problem-solving more clearly and setting aside time to get through my to-dos. To be totally transparent, I’ve had lower motivation lately and the thing that’s been kicking me back into gear is going to boxing regularly. It’s extremely empowering and I feel ready to get through all my tasks afterward.

How do you share the load? Delegation? Asking for help?

I think this can also be prefaced by knowing what your maximum load is. Too often we believe that we should keep taking on work because we can handle it or because we’re out to please someone else. Instead, keep your list of priorities short and be transparent about what’s on your plate. I actually watched a webinar recently on learning how to turn down work in a way where you’ll still be respected. For example, instead of saying “I’ve got a lot on my plate right now so I can’t take this on”, phrase it as “Sure, I’m still working on Assignment A that you gave me on Monday, so if you’re up for it, I can take on Assignment B but I’ll need to push the Assignment A deadline to next week. Does that work for you?” Based on that answer, you’ll either be able to turn down the assignment or be able to manage the two in a realistic manner. Be transparent about what you can do and deadlines that make sense.

In terms of sharing the load, I love help. I try to solicit as much feedback as I can and do brainstorming sessions with people who are working through similar problems. I think being afraid of help or feedback is a weakness because you’ll never know what’s wrong with your current idea nor how to improve it.

Which spaces enable your creativity?

My house, especially on a Sunday, is my most creative place. My roommates and I lucked out with finding a beautiful house with a large and well-maintained garden. Our balcony overlooks palm trees, bamboo, and other big leafy greens.I love sitting in my living room with our record player on, the back door open and the breeze flowing in, and working away. On Sundays, all my roommates are home and they’re usually all hard at work as well. We end up with this perfect balance of music, brainstorms, and ideas flowing. That’s when I can work forever.

How do you destress?

I take Jane Days! I give myself some time off to do the things that I want. For example, I’ll go to boxing, continue working on a painting, cook a huge meal, or go outside of San Francisco for some fresh air and beautiful scenery. I also take a lot of time to clean my house on Sundays. A decluttered home is a decluttered life, right?

What’s something you’ve done that you were told couldn't be done?

I think a lot of people who go through business school are faced with a resoundingly 2D perspective of what you should do with your career. There were clear career paths that meant success - finance, accounting, consulting, or marketing at a CPG company. I was felt really suffocated in this model and never looked at all of the unique opportunities outside of these designated fields and also outside of Toronto.

I think by going on exchange to Scotland for my final year of my undergrad, I felt both rebellious and free. Not many people in my business school went on exchange since you’d miss the chance to be recruited on campus for a full-time role after graduation. I knew I wasn’t drawn to any of the companies that recruited and my mental health wasn’t the best.

In Scotland, I got to spend a lot of time with myself trying to figure out what companies and organizations I was actually drawn to. I realized that being so far away from Toronto was really comforting and that I didn’t have to limit my career options to Toronto. I looked for startup roles everywhere and ended up getting this job in San Francisco. I think the route was more unconventional, and not necessarily something I was told couldn’t be done, but the lesson here is that if being unconventional feels right to you, go for it!