Mo hai, I’m Youhee. I’m at the nexus of people and products.
I start by identifying what’s going to make a project successful—what’s its objective, what my clients want to see, and what are moonshot opportunities. Then, I dig in with stakeholders and lay the groundwork for getting from where we are to where we want to be.
In a landscape where devices outnumber people, I’m helping AAA create next-generation home security and maintenance services centered around the people that will use them. My teams are building mobile and web tools that create synergy with daily use.
When a leading insurance company looked to modernize its customer service tools, I helped untangle more than 15 different software components, phase out legacy tech, and led teams in creating an integrated solution where every part of the CX journey worked better together.
My main outpost in Oakland puts me within reach of clients all over the Bay Area, from San Ramon to Redwood City. I adjust across time zones and lifestyles when I’m back in Korea, where I’m from, or visiting my sister in France. I feel welcome to be myself anywhere with this company.
Thanks to all this flexibility, I’m able to pursue my passion of social impact and staying connected with the community. Within my teams, I aspire to share the same sense of belonging and connectedness I feel. Some may think remote may also mean more distant work relationships. Not for me. I set aside time with my colleagues regularly to catch up. Even remote happy hours!
I start & end my day with Slack. This lets me communicate efficiently with my team members. Project channels, semi channels and integrations make my work more efficient. Except for our pet photos channel—that just lightens up my day!
Jira & Confluence
This collaboration tool gives my team one source of truth for project progress.
Google Suite/Team Drives
Google Hangouts is a must for my work—to talk with my remote team and clients. The rest of the suite keeps each project organized and all relevant documents, images and assets are in one place.
Zeplin / InVision
Most projects have Requirement gathering - UI/UX - Development - QA process. These tools bridge the gap between design and build—and design and product development. I love the look of surprise when my clients first see this tool.
Chrome extensions - Grammarly, Full Page Screen Capture, Google Arts & Culture
I work on Chrome a lot. So I use a lot of extensions for different purposes. Like Google Arts & Culture: it gives me different art every day for my Chrome life. Amazing.
Grammarly Chrome extension
This tool recently became useful when I need an extra pair of eyes on text cleanliness. Even the free version provides a lot of value.
I love music and dance! I was doing modern dance and cardio hip-hop until a client got me into Zumba. I love all kinds of music, EDM, you name it—I am a huge music nerd.
I survived the Amazon jungle in Peru, and also loved my time in Israel and Cuba. Next on my list is Ukraine. I can’t wait to see my colleagues in flesh! ;)
Remote work allows me to set aside time for volunteering. Next up, I’ll be spending some time with Oakland Promise. So excited!
Sandeep: Tell me a bit about the early part of your career.
Tom: I spent a decade helping to build start-ups focused on application and database software. This was where I learned how to sell and do business development. I was fortunate to be part of one company going public and another being sold to IBM.
Sandeep: What is something you learned during this time that helped you with consulting?
Tom: I began to appreciate how different customers achieved varying levels of success with the same foundational technology. This made me understand just how critical getting your team and process right can be.
Sandeep: This is something I only came to appreciate years into consulting, especially after the sale of my first consultancy to Capital One.I saw teams in different parts of the company trying to solve challenges like real-time messaging. Same corporate culture, same technology, same internal support mechanisms. Night and day outcomes.
Tom: We saw a lot of the same thing after selling our practice to EMC (sold to Dell in 2015). This is probably the thing I'm most proud of when it comes to the teams I've helped to build: the ability to perform well in a variety of contexts, sometimes in ways that inspires the client team to up their game as well.
Sandeep: Yes. It's particularly cool to see your team succeed in individual ways after an acquisition...consulting skills definitely translate into the corporate environment.
Tom: Totally. We have people who've stayed on at Dell and risen up the ranks, while others took the opportunity to become successful executives at other Fortune 100 companies....or to start their own agencies and startups.
Sandeep: We've both been around a while. My first consulting project was a Y2K thing for Cisco back in 1998. You've been around a little longer than that :). How do you think consulting has changed most during the past five years?
Tom: I think because there is so much infrastructure available now, consulting has become more delivery and outcome-oriented. A better blend of strategic and tactical. Public Cloud has also enabled velocity to increase at a pace unfathomable 5 years ago.
Sandeep: What has stayed the same?
Tom: It's still mostly about people. People who thrive on change and are focused on their personal and professional development. I love that this has not and will not change...it's what I love about consulting.
Sandeep: I know you're adjusting your work style to COVID. You're still a dude who clearly prefers to drive an hour for a socially-distanced hike or outdoor meeting over Zoom any day of the week :) But personal styles aside, what is specifically compelling about a remote agency during the era of COVID?
Tom: Kunai has been remote for years, which gives them an inherent advantage. There is something about the communication and management styles that just works in a way that other organizations are still figuring out.
Sandeep: Yeah, I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that remote work isn't just office work over Zoom. it's an entirely new paradigm. There needs to be an understanding for asynchronous efficiency...and this just takes time and effort to develop. How do you approach remote work and family? What are you learning about separating work and personal time?
Tom: No matter what the form of interaction, Focus. Be present. Quality over quantity. The best weeks are the weeks where I proactively schedule work and personal time. Neil (Kunai's Head of Delivery) shared a great quote with me "With discipline comes freedom." When I am proactively addressing the majority of my professional and personal commitments, I find I earn a little flexibility. A little freedom.
Sandeep: Tell us about a business hero of yours that I may not have heard of before.
Tom: Paul O'Neill is someone you may not know. His work in both the public and the private sector created a profound impact
Sandeep: We are both over forty years old :). How have you learned how to work smarter during the past decade or so? What do you wish you knew about consulting when you were 25 that you know now?
Tom: Consultants want to make lasting change. Lasting change is often not the act of a single person. Today I work much harder bringing others along on the journey.
Sandeep: Last question. What are you doing here? :) Why join a small consulting company this late in your career when you could have a cushy job somewhere else?
Tom: I love a good challenge personally and professionally. When I turned 40, I decided I would run a 10K every Thanksgiving weekend and try to have my finishing time be less than my age. With the exception of one year where I did not run due to a health issue, I have met the goal. I also recently completed the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race. So, I guess I'm here because I'm a glutton for punishment :) Jokes aside, our customers have a job to do and I intend to put Kunai in a position to execute flawlessly on their behalf. I love committing jointly to audacious goals for our customers and our business.
When I’m not building fintech solutions at Kunai, I’m often engaged in other types of creative problem solving in my free time. One great example of this is my years-long endeavor to create a simple computerized clone of an old Hasbro board game.
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