• CNgai

12 Key Insights from my first 12 Months at PayPal

In honor of my 1 Year Anniversary at PayPal and getting to experience what it's like working in the "real world" after college, I wanted to take a moment and outline 12 key insights that I've gathered while working. While these key insights are applicable for everyone, I'm finding that it's also just as important to a share each personal moment that sparked each insight. I'm a huge proponent of bringing all of yourself to work because there's so many different experiences that we can each pull from to bring creativity and many different schools of thought.

1. Ask questions. Lots of them.

Whenever a student has asked me what it's like to work on a team of software engineers, I mention that each engineer that I've had the pleasure of working with is always super helpful and that with any question you have, if they don't have the answer, they'll find someone who does. I got to experience this during my internship and when I started working, I worked on a front-end team the first half of the year (July to December '19) that was mainly remote and am currently working in a co-located back-end team starting in January. With the remote team, I was comfortable asking questions via Slack. With the co-located team, over time I became more comfortable asking questions in-person. Having to ask questions in person pushed me out of my comfort zone and with the assurance of the team. they reinforced the idea that no question is a dumb question.

2. Create a habit of continuous learning.

During the first half of the year, I was on the Credit User Experience team working in Javascript (React and Node). Despite having previous internship experience in full stack engineering, there were still a lot of different tools that I needed to learn such as GraphQL, Jenkins, and Jest. I'm fortunate that PayPal has a partnership with LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and O'Reilly Safari. These partnerships allowed me to dive into the plethora of resources offered and indulge in my curiosity of learning how all of these tools work with each other.

3. Take a moment to acknowledge whomever you walk by in the office.

It can be as simple as "Hi" or a "Hey Joe!" This is a great opportunity to strike up a conversation and even learn more about the different areas within your work. A moment that stands out in memory is when I said Hi to an employee who works on the Issuance team and is the main leader of the Chinese community in our Scottsdale (SCF) office. Through that conversation, I was able to get connected with the SCF Chinese community and take part in setting up the fun Chinese New Year event. During the event, I even got to lead a fun site activity which involved transferring marshmallows, cheerios, and M&Ms from one bowl to another.

4. Build confidence by taking a public speaking course.

When there's numerous new things to learn and master, I found myself being less confident the more that I didn't know. During the first month, I saw my teammate reading a book titled, "How to Win Friends and Influence People". I asked him what the book was about and he mentioned that he was taking the Dale Carnegie course to improve his public speaking and leadership skills. I thought this was a great opportunity and signed up for the next session which ran from October to December '19. I read in The Quick & East Way to Effective Speaking book that no one can tell your story better than you. This along with the support that the class exuded gave me that extra boost of confidence that I needed in order to share different aspects of my life ranging from a defining moment to a person who’s inspired me and has shaped me into who I am today. As a cohort, we all became closer as we connected with one and other each session. With all of the fascinating and unique tales that were shared, I realized that when given the space, everyone has an inspiring story to share.

5. Provide suggestions when the moment strikes.

With the Credit services that my team supports, we have dedicated Live Support team member who answers questions that may come up in our help channels, triages 4xx and 5xx HTTP status errors that were returned either from our service or any downstream services, and handles other miscellaneous tasks that may come up during the sprint. Being a part of the Live Support rotation was one of the goals that my manager and I had set for the beginning of the year. My opportunity came when a teammate who was going to be next on the rotation was taking time off and there were only two other teammates who have been in rotation. Being on Live Support exposed me to other components that interact with ours as well as providing suggestions and solutions for triaging.

6. Take the initiative.

PayPal has an RCG program for Recent College Graduates where you get to take part in fun events and dinners organized by the RCG Committee. One of my teammates was on the committee and asked me to attend on his behalf an RCG Meetup that discussed organizing activities such as 1:1 RCG Coffee Hangouts, board game hour, and more. I used to organize and host birthday parties and dance team hangouts and saw this as an opportunity to continue developing my organizational skills. I also got join in on the 1:1 RCG Coffee Hangouts and get to know a couple of RCGs in San Jose before finally meeting them in person during the RCG summit in November '19. These moments inspired me to join the Scottsdale RCG Committee and become a mentor for the future RCGs. In addition, I also got to share my RCG journey at the RCG Ask Me Anything event in July '20 for students who interested in joining PayPal.

7. Soak in both the positive and constructive feedback.

Between the code reviews and 1:1s with my manager, I've received a lot of positive feedback as well as constructive feedback. Naturally, I wanted to continue improving and so I only focused on the constructive feedback. In my free time, I took a dance class from an instructor who encouraged us to take in the positive feedback and celebrate these small moments rather than only look for the constructive feedback. I found this mental management tip to be quite helpful and gave equal value to the small moments where I did something that can be repeated beneficially.

8. Find ways to give back to the community.

Paypal encourages us to take the time to volunteer and give back to our community. In September '19, PayPal hosted a PayPal Day at ASU where students got to listen to RCGs speak about their experience and technical talks as well as speak with PayPal employees regarding internships and full-time jobs. Since I had done an internship and capstone with PayPal and am currently an RCG, I thought this was a great way to give back to the community and share about my internship and RCG journey. After getting to speak with over a hundred students and hear how they got to where they are today, that day became a full circle moment for me that left me feeling grateful to work at PayPal.

9. Integrate interdisciplinary thinking.

For exercise, I enjoy taking dance classes in the style of Contemporary and Street Jazz. Lately, I've been taking dance classes for commercial and film that have the class structure of a warm up, learning 45 seconds to 1 min of choreography, and then a videographer films groups or solos dancing the choreography. This class structure simulates a dance audition where you would learn choreography and then audition in groups. With filming and auditions, there's the pressure of performing the choreography and not messing up. During quarantine, I've gotten the opportunity to learn remotely from instructors world-wide. I took a class from Broadway Dance Center instructor and he gave us this mental management tip: "Fear disjoints how you learn. When you're picturing someone else you admire getting the job, the fear manifests and you miss picturing yourself getting the job." I can apply this tip in my job in the sense that when encountering an unknown issue or software bug, instead of letting fear manifest, I can picture myself finding a solution. There is also another saying in dance that "every day is an audition" because you never know when the opportunity will present itself. I also apply this saying to my work as a means of building a strong work ethic. One can never be prepared enough and even though we may make mistakes, we can grow from them.

10. Seek ways to take on more responsibility.

As I've gotten to talk with more students who are seeking internships and full-time offers, I've carved out the time to hold 30 min 1:1s and share what it's like to work at PayPal. I'm fascinated by each person's story and want to help them in any way that I can to further their journey. Due to the pandemic, internships at PayPal were held remotely. The University Programs team came up with an RCG-Intern Buddy program so that the interns can have another point of contact for any questions regarding PayPal, post-college, etc. I signed up to be a buddy/mentor to two interns and throughout this program. I've realized that there's so much that we can learn from each other.

While I've also had the opportunity to share my journey, I've found my 1:1s with leaders just as beneficial. For example, in a 1:1 with my manager, she mentioned that if there isn't an opportunity, she will go out of her way to create one. I found this very empowering because it shows just how much my manager gives into cultivating my growth at PayPal.

11. Lead with gratitude.

During my morning commute, one of the podcasts that I listen to is How to Be Awesome at Your Job. One of the episodes was on what qualities make a Peer to Peer leader. The quality that stuck out to me is "leading with gratitude" because it's something that we can all do that doesn't require being in a position of authority. By taking the time to thank my teammates for their help debugging and answering any questions that I've come up with, we've built a positive and stronger rapport among the team. In addition, the act of sincere gratitude has even become more common in our daily standup meetings and retros.

12. Each person's experience and journey is unique.

Your journey has as much value as your peer's journey. A specific moment that I'd like to highlight is the time that a teammate and I created an acrostic containing the 35 names of the people in Scottsdale Consumer Credit organization. The acrostic started out with the phrase "It's going to be ok, Joe" (this was a running theme that I started during my internship) and then we added all of the names stemming from "Joe". This was a simple yet fun, creative activity that showed just how diverse the organization is. I was even nick-named the "Chief Culture Officer" which I take to heart.


As a wrap-up, these 12 key insights have increased my awareness to several different perspectives and made me realize that we can each make a huge impact in the constant state of learning. With outlining a specific moment for each insight, it's been a fun way to take a trip down memory lane as well as think about how much we can all grow in just 12 months. With that, I appreciate you taking the time to read and hope that you benefit from these insights as well!