Photo:Courtesy of Reddit
Welcome to Second Life, a podcast spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief content officer at Who What Wear, each episode will give you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to stay tuned.
Jen Wong always knew she’d get an advanced degree. Afterall, both of her parents had done so, and it was the expected precursor to a successful career. So after getting her Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics from Yale and working in finance, she continued to further her quantitative skill set with a graduate degree from Stanford in engineering. But rather than solidify her path, Wong faced a difficult reality: she just didn’t love the singularity of the work. “I knew I wanted to make a change to move out of a quantitative field into something that was more general management with people,” she says. With that realization, Wong turned back to the classroom. “If you want to totally change your career, kind of what I did, I think [business school] is an incredible reset button,” she says. “It was probably one of the most important decisions I ever made.”
Equipped with her third degree, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and conviction to eventually make her way into the world of consumer media, an industry she understood deeply as an avid consumer herself, Wong began working as a management consultant at McKinsey. There, she’d get a bird's-eye view into the inner workings of various Fortune 500 companies and advise on their hardest problems. Once again, she was learning a lot—this time on a path that felt right. “It's almost like going shopping at different companies. You try on different cultures, and you get to porpoise in and out,” Wong says. “Often, it’s a career accelerant because that volume of education that you get is unprecedented.” And accelerate her career, it did.
Wong went on to work as the global head of business operations at AOL, the chief business officer at Popsugar, and the president of digital and COO at Time Inc., where she oversaw both the digital and print sides of the business. Along the way, she’s become an expert in both consumer media and management on a large scale in an industry she's fiercely passionate about. Today, she uses those skills as the COO of the fifth most visited website in the US, the community-based and community-driven platform, Reddit. There, she oversees business strategy for the 600+ employee company and is helping to lead the platform toward serious growth.
When asked what advice she’d give to those contemplating a career change of their own, Jen’s advice is thoughtfully simple: “By not making a change, just realize that you are actually making an unconscious decision,” she says. “And by the way, that might not be bad. In fact, it might be the right decision...you just want to be conscious about it and intentional.”
Tune in to this week's Second Life to hear what it's like at the top of one of the most popular digital platforms today, and subscribe to the series on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts so you don't miss an episode.