Nani has a gift for entering others’ cultures in a respectful and sensitive way. That gift, combined with her strong curiosity and sense of adventure, has led to a unique trajectory from her childhood in Indonesia to her current job as a project manager at LinkedIn. In Part 7 Nani describes her post-grad-school gigs, including a tutoring job that led her to a position at LinkedIn.
Sarah: What did you do after you received your master’s degree?
Nani: I felt a little lost. My family didn’t understand why I studied anthropology, so they didn’t have hope that I’d find a job that would pay well. During a visit to Indonesia, I got dengue fever, and when a well-meaning aunt visited me in the hospital, she said, “You don’t need a PhD—you just need to find a good husband.”
For a period after I graduated I was moving around constantly, mostly in the Mission and Chinatown in San Francisco. I house-sat and subletted rooms. While the uncertainty created by my lack of a job and my nomadic lifestyle was challenging, there were things I liked about that period. I got to explore San Francisco in ways I hadn’t done before.
I also busied myself by volunteering at film festivals. I went from festival to festival—the Asian American International Film Festival in March; the International Film Festival in May; and then in June the Frameline LGBTQ Film Festival. I earned lots of free tickets. At one point I saw about ten films in one week and I remember feeling so happy. I was really getting into that whole world—cinematography, directors, international and independent films.
I also reached out to someone I’d taken a writing class with at the American Language Institute; she was the director of a nonprofit called Refugee Transitions, where I ended up working part-time as an executive assistant. While working there I dabbled with teaching English to refugee children and with fundraising. Around the same time, I also got another part-time job through Craigslist as a financial researcher at an obscure hedge fund. I had zero experience in finance, but I was curious about the field. In the interview, the owner asked unusual questions like, What do you like to read? I said, Oh, I like to read the New Yorker. It turned out he loved the New Yorker! I ended up working with these guys in the home office of one of them. They spent all day looking at graphs, and I tried to learn from them about the patterns of international stock markets. I’m still a little bit confused about it. But I needed the money and they paid $17 an hour, which was more than I was making at my other job. The CEO was very patient with me, but I got bored there because ultimately, I wasn’t passionate about numbers and graphs.
In addition to my jobs at Refugee Transitions and the hedge fund, I also tutored high school kids and professionals in Indonesian, and for a short while, I worked at a retail store in the Mission called Currents, selling soap and candles. Currents was a special place. I was making minimum wage and I didn’t feel confident about my retail skills, but the atmosphere was laid-back. Time was slow. They offered gift wrapping. You can go crazy with that stuff. I would silently judge my coworkers: “How could you do those color combinations? They don’t go together!” The owner was Japanese American. He was very moody but we shared some memorable moments. One evening as we were closing up the shop, he and his wife invited me to stay and served me unfiltered, smoky sake and a Japanese tofu dish they whipped up in the tiny kitchenette. It was one of those spontaneous moments of connection and beauty.
But my main passion at that time was film. One day, while I was volunteering at the Asian American International Film Festival, I was in the bathroom of the Kabuki Theater in Japantown and I started talking with someone who worked at the Center for Asian American Media, the organization that presented the festival. She was Malaysian and we started chatting about our Southeast Asian cultures and similar, Malay-root language. One thing led to another and I ended up working at CAAM as their office manager, quitting all my other jobs, except tutoring Indonesian.
The tutoring job is actually how I ended up at LinkedIn. After two years at CAAM, I didn’t feel I was being challenged enough, and I was getting frustrated by the slowness of the organization, just like I’d felt at the Learning Assistance Center and Refugee Transitions. I had idea for how to streamline operations and I sensed that there wasn't an interest or the resources to implement such changes.
I made a list of things I needed to do in order to get a new job, which included updating my LinkedIn profile. I went onto the site to fill in more information on my profile, and I listed all my current positions, including “Indonesian Tutor and Teacher.” The next day I received an email from LinkedIn, with a list of jobs I might be interested in, and a linguist position at LinkedIn was one of them. I realized later that the LinkedIn algorithm recognized that my newly updated profile partially matched the qualifications of one of their own open positions. I applied and got an interview.
- May 19, 2019 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 8: Do We Want to Be Right in a Dictionary Sense? May 19, 2019
- Apr 27, 2019 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 7: You Just Need to Find a Good Husband Apr 27, 2019
- Apr 6, 2019 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 6: Human Remains and Cultural Artifacts Apr 6, 2019
- Mar 17, 2019 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 5: Poetry Has No Rules Mar 17, 2019
- Mar 3, 2019 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 4: Dessert Goes to a Different Stomach Mar 3, 2019
- Jan 13, 2019 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 3: I Felt Pretty Stupid Jan 13, 2019
- Dec 9, 2018 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 2: Such a Bad Kid Dec 9, 2018
- Nov 23, 2018 Managing to Build Bridges - Part 1: The Pressure to Be a Certain Type of Girl Nov 23, 2018
- Oct 23, 2018 Leadership Without Ego - Part 6: Mayberry with an Edge Oct 23, 2018
- Oct 1, 2018 Leadership Without Ego - Part 5: Everyone Everywhere Deserves to Make Art Oct 1, 2018
- Sep 10, 2018 Leadership Without Ego - Part 4: I'm About Ready to Swear Sep 10, 2018
- Aug 19, 2018 Leadership Without Ego - Part 3: The Dalai Lama Breaks All the Rules Aug 19, 2018
- Jul 29, 2018 Leadership Without Ego - Part 2: The Kids Melted Under That Praise Jul 29, 2018
- Jul 10, 2018 Leadership Without Ego - Part 1: The Workshop Was Neutral Territory Jul 10, 2018
- May 26, 2018 The Alchemy of Service - Part 5: Watch Out, Someone's Behind You May 26, 2018
- May 6, 2018 The Alchemy of Service - Part 4: Fireworks and Tears May 6, 2018
- May 5, 2018 The Alchemy of Service - Part 3: Joann Wong! You Are Chinese! May 5, 2018
- Apr 6, 2018 The Alchemy of Service - Part 2: Mom, It's Only a Nickel Apr 6, 2018
- Mar 19, 2018 The Alchemy of Service - Part 1: Mouse Soup Mar 19, 2018
- Feb 18, 2018 Back to the Garden - Part 4: Mountain Lion Footprints on the Deck Feb 18, 2018
- Feb 3, 2018 Back to the Garden - Part 3: "You're a Good Egg—Happy Easter" Feb 3, 2018
- Jan 15, 2018 Back to the Garden - Part 2: "A Pretty Big Failure" Jan 15, 2018
- Jan 1, 2018 Back to the Garden - Part 1: "Aesthetic Shock" Jan 1, 2018
- Aug 15, 2017 Goodbye Self-esteem, Hello Self-compassion – Part 3: Real Love Aug 15, 2017
- Jul 31, 2017 Goodbye Self-esteem, Hello Self-compassion – Part 2: Mirror, Mirror Jul 31, 2017
- Jul 17, 2017 Goodbye Self-esteem, Hello Self-compassion – Part 1: Bashing Vasco Jul 17, 2017
- May 28, 2017 This Thing I Found: Teens Teach Us How to See Freshly May 28, 2017
- Mar 20, 2017 Dream On - Part 6: Dream Analysis Example Mar 20, 2017
- Mar 7, 2017 Dream On - Part 5: A Dream Analysis Technique (cont.) Mar 7, 2017
- Feb 20, 2017 Dream On - Part 4: A Dream Analysis Technique Feb 20, 2017
- January 2017
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