Our Staff Spotlight Series highlights members of the Talent Rewire staff.
Name: Susan Lin
Place: Brooklyn, New York
Current Job: Manager, Communications & Storytelling – Talent Rewire
1. As a form of introduction, please share with us a time when one or more of your identities played a role in your career.
My identities have always played a role in my career, whether or not I or my team members were conscious of it. Being East Asian in America has always been a double edged sword; the stereotypes associated with it (the most common of these is the Model Minority myth) have both hurt me as well as conferred me certain privileges. The Model Minority myth offers a vision of East Asians as being hard workers and diligent employees but on the other side sees them as robotic, replaceable, lacking in creativity, and as followers, not leaders. My identity as a non-binary conforming individual has also been interesting to navigate in the workplace. I’ve had to learn when it is safe (or appropriate) to disclose information about myself or not.
I’d say the biggest role my identities have played in my career is in helping me figure out my career path. My experiences have shaped me into someone who wants to connect with others who are facing personal and systemic obstacles. It’s simple: I want to help make the world a better place.
2. Can you share an experience where you felt respected and valued? How did that affect your relationship to the job and the employer
I’ve been lucky to work with supportive managers most of my career. These managers saw my potential and helped grow it while still understanding my positionality (race, gender, ability, age) at that time. They never saw me through a lens of being a minority, but as a whole human. Good people make the difference between an employee staying or leaving a job. I’ve stayed at companies for longer periods of time because of good managers and conversely, left because I knew continuing to work with a manager who didn’t value me would not lead to meaningful career opportunities.
3. What builds Trust for you as an employee? What needs to be true in a workplace for you to feel comfortable giving input?
It’s important for employers to model transparency, accountability, and flexibility. Employers should be proactive in their efforts to communicate with their employees first instead of waiting for their staff to bring issues to them. I find that workplaces that have an on-going dialogue about positional power have the best shot at creating a comfortable environment for input.
4. What have you taken away by working at Talent Rewire?
The leadership at Talent Rewire does a great job of modeling the organization’s values of putting employees at the center and treating everybody as full humans. It’s taught me a lot about what’s possible in the workplace.
5. What are the biggest misconceptions you think employers have about frontline employees?
Employers see frontline employees as not playing as important a role as corporate level employees do. There is a sense that the work frontline employees do is not difficult or taxing even though frontline work is often both physically and emotionally demanding. These ideas contribute to justifying low wages and lack of benefits for frontline employees. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that frontline employees are both essential and a vulnerable group that is more likely to experience adverse outcomes in the face of social and political upheaval.
6. What are ways in which employers show you that they value you as a human and as an employee?
Employers who are invested in both my personal and professional development make me feel valued as a human being. When employers are intentional about creating a collaborative framework for freedom and flexibility in the workplace and pay me a living wage
7. What’s one thing you would encourage employers to do for their frontline talent?
Pay your frontline talent a family-sustaining wage, give them equivalent benefits to corporate employees, envision each employee as having the potential to advance within the company and then open the door for them to do so.