Jin Lee graduated from Middlebury College with a BA in economics and a minor in psychology. He knew right away that he didn’t want to go into finance but still wanted to pursue a career in business. Jin’s friend referred him to TransPerfect, recommending an entry-level translation project manager position. TransPerfect at the time was a small but quickly growing organization. Jin was hired, but he struggled in the beginning. He aimed to fix this by taking constructive criticism and applying it. Six months later, he became a top performer on his team and mastered his craft. Jin then received an award for being a top project manager and was given his first opportunity to manage a small team.
Jin truly found his calling when he began to coach others to success. TransPerfect’s culture has always been a meritocracy, and this fostered Jin’s passion to achieve more, grow the business, and develop people’s careers, expanding his influence over time. Jin has now been with TransPerfect for over eighteen years and manages a global team of over 1,800 employees. Day to day, Jin values TransPerfect’s ability to provide autonomy and allow managers to be entrepreneurs, building their businesses within the organization.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I consider TransPerfect CEO Phil Shawe to be my biggest mentor. For me, Phil’s philosophies and ability to manage by example define his own leadership styles. When I was at a crossroads in my career, struggling with my entry-level responsibilities at TransPerfect, Phil gave me great advice: make decisions that were the best for business, and don’t be afraid to innovate. This was a pivotal point for me and changed my mentality from being a manager to a leader. It gave me the courage and motivation to take risks and implement real change. This is what ultimately advanced my career.
In 2014, my team was tasked with one of the most aggressive and difficult projects in the history of the language services industry. To me, the only way to deliver was to be in the trenches for fifteen to twenty hours each day and to not let up until the project was complete. Reflecting back on that experience, I believe we achieved that success because I was able to manage by example, show true dedication, and commit to being a leader my team could respect and trust.
As Senior Vice President and a direct report to TransPerfect’s CEO, I work closely with Phil Shawe on a daily basis and values that I can turn to him for mentorship and the ability to align initiatives to make the entire organization successful. While finishing the project TransPerfect faced in 2014, Phil remained side by side with me, answering every step of the way to resolve management and bandwidth issues.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
As a senior executive, I consider my main responsibility and passion to be opening up opportunities for the teams that I lead. To me, every moment is a coaching opportunity and a chance to motivate teammates to their fullest potential. Taking credit and being in the limelight is never as important as being behind the scenes and allowing those that follow you to rise. It truly takes a village to succeed, and it is always important to give praise and feedback, and to make sure every employee at every level knows the important role they play in a bigger whole.
CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
I am involved with several major philanthropic efforts at TransPerfect, but one that is particularly close to my heart is student education. What strikes me is how impressionable students can be and the reality that socioeconomic backgrounds can determine success or lack thereof. Today, I sit on the board for CFES Brilliant Pathways, an organization that helps children from underserved communities access better opportunities to go to college and secure jobs.
In the beginning, I donated regularly to CFES Brilliant Pathways and then recognized that I wanted to contribute more. I did this by involving TransPerfect and demonstrating that a partnership with CFES Brilliant Pathways was an ideal opportunity for the organization to give back and deliver new opportunities and business education directly. Since then, TransPerfect and I have hosted webinars, resume writing workshops, leadership events, and networking opportunities so students involved with the CFES program can succeed professionally and not be held back by underprivileged backgrounds.
To me, even if only one student is made more successful through the help of CFES Brilliant Pathways (although reports show it is far greater than one) my involvement is a success and worthwhile. It is all about my direct involvement to change lives and give others better opportunities as a way to give back to my community.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
It is exactly that: companies need to adapt and evolve in order to succeed. It is important to continuously take the pulse of junior employees, know what motivates those in your talent pools, and understand what inspires your team as a whole. When managers do not bring people in to contribute fresh ideas, those teams miss out on opportunities or lose their ability to attract more key performers.
Reflecting on 2020, I was directly involved with some of both the largest challenges and opportunities TransPerfect faced as a whole in the wake of COVID-19. It was critical to my department and TransPerfect as an organization that our business models adapt and teams learn how to build cultures outside of the traditional office setting. I am interested in seeing which business models and new companies arise as a result of the global pandemic, all because of the only constants in business: change and adaptation.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
If you ask me, I have made every mistake in the book, but I am fortunate and a better professional because of that. In my early days, I would work seventy or eighty hour weeks without breaks. These days, I prioritize balance as well as my physical and mental health. On a day-to-day basis, I have recognized that my best days are also the days that I exercise and make time to regroup. I am also a firm believer in practicing gratitude for the good things in life. To me, tomorrow is not guaranteed, so it is important to appreciate good tidings and to balance all aspects of life in order to remain sustainable.
Reach out to Jin Lee on LinkedIn.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.
I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.
This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.
Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.