As our company grows across our different offices, we aim to share the stories that showcase the growth and leadership happening within Next Jump, as well as moments of gratitude, humility, bravery, and so on. This project, which we on the Blog Team call Humans of Next Jump, is inspired by the photography blog by Brandon Stanton called Humans of New York, which profiles the rich diversity and deeply resonant stories of New York’s melting pot of people. We at Next Jump count ourselves lucky to work with an equally vibrant and dynamic group of people.
We had a chance to talk to Xuelan, the lead engineer for the Travel product category, about her growth in recent months.
How did you feel coming out getting such positive feedback after your 10xFactor presentation in May?
I felt like it was unexpected, I didn’t expect the highest score from Charlie – yayyy! [aside: we had to interrupt Xuelan here to give her a high-five] Actually, I prepared a lot for that, and a lot of people helped me with the presentation, to show the core of the growth. I felt happy and more confident for sure, but I also felt it was stressful. It’s just like if you get a high score, and you want to keep at that level or go beyond. Otherwise you can very easily drop back. I don’t know if that’s just my personality, I’m going to feel very guilty if I let somebody down, especially if they truly care about if you’re doing well or not. If I’m not doing well or I don’t meet their expectations, that’s why I felt stressed.
How has the increased visibility and mentoring helped you?
I got more exposed to people like Tom (Next Jump’s Chief of Engineering) and Albert (SVP of Software Engineering), and they’ve started mentoring me. I think they – I’m not sure if that’s too arrogant – they got to know that I can grow even further. They’ve put their energy in mentoring me, and in the travel team. Also, it’s a good time, because travel is picking up and it’s a big part of revenue for the company. Next Jump believes that if we grow the person (leading the team), we can grow the product as well. It’s not like they’re just thinking about product product product, but they’re thinking about the people as well. To be honest, this was pretty stressful – they have high expectations, and I’ve never worked with Tom and Albert. But I do think this is very helpful for me – I cannot even believe that in this short period, I’ve felt myself grow at a very fast speed.
What sort of things are you working on – public speaking, confidence, leadership within your team?
All of those things. Public speaking, for sure. I’ve had to present in front of the company every week. This is different than 10X, because for this, every week you have to work on things and sometimes I won’t get an update until the last minute. There’s no way to practice. It feels different, maybe because it’s in Mr. Incredibles and standing there, it feels like more people are staring at you and you can see all the offices. Oh my god, I was so nervous. One time I was editing the presentation one minute before the meeting! But, if you keep doing it, that’s the point: it pushes you. You have to improve. If I do it good once, I can say I’m lucky, or I prepared a lot, but if I want to always do it well, every week, that means you have to improve it from your bones, you have to be really good at it. Otherwise, it won’t work.
Have you seen this changing your relationship with others at Next Jump?
Actually, yes. Before 10X, I wasn’t anybody’s manager, so the reporting structure changed. Another thing, Tom and Albert, and also Lokeya (who heads Next Jump’s revenue initiatives), are helping me, because this is my first time leading a team. They were asking me about my backhand, and I told them – “I think my backhand is that I don’t trust my team.” If there’s an emergency, I’m holding it up myself – I just didn’t know if my team could deliver. And my mentors asked me back: “Maybe it’s because your team doesn’t trust you, because you didn’t give them the chance to take responsibility.” That hurt deeply, to hear that my team maybe doesn’t trust me. But it’s very helpful that they pointed it out. That’s when I went back and reflected. My intent was to make sure the product is the best, but to other people, maybe they would think instead that you just don’t want to share the credit. That’s not what I was thinking, but it makes sense because if you don’t tell your team, they could easily misunderstand. So I’m trying to be more open with my team. Following that, we started with having product owners. I just told the entire company that Eddie is for hotels, Gowri is for cars, and Johnny is for flights – and everybody should take responsibility for their own product. If hotels are broken, I can see that Eddie is stepping up and responding to get things fixed. I’m starting to build confidence with the team, and I think they are too.
Before that, I was always feeling overwhelmed. Now, I feel like they can grow and I can grow as well. Because I’m also freeing myself from fixing bugs, so I can grow on the business side, maybe with the numbers or with helping on the marketing. I just recognize the concept that you can’t win by yourself, only on a team.
Editor’s note: After the interview, Xuelan explicitly made a point to emphasize the role that Rajan, Next Jump’s Head of Finance, has played as a mentor to her. “Rajan has helped round out my perspective on my job, with the business side. He and Rajbir helped me immensely with my 10X presentation, but also after every Monday morning meeting, he has given me feedback and helped me get better.” Immediately after, we ran into Rajan in the hallway and Xuelan had the biggest smile on her face.