Our guest today is Christie Kim, COO of Persona, the identity infrastructure company backed by Index Ventures and Coatue that offers businesses the building blocks to create personalized identity verification experiences for any use case.
In her role, Christie oversees Persona’s business and operations functions, including sales, marketing, customer success, and operations. She is leading the team toward the company’s mission to be the identity layer of the internet for customers including Square, Sonder, Brex, Udemy, Gusto, BlockFi, Coursera, and AngelList. Previously, Christie was at LinkedIn where she was the head of business development for LinkedIn Learning Solutions.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- What Christie had to unlearn that was more corporate in order to learn how to be more entrepreneurial with a startup
- How Persona functions and verifies online identities
- The importance of adding fun to company culture boosting morale within the team
- What were some of the tough times in Persona that Christie and her team got through
Connect with Christie Kim: LinkedIn
Persona – https://withpersona.com
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Our guest is Christie Kim, the COO of Persona, the identity infrastructure company backed by Index Ventures and Coatue that offers businesses the building blocks to create personalized identity verification experiences for any use case. In her role, Christie oversees Persona’s business and operations function, including sales, marketing, customer success and operations. She’s leading the team toward the company’s mission to be the identity layer of the internet for customers, including Square, Sonder, Brex, Udemy, Gusto, BlockFi, Coursera, and AngelList. Previously, Christie was at LinkedIn where she was the Head of Business Development for LinkedIn Learning Solutions. Christie, welcome to the Second in Command Podcast.
Thank you so much for having me.
You’ve got a pretty cool bio, pretty cool base of experience. I want to talk about LinkedIn a little bit. I want to find a little bit about Persona. I think I’m member number 200,000 or something on LinkedIn, which was early, but still feels so late because my co-author for my book, Free PR, was member number 7,000. I’m like, “How did you know about it? Were you at a dinner party with a couple of tech geeks?” What was it like at LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is such a lovely place to work honestly. They are so in touch with just the talent industry, which has become different in the past several years, where people see talent as a competitive advantage and a core part of building a business. I think as an employee there, it was really great. They are in touch with how to think about engaging talent and retaining talent. Again, it is such a great mission also to be giving everyone economic opportunity.
I’ll be honest though, LinkedIn was so big when I got there. It was 15,000 employees. I got there right after the Microsoft acquisition. My boss there had been one of the first hundred people at LinkedIn. That really inspired me. Then I went to Persona afterwards. I thought he would talk about what it was like when LinkedIn was totally a startup. That spoke to me and made me think I really want to be part of that building phase, like really early when it’s just chaotic. There’s so much stuff to do, and everyone is just doing everything. That was a big part of it because when I got there, it’s full on. It’s so big now. It’s very different.
It certainly helped shape you, I would imagine, because coming in, did you join Persona as the COO or did you move on?
LinkedIn helped shape you into that role then?
You didn’t just build your skillset in the COO role, right?
No, totally. One of the great opportunities I had there was to build a function from scratch and realizing how much I loved doing that, even though there’s no playbook yet. That’s exactly what I like doing, figuring it out, especially the go-to-market and business development side of things. How do we figure out our first customers? Who does it make sense? Who does our product make sense for, etc.? I love that stuff.
LinkedIn also shaped me in terms of, I referenced this earlier, thinking about how important people are, the people you bring on. As you know, when you’re a really early stage startup, it’s everything. Still everything for Persona is the team and actually just thinking about, “Is this a good fit for you and is this a good fit for us?” Not just trying to sell people and get them to join and then, “Maybe it’s not the best thing for them,” really thinking reciprocally about that.
What was it that attracted you over at Persona then to leave LinkedIn and come over to Persona? What was it that grabbed you, and how many people were there when you started?
I think I was the third person. It’s hard to remember now. I was the third person and the answer is actually, Rick and Charles. I met Rick through my sister, who worked with Rick at Square. Now, we have a lot of ex-Squares at App Persona. I had met Rick through her previously, just socially. She had always told me he’s a smart, entrepreneurial person. When he started Persona, he said, “I need someone on the business side,” to her. She said, “Why don’t you meet my sister?” I met him and Charles and honestly Cameron, it was so small that I was like, “I can’t join this company. This is too small.”
Your friends and parents must have thought you were crazy.
Completely, and they said, “Things are going so well at LinkedIn and it’s such a great company, why would you leave?” I thought, “I see what you’re saying,” but every time I talk to Rick and Charles, they’re just very genuine. It’s a rare thing to meet someone, meet people, and have the feeling of trust that I had with both of them. I do believe that in any work environment, but especially a startup, that is by far the most important thing because you don’t even know what’s going to happen or what’s going to come for you all. You know that if you trust each other, you can work through it.
In any work environment, especially a startup, trust is, by far, the most important thing. You don’t know what will happen or what will come for you all, but if you trust each other, you can work through it.
I think especially in the COO, CEO role though, because I think you’re that yin and yang to each other. That more than any other C-level executive, the CEO needs to know that you can come to them with the bad stuff and the real crap. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes. You can tell them what’s really going on. How did you know that the trust was there? Or was it just felt? Was it through your sister and the relationship like knowing them as friends?
No, that was definitely helpful. She has worked with them. She has worked with Rick a long time, and you really learn a lot about someone from that. I’ll tell you, I had a moment when I first met them where I was like, “I think these guys are onto something. I think we’re in the same value zone,” which is that Rick and Charles are both by training engineers. They’re very good engineers. One of the first things they said to me when we first met was like, “Even though this is a technical product, and even though we’re engineers, Persona, in order to succeed, needs an amazing, stellar team. That team has to be on the sales side. It needs to be marketing, customer, art, success, engineers, design.”
The way that they thought from day one, they were like, “We need an amazing team.” They were not like, “We’re going to do it because we’re such brilliant engineers.” Then everyone else is an afterthought. They were focused on the team from day one. That made me think, “You guys, that’s what I think too.” I felt like, “Wow.” Even though, honestly, they did so much of the building early on. They really never ever thought this company is going to succeed because of engineering or just because of the product. It has to be an all-star team across the board.
Isn’t that what you hear in the Bay Area every day from every startup?
No, I don’t think so.
Really? Or are they more focused on the product itself, and they think it’s going to be the next coolest thing in the world and they’re so product eccentric?
I think the latter is very popular, and I think especially when you’re working with a technical product, that becomes everything. People think like, “We just need to build the best product possible, then customers will come.”
Employees will come.
Everything will come from that. Rick and Charles from day one thought, “No,” even though we actually alone are quite capable in building. We really need these other people to help us. Just that awareness of things that you can’t do and that you can’t do things alone, I don’t think it’s actually that. I think that’s actually rare in the Valley.
It’s funny that we were talking about that. If you build it, they will come. Have you seen the movie, Field of Dreams?
It’s about this guy who builds a baseball field, diamond, or whatever the heck it’s called, a hundred years ago, and all these all-star, ex-dead players come as ghosts and play on this field. It’s an amazing story with Kevin Costner. It’s a really cool if-you-build-it-they-will-come kind of story. They played a real Major League baseball game at a field they built right beside the one that was built for this movie. It was cool to go, “Wow.” These are the best of the best playing it at a farmer’s field, playing a real MLB. I’m not a baseball fan, but it still gave me chills.
That’s so funny.
You made the decision to leap, you made the decision because you like Rick and Charles, you liked their idea around the culture, you liked the idea, maybe there’s something with this product. What was it like then leaving a 15,000-person company and walking in as three?
It was very different. I was doing everything from figuring out how to do our taxes, how to file our taxes, try to get any customers. We didn’t have any customers at that time, to trying to write up some policies around employee benefits, everything. It was so many things, but that is actually what I wanted because for me, I really felt from day one, I’m learning many different things and that’s how I learn. I learn by doing them. It was fun to be able to do an office search, as well as go through a hundred outbound messages to try to see if we can get some discovery calls on the product side.
How did they know that you weren’t going to be too corporate? How long were you at LinkedIn?
I was only at LinkedIn a couple years, and actually before LinkedIn I was at Coursera.
Coursera was smaller then, right?
Much smaller. Still much bigger than Persona, but I joined Coursera when it was like 70 people.
That’s still an entrepreneurial environment. You weren’t completely a corporate salesforce to infusion software or whatever?
They did see some of that. What did you have to unlearn from LinkedIn? As great as it was, and not speaking ill of the company, what did you have to unlearn or let go of that was more corporate and adapt to be more entrepreneurial?
I realized quickly that there are a lot of things that are not glamorous about the early days of a startup, and that is everyone’s job at the startup. Anything that needs doing, anything that will unblock us and let us keep moving forward, we just got to do. At LinkedIn, I realized in retrospect, there was someone that did everything like down to the slides that we used in internal meetings. I remember, I was making our first pitch deck and I was trying to find higher quality logo images for the slides at the end.
For free? With unpaid ones too.
Exactly. I kept getting the ones with the watermark and I was so frustrated. Then Rick was like, “The fonts aren’t consistent.” I was like, “Someone did this for us at LinkedIn.” I think just learning that. Your job is now everything we need to do to keep going.
I just got off a call with about ten COOs from all over the world, and we were chatting on something. I said that when I do job postings now where I have the list of responsibilities, the number one responsibility above the others is always and other duties. Then they list the real ones because I want them to know, “If it’s not on the list, it’s your job.” I would do it too. I want it really clear that in an entrepreneurial environment, it’s like, “Let’s all grab this and run,” versus having to teach. You were already that DNA?
Yes. That is another thing I learned quickly about Rick and Charles, and that’s why it was easy for us to get started is we all had that spirit. People who joined Persona early were really different. We had someone who never had a job before. We had someone who had way more experience than the three of us combined. We had different people, but I think the common thread was actually having a passion for and other duties. Whatever we need to do, let’s just do it.
Do they operate as co-CEOs or what are their roles today?
Charles oversees engineering. He’s the CTO, and Rick is CEO.
Has everyone called him Rick and Charles, or is it just you because you joined and it was Rick and Charles?
I called him that because of what you said when I joined. That was the unit, but also they’re best friends. They actually live together as well.
That was very similar to Brian and me building 1-800-GOT-JUNK. People thought we were like this married couple. I’m like, “No. First, we’re both straight. Secondly, we don’t live together but, yes, we bicker like a married couple. We sound exactly like a married couple.” Let’s back up. What’s Persona? Give it to us in layman’s terms. What’s this layer?
Persona is a solution that helps companies verify that their users are who they say they are online.
How does that happen? What does that mean? What are you doing? It’s not a password. Is it that you’re scanning our history? Or is it that we have to answer a question? What does it do?
Good question, and you’re on to it. The answer is there are many different ways to verify and do that verification. A super popular one is using your government ID and using your face, so a selfie.
It’s more the login or the setup. If I’m setting up my crypto account and it needs my driver’s license or my passport and a facial recognition, it’s using that. It’s not so much that it’s going to identify that someone is on an Instagram account posting pictures that are me and not them.
It’s not the Instagram?
It’s more security. You’re not preventing fraud or people using, or are you?
We are. The beauty of Persona and what we’re very intentionally trying to do is we do a lot of different use cases. We do everything from account opening for fintechs to courier or gig economy worker onboarding to online degree. Before you get your online degree like verifying that you are that person to like you’re locked out of your HR account and you need access to your W-2, very common use case. You move jobs so you don’t have that email anymore. Everything from account recovery for those types of situations. Fraud prevention is actually huge across all of our industries because it’s such a problem for almost every kind of online business.
The beauty of Persona and what they’re intentionally trying to do is they do a lot of different use cases. They do everything from account opening for fintechs to courier or gig economy, worker onboarding to an online degree.
You guys are clearly funded then. You’ve raised money?
I want to ask how much. Have you done Series B, C? Where are you?
We did, yes. Index letter Series B for $50 million. We are venture funded company.
50, so real money?
Which is why you’ve got your Herman Miller Aeron Chair at home, which is perfect.
Don’t worry, Cameron, this is used. I bought this off Craigslist.
So did I, that’s what I did too. I got mine as well. When I was COO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK, I rolled in with this Aeron Chair in 2002 or something. I had them for years. Brian is like, “People are going to think we’re spending money.” Like, “I will tell everyone it’s my chair.” I’m not going to sit in a crappy chair. I’m sorry. I spent $600 buying it used. It’s on auction place because somebody went bankrupt, but they’re such good chairs.
They are, and now you are ahead of your time because now since we’re all working from home, we all need to buy used Aeron chairs.
I just bought one for one of my sales team. He was working from home, and I’m like, “You crushed it this month.” I delivered one and he’s like, “Oh my god.”
That’s such a great surprise.
It costs nothing. It’s so little when you think about the happiness of the employee and the productivity you’re going to gain out of them because they work an extra 20 minutes a day. They think you’re the best employer ever and it costs like $1,200. It’s surrounding error. I think that people miss the point. Persona, that security layer, you raised money, you were there through the funding then as well. Had they raised money the first round or were you there for that too?
I was there for the A and the B.
What was it like for the A?
The A was led by Coatue, and Coatue was in our seed too. It was great. Rick actually knows Andy, who is the Partner at Coatue from a long time ago when Rick was a KP fellow and Andy was Leonard Berger. We’ve been very lucky in the funding because it deals with people we know.
Was easy working with them, as well? They weren’t intrusive?
It was very easy.
Did it change the culture at all?
No, it did not. I think that’s a very interesting question because I think that is something that now looking forward, that will be something we are going to think hard about.
It can change the culture in a few ways. It’s the unintended ripple effect. You drop a boulder into a pond, it will cause ripples, and they could be good ripples or bad. It could either have everyone work harder because they’re more excited, or it could give us the resources which changes the culture because we have to work with smarter people or it builds the CNBC Squawk Box watch the ticker culture, which is toxic, right?
Right. I was just going to say one thing I think we’ve emphasized to, we call them Personerds, our employees. Personerds, nerds about identity. One thing we’ve emphasized is the funding is great, and it is necessary to achieve our vision, but don’t get it twisted that that is how we should be measuring ourselves.
As you were saying, I think you can get caught up in it, and especially being in Silicon Valley, you can really get caught up in it. At the end of the day, it’s like, “Are we building a great product? Are our customers successful with us? Does it add value to them?” That’s what you need to be focused on, versus any of the venture stuff, even though it is important.
Are you focusing on making money as a company? Are you focusing on profitable?
We’re focused definitely on revenue growth and customer usage of the platform. No, we’re an early stage VC company at this point.
Which is interesting, right?
It’s interesting because there’s this line in business that you learn about the P&L, and it’s about driving to the bottom line. It’s like, “That’s not what we do.” I get it because it’s not a Cavalier 1998 approach. It’s just that you have to use that money to grow as fast as possible and take over the market before anybody else does. As long as you understand the lifetime value, do you have an eye to profitability? Is it something that you’re looking at five years out or is it even discussed?
Honestly, we haven’t discussed that because we’re so focused on the product and the customers right now. Especially at a product-led company, as you said, it’s a little bit of a later stage, I think, topic and puzzle.
Which is intriguing as hell. It’s funny that you said Personerds. Have you seen the TV show, The Vow, about the cult NXIVM?
Yes, I have seen that.
I’m friends with Sarah Edmondson, who is one of the central figures. She’s the female from Vancouver, that was the big recruiter, and it was her and her husband, Nippy, that basically broke the whole cult. She and I are friends here in Vancouver, and I was talking to her about her pod. She has a podcast with her husband called A Little Bit Culty.
We were back talking and I said, “When does a company go too far with its culture?” I don’t think you’re there, but I always worried at 1-800-GOT-JUNK, we were such a cult, or Google is such a cult. At what point do we go too far that we’re manipulating employees, or at what point are we working them so hard that we forget that they’re actually humans with lives, with kids, with families, that stuff does matter? Do you talk about that stuff at all?
Absolutely. When we’re talking to candidates before they join and after, there’s your life and there’s your work. Persona is work, and everyone has and should have a life beyond it. I am proud of the things that we do to acknowledge that. I actually think at a lot of startups, and maybe this is what you’re referring to, Cameron, people don’t acknowledge that you have families, that people have lives, that your fellow coworkers don’t necessarily know everything about. That it affects you and it affects the way you show up, what you can do, all these things. I like that we’re open about that. This is not a Silicon Valley startup where people are like, “You need to work twelve hours a day and never complain or anything like that.” That is not what we subscribe to at all.
Good because I’m very much alike. I’ve got eight COOs coming to my home for dinner. I’ve got chefs coming in two hours, and I’ll be wearing the same t-shirt and probably not shaved. One of my kids came up, he goes, “Can I have a friend over tonight?” I’m like, “Yes, I’ve got eight COOS coming for dinner.” He goes, “Can I eat too?” I’m like, “Yeah, you live here, of course.” I just think that’s so much more normal in building that culture. Do you allow your team to know you like outside of Rick and Charles?
Yes, I think we all know each other. At Persona and in general, it’s just to be like, “You don’t know everything about everyone.” Especially during COVID, that’s been thrown into relief. You don’t know what everyone’s situation is. Everyone needs to be respectful of everyone else’s comfort limits, what they’re comfortable doing.
Until you’re first burning man at which point, all bets are off.
What we encourage is bringing your whole self to work and recognizing that people are people. One of the first things we did actually, even though we were only 6 people, is we agreed that parental leave would be 16 weeks, which people were like, “That’s crazy for a startup.” We were like, “That is the bare minimum.” That’s what we should be doing. I remember it because one of our first engineers, they were expecting a baby and he was really stressed and I could tell that he was thinking like, “Am I going to get in trouble because I want to be with my family and the baby?” That’s why we put this policy, we made it all formal and said, “This is absolutely what you should be doing. If you want to take more time, take more time.” I think we definitely try, and I’m sure we could do better. I’m sure there’s more to do.
That’s a huge step though that most companies never, and that doesn’t even come up in their discussion, let alone, the first person you did it for was a male, which is even more progressive. I almost said how Canadian that would be to go sixteen weeks, but to do that, that’s really strong.
That’s another thing that I will say. That’s another reason I knew I found my people with Rick and Charles when I was talking to them for a long time before I actually joined, was that I thought maybe I’d get a lot of pushback on that kind of thing. I want this to be a safe space. I want people to feel like they can be themselves. They were totally on the same page day one. That was actually super important to making people happy at work. That’s a big thing for us.
People should be able to feel like they can be themselves. It’s super important to make people happy at work.
You can have lots of jobs where you are going to make a lot of money or have amazing work-life balance and happiness and actually having fun at work is not always part of that. We want it to be somewhere like, “You actually want to be here, you are happy and having fun every day.” I will say, even though, it sounds cheesy, I have fun every day at Persona.
Except for that day. There must have been one hard day in the two and a half years.
No, there have been many hard days.
What have been the tough times? What did you guys have to go through that it’s the lessons from the edge? What were some of the ‘oh crap’ moments that you got through?
COVID has been terrible or COVID has been difficult for everyone. We were humbled by it because we were walking around before COVID saying, “We don’t ever want to be remote, we’re all in-person.” Then COVID hit and suddenly we were all remote. All fully distributed when we had been so tight.
You were like a tight culture.
We kept emphasizing it, saying like, “It wouldn’t work if we were going to be distributed.” Then suddenly, we were like, “We have to make it work.” I think that was a humbling thing for us to realize we need to make it work. We can’t just rely on all the things that we thought were going to be possible before COVID.
Are you going back to office-based culture or are you going to be staying remote? What’s your hybrid?
We’re going to do hybrid, like have an office that people can go into. Before, the expectation was that everyone would be in the office. Now, we’ve not only made remote hires, but also even if you’re in the Bay Area, there’s much more flexibility.
We were speaking about this with this group earlier as well. Did you have the culture where it was like a 9:00 to 5:00-ish kind of culture?
Or was it just were like a hub of energy and activity and you can come and go whenever you want, but we’re always working together? It was more of the latter, it sounds like.
Totally the latter.
What are you doing to build the culture, the cult? What are you doing to build that culture, now that you’re more distributed or hybrid? Are there systems or any specific tactical things you’re doing to keep that culture and energy and team together?
We’ve been trying new things like different things on Zoom chats, having Zoom activities that are very suited for Zoom in particular. Just enabling people, if they can get together safely outside, especially. Enabling them and empowering them to do that. To be honest, we don’t have specific systems in place.
We’ll need to work on that.
I coached a company years ago called Acceleration Partners. They’ve got about 140 employees and they’re a 100% remote and always have been. They ranked as the number three company to work for on Glassdoor. No super strong cult and lots of techies. They’ve had to work really hard at it because culture was so important to them.
The CEO from day one was like, “There’s no freaking way I’m going into an office.” He wanted that Google kind of culture without the inner office, so you do have to work at it for sure. My sister started a company in COVID called JAM Group Events or Work Play Jam. They run an online, interactive, fun events for companies, and they’re doing it all over the world. She’s just hit seven figures in her first eight months. She’s crushing it. It’s cool. They’re actually legitimately super fun. I’ve run some for the COO Alliance, and I’m not pitching you. I just thought as I was asking the question. What have you had to grow at as a COO and how many employees do you have now?
We have 80.
Real company, 80 employees. You’ve raised $50 million in funding. This is not a small company anymore. You’re not quite at the politics stage yet where you hit, I think, at like 100. At 100 employees, you tend to get political. Do you have some politics creeping in yet?
No, we don’t. I’m laughing because I agree with you. We’re in this beautiful magical phase.
It’s like the buttery haze phase of dating. Everything is great. I love him so much and everything is good until he just leaves crap lying around the house. I think it’s between 100-300 employees, the politics starts to creep in the company, but you’re running a real business with 80 employees. How have you had to change and adapt as a leader, go from 3 to 10, 10 to 30 and 30 to 80? How have you been different in those three different sections? From 3 to 10, when you were building a management team, how did you have to adapt?
That 3 to 10 phase was what we’re talking about earlier. Just everyone is doing everything. I did every single sales call. Rick was in every single sales call. I knew everything that was happening on the roadmap.
You’re doing it.
We talked about it every day and we could. Then 10 to 30.
Now, you’re hiring your first management team at 30, right?
It’s true, but 10 to 30, it wasn’t that different. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been growing so much from a customer perspective. Even then, I still did every single sales call. I knew every customer and even though we were hiring, we got lead for customer success, a lead for a couple sales people. I think I could do everything from very in the weeds to like, “Let’s talk about the board deck or the investor’s deck, blah, blah, blah.” Then I think the real change was after 30 because now they were starting to build out their teams. I was trying to figure out more about, “How do we onboard these people better? How do we enable them?” Also, we started having more conversations about hiring and that became more of a strategic. Now, it’s different again because I don’t know every single person that works at Persona, which is wild to me. It feels very odd. Honestly, I’m trying to get to know them. I still think I can.
It stops between 100-300. You can’t, and then you get to the point where you don’t even know what they do. It’s something like, “Who are you? Do you work here?” That’s really weird time then.
I can’t imagine that.
I was COO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK. We had 3,000 employees system-wide. We had 248 head office. I was sitting talking to a guy in an elevator and then he goes, “Do you work here?” I was like, “It’s okay, dude. I’ve been here for a long time. Yes. I work here.”
You said something like, “I’ve done some stuff here,” yes?
Yes, “Been around.” “You’re Cameron.” “Yes, I’m Cameron.” Have you had to change then your skillset? Have you had to slow down? Have you had to become less entrepreneurial again or do you just stick core to what you’re doing? Are you more evolving than having to change?
I’ve definitely learned a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff about myself. I’m learning a lot every day. I’m pretty good at prioritizing, I will say. The challenge of Persona so far is how good can you be at prioritizing? How much more ruthless can you be? I’m realizing I need to get even better. I certainly do and realize, “What’s the highest and best use of my time? Or what are the things that only uniquely I can do?” Because there are a lot of things where my impulse is still like, “I want to be in there. I want to be in that customer conversation. I want to read every single document about that customer. I want to read every slide about the roadmap.” There are literally no longer enough hours in the day for me to do that.
Impossible. What are you starting to boil down to the critical few areas that are your unique ability as a leader, or that give you the most energy?
I still love scouting for people, for new Personerds. I love it. I’ve loved it since day one and I still love it. There’s a whole team now behind talent and recruiting, and they’re amazing. It’s certainly not just me. I’d still love that because I feel like I can really back up what I say about the company. I’m not bullshitting. I’m not selling things that I don’t really feel or believe or I’m like, “Is that true?” It’s like a salesperson who has a really good product.
I think you also have a very innate understanding of the needs of the company as well, and you can see it. You know the opportunity or you know the person when you see it because you’re so clear on. I feel like you’re very clear on the company and you can see the round peg when you need it.
I agree. I think that is actually something I enjoy and something I do feel like I can bring to the company because I’ve been here and because I just get so much energy from that. That is seriously still the best part of my job for sure. It’s just figuring out, “What do we need? Could that person be good for it? What are their strengths? What are their areas of growth?” That kind of thing. I love that kind of thing.
Where does Christie need to improve, if Rick or Charles were to sit down and say, let’s not even bring them into the conversation. If you were to self-assess, or your team was to give you an assessment, where would they say that you need to improve or what do you know you’re improving on or working on right now?
Honestly, it goes back to that impulse I have to want to know every detail. I need to not only let go, but also, I need to realize not everyone’s going to know every detail on my team either. That’s just something that’s going to happen because we’re moving so fast. I was telling someone the other day that is something I have really learned about myself and I do need to work on it. It’s two sides of one coin in my mind.
One side is I have very high expectations, and I like that because I think that setting the bar high is good for a startup, and it’s good for attracting the right talent. The flip side of it is sometimes I’m really focused on these small things that, “We can’t know everything. We can’t do all that because we’ve got to move. We’ve got 8 to 20th because we are a startup.”
You’re not doing brain surgery and you’re not flying planes. No one is actually going to die.
You know exactly, but it’s that big company part of me. I also started out in finance.
You’re very smart. You were a straight A student, right?
I was. There’s part of me that’s like, “What about the details?”
Whereas, I was the C-minus student. I’m like, “I can’t spell details for Christ sake, let alone find them.” I want to go back to the 22-year-old Christie Kim. She’s just finishing college. She’s getting ready to start on her career. What advice would you give Christie at 22 that you now know to be true, but you wish you knew it earlier?
I know this one is calling me. I act and I say this all the time. I have a little sister. I’m sure I’m an annoying broken record to her. What I would tell young Christie is careers are not linear. I really thought that when I was young, like when I was fresh. I thought, “I got to do this and then that and then that and then that, and then I’ll get to here.” It is just so not that way. You will drive yourself insane, if you try to make it that way.
If you try to figure out that path in advance, you can’t. Someone I had on the show said that they feel like it’s all about picking something, working as hard as possible, and putting all your energy into it, and then when the next thing comes, doing the same there. You can see the path backwards but not in advance.
I would also tell young Christie, it’s so easy to be caught up in title and level and reporting structure and all those things. Persona has hit this home for me. It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. It sounds cheesy, but if you optimize for those things in your career and job, it’s probably not going to make you happy. I think when I was, not 22, but I think after my first operating role, I was like, “I want this title and I want to report to this person.” What I realize now is you don’t have to report to XYZ person to be doing good work and to be happy.
It’s easy to be caught up in the title, the level of reporting structure, and all those things, but you don’t have to report to XYZ person to be doing really good work and be happy.
You can do that in any role.
Now, I see people and I’m like, “I would report to them.” There’s this flexibility I have now in my mind of just like, “Don’t prioritize that.” Sometimes, it would just make sense for you to not report to.
Now, you want to do cool shit with cool people but it doesn’t matter exactly what the title is.
I don’t care what your title is and it’s funny, I see that in some interviews. I get both sides of it now.
This was a good one, Christie Kim, the COO for Persona. I really appreciate you sharing with us today and spending time on Second in Command Podcast. I appreciate it.
Thank you so much, Cameron. What a fun way to have an afternoon and break up the day of many meetings and back to backs.
I’m glad I actually had this recording, as well. I had a panic moment about 35 minutes and I’m like, “Please tell me I pressed record.” Thank you.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. It was nice to meet you. I hope you have a fun dinner. What are the chefs making?
I don’t know. My assistant picked the menu. I said really great food, and I just want to have a fun time, so it won’t be ostentatious. It will just be fun and whatever. We’ll see.
That sounds amazing.
Thanks, Christie. Take care.
About Christie Kim
COO at Persona