Episode 4 Transcript – Interview with Angie Kim

Haritha:

Welcome to another episode brought to you by Ascend Canada, an organization with a vision to have a diverse and inclusive Canada where Pan-Asian talent can achieve their full potential. Hi, everyone. I’m your host, Haritha Murthy, and today’s episode is going to focus on something that has changed all our lives. Yep, the buzzword, COVID-19. But hang on tight. We are going to explore it through the lens of a leader who has been serving the front lines since the drop of the pandemic.

Angie Kim is a finance lead for Loblaw Companies Limited. She went to school at U of T. She has had various roles in sales, operations, and category management in her career. Angie is of South Korean descent, but wow, she has lived in a lot of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, and now she lives in Canada since 2001. Well, Angie, as you would see on her LinkedIn profile, is very committed to engagement and empowering people, and she sits on various committees for D&I, LGBTQ+, and just promoting a great corporate culture within Loblaw.

So, as I mentioned earlier, Angie has been on the front lines, volunteering to serve our communities. In fact, you can find her at Matt’s No Frills in Downtown from Monday to Saturday during the week. She’s also been featured on Forbes and National Post in recognition of her servant leadership through these tough times. I am so excited to have Angie on our call today. Angie, thanks so much for joining us today.

Angie Kim:

Thank you so much for having me.

Haritha:

It’s crazy how I came across your post randomly on LinkedIn. I decided to follow you. I was so inspired just to see how a senior finance director at Loblaw is now working on the front lines. It just got me so, so inspired. I’m so happy that you decided to accept my LinkedIn invite and decided to join us today. So, let’s get to it. Loblaw has been on the forefront of COVID-19 since day one, and similar companies, the ones that have been essential services. You’ve been helping communities get their essential groceries, supplies, but it just came out of the blue. COVID-19 just hit all of us. How did the organization rise to the challenge?

Angie Kim:

Yeah. I mean, that’s what we do, ensuring we’re open and available so our communities can get what they need to feed and support their families, but you’re right, these have been unprecedentedly difficult times, and I couldn’t be more proud of so many ways Loblaw as an organization’s stepped up over and above just being a grocery store. I’ve seen daily changes that was timely and meaningful in our front line, and as many changes we have made in the last three months, the execution was really seamless because ultimately, everyone had only one goal. It wasn’t about tracking the numbers on P&L. It wasn’t about pleasing the shareholders, but really about how can we keep our customers and colleagues safe and protected during these difficult times. How can we make sure our communities are being fed without the fear of catching the virus?

While we as an organization made these changes, I’d say the entire nation really rose to support each other too, all the essential workers, not only the grocery front lines, but our healthcare workers, our customers, our community, everybody all rose to the challenge as well, adjusting and abiding with all the changes, and really helping keeping us feel safe and proud to be serving during these times as well.

Haritha:

Yeah. You hit the nail on the head where you said that everyone came together. The entire nation and the entire world is coming together. We’re all seeing acts of kindness. We’re seeing so much togetherness because of this pandemic, and thank you so much. A huge shout out to Loblaw and other essential service providers to put their people and safety first, but at the same time, contributing to a community welfare and essential services, so a huge shout out there. I’m trying to think. You are a finance leader, and now all of a sudden you’re saying that there was no focus put on margins, on profits, on sales. That must be a bit of a change from your day-to-day where you’re constantly looking at numbers.

Angie Kim:

100%.

Haritha:

So, what were some of the strategies? I’m trying to think. What were the strategies used to pivot and to accelerate and deliver without focusing on your bottom line?

Angie Kim:

I mean, we do have a dedicated team of leaders who were really put together as a COVID-19 SWAT team over and above their existing duties so we can deliver the best ways to help all of us get through this pandemic. But I really want to speak more from my experience than what I’ve seen, and that is while plans and strategies are for sure important, I think we really led more with the intrinsic qualities like courage, care, and compassion we have for each other. The last pandemic we had was what, H1N1 in 2009?

Haritha:

Yep.

Angie Kim:

But the scale of the fear and impact we had to manage was really nothing compared to what we are having to go through now. So, I don’t think anyone is pretending like they know everything they need to know to set a long-term plan and strategy, but-

Haritha:

No. We’re all learning as we go, literally, even leaders. Right?

Angie Kim:

Exactly. Yeah, absolutely.

Haritha:

So, it’s inspiring.

Angie Kim:

You’re 100% right. We’re for sure keeping our eyes and ears open so we can continue to listen and adapt to the changing needs from our colleagues and our customers, and I think this is what will allow us to continue to pivot, accelerate, and deliver with the changing times so we can support you the best and the safest way we can think about.

Haritha:

That’s fantastic. Putting others’ needs before ours and being able to pivot is so critical, I think, in today’s workplace because we’re all working from home. There’s just so much of unknown that we just need to be open to change. Speaking of change, I’m sure it’s a huge change for you, having worked from a back office or an office space, to the front lines. So, what made you decide to join the front lines? I’m so impressed.

Angie Kim:

Thank you. So, back in March, actually, all the office colleagues received a note asking to volunteer on the front lines if you are able to, and before this role, I’ve actually been a store manager, so I’ve always had a tremendous amount-

Haritha:

Oh, wow.

Angie Kim:

Yeah.

Haritha:

Okay. So, this is not the first time you’re doing it then.

Angie Kim:

Well, exactly. But I’d love to tell you because it was kind of a double-edged sword. Having been a store manager, I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for everything our store teams have to go through, and I just felt like I was a prime candidate to volunteer, and generally healthy too. I don’t have any small children or members of the family who are immunocompromised. I mean, of course I was scared to volunteer myself to the front line because the fear of being exposed to the virus can only increase when you’re in the front line. Right?

Haritha:

Yep.

Angie Kim:

But I think at the same time, I also knew that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t volunteer. I just wanted to make sure that I could look back on this time with pride, knowing that I was right along, serving right along with my hardworking front line teams through some of these most difficult times.

Haritha:

Wow. It takes a lot of courage to do that, and it takes a lot of empathy to actually say, “You know what? I’m going to do this,” because there are so many other people that are doing it, and you’ve been there, you’ve done that, so you know what a store manager goes through. You had both sides of the lens. So, it’s amazing, and I’m always so grateful when I enter the store, when I go to Longo’s or Loblaw, and I see everyone’s just… It’s BAU. It’s business as usual for them. Nothing’s changed. They’re putting that smile on their face. That’s absolutely no change since the pandemic, and I always leave the store which so much gratitude in my heart, to say that, “Oh, wow. These folks are just getting up in the morning, getting out, exposing themselves, but all for the benefit of humanity.” So, that’s amazing.

Angie Kim:

Oh, wow. I want to thank you for recognizing that. That’s really great.

Haritha:

I wanted to… I was curious, okay? So, I wanted to see if you wanting to go on the front lines, did it have anything to do with your Pan-Asian culture or values and the background? Did that impact your decision-making process at all?

Angie Kim:

I never thought about it that way. I mean…

Angie Kim:

No, but it’s a really great question. I mean, is it reflective of my family values? Absolutely. My family, as I mentioned, is from South Korea, so sure, maybe the Pan-Asian culture did impact my decision-making process subconsciously, but just on the values, whether it’s family-driven or Pan-Asian culture-driven, I do want to elaborate on that a little bit. So, when I was a little girl, my grandparents raised me because both my parents were finishing their Ph.D. in Australia.

Haritha:

Oh, wow. Okay.

Angie Kim:

Then my grandparents, they are the generation that’s survived the Korean War. Right?

Haritha:

Right. So, you were raised in Australia during this time with your grandparents, or-

Angie Kim:

No. So, I was in Australia, and then my parents wanted to leave me with my grandparents in South Korea, so these are the times I lived in South Korea with my grandparents for a while.

Haritha:

Oh, I see. Okay, okay.

Angie Kim:

Yeah.

Haritha:

So, you were in their home, in their city.

Angie Kim:

Exactly, exactly. Grandma’s food’s the best, right?

Haritha:

Oh, yes. Tell me about it.

Angie Kim:

Oh, 100%. So, my grandparents, they survived the Korean War. They left everything behind and built the family back up from really nothing.

Haritha:

Wow.

Angie Kim:

Yet my grandparents, even though they came from nothing, they are, I would honestly say, one of the most loving, generous, giving people that I know in my life, and one of the many values that they instilled in me is the notion of paying it forward. They always said that we’re all so blessed to be even alive and have a roof over our head, not to have to worry about how are we going to put food on our table for our next meal. So, my grandparents always said, “When you find yourself in a position that you can spare, you actually owe it to others to do some good,” and essentially, when the pandemic came and an opportunity to volunteer came, I found myself in a position where I was privileged to have so many options during these times, to be so lucky enough to have a job that was stable. So, I had to make the right decision, a difficult decision, but a right decision, nonetheless, to share my time and energy where it was really needed the most.

Haritha:

You’re not the only one with that kind of story. Maybe it didn’t strike you that it’s your Pan-Asian culture or the family values, but Angie, I’m telling you, I’ve noticed so many folks, myself included, my grandparents, same, they’ve come from nothing. My own parents, they left India in search for better opportunities, so they had nothing when they moved to Dubai, and the value that they instilled in us at a very young age, it’s just so profound because they always thought about others. They always put others first, despite they themselves struggling.

So, my grandmother is the same, both my grandmothers, actually. Even if they had a big family to take care of, they would always take care of the house help that would come in, provide food for them, make sure that everything… They would always say that, “They are family too. They are also human beings. We need to make sure that their tummies are fed so that then they can help us.” So, nobody was treated differently, and everyone was treated the same, and the fact that we wanted to always-

Angie Kim:

Amazing.

Haritha:

… help somebody else, I think that’s a beautiful quality in the Asian culture, and you can see that in Ascend Canada. It’s 100% volunteer-run, and you’d wonder, oh, wow, how many volunteers do you have? Hundreds of volunteers-

Angie Kim:

Wow.

Haritha:

… who are helping in so many different streams, and I truly think that I will attribute it to my culture. Yeah, sure, the values and those small, small things that they instilled in us, they go a long way, and the outcome-

Angie Kim:

100%.

Haritha:

I’m so happy that you shared that experience with us, because coming from a leader like you, it tells everybody else that, oh, you know what? Don’t be shy. Even as a leader, you can put your values at the forefront, and it’s not demeaning to be a store manager if you’re a finance director. No. I feel like that was the biggest takeaway I got from your story on LinkedIn. It just really got me hooked. But how was your experience, or how is your experience? You’re still working on the front lines, but it was tough, because it’s not a regular store manager duty that you’re doing. This is in tough times, so it’s tricky. There’s a lot of negativity and skepticism out there, but how has been your experience so far?

Angie Kim:

So, first of all, I don’t manage the store. Obviously, at a No Frills, there’s a franchisee whose doing the day-to-day, and I’m really there to fill any gaps that the store team-

Haritha:

Got it.

Angie Kim:

… needs me to do, whether it’s being a door ambassador… You know how you see a big line up in front of the store, and then you have somebody controlling the traffic?

Haritha:

Yes.

Angie Kim:

Whether it is that job or whether I’m sanitizing the carts or whether I’m working the shelf-

Haritha:

Oh, that must be painful. The one controlling the traffic, I feel like they have the worst job-

Angie Kim:

Oh, my.

Haritha:

… because everyone’s in a rush to get in, and they’re like, “Nope, the police.”

Angie Kim:

I know, seriously.

Haritha:

You cannot get in.

Angie Kim:

Seriously. I’m the bad cop now, but-

Haritha:

Oh, boy.

Angie Kim:

… that’s how was my experience, and I hesitate answering that because I’m just giving up the habit to automatically just say, “I’m fine. It’s fine,” when somebody asks me, “How are you doing?” Right?

Haritha:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angie Kim:

Because I want to be authentic with sharing my truth, sharing my journey, and my truth is my experience is definitely much better now, but I’ll be honest that these last three months, especially in the early days, were probably the most difficult times I’ve experienced in my professional life, both physically and mentally.

Haritha:

Wow.

Angie Kim:

It wasn’t all COVID-19 or front line-related, if you can imagine, and I laughed in the previous question that you asked, “Oh, it must have been easy for you because you’ve been a store manager,” because no, that was actually a double-edged sword for me because a lot of the trouble that I faced also had to do with my mindset and my own ability to adapt to changes. These times were nothing but changes, right?

Haritha:

Yeah.

Angie Kim:

Because I’ve been a store manager before, I did feel a little arrogant when I started to volunteer. I thought I had all the skills and experiences I needed to just be awesome in the front line, and then I could handle anything that came in my way, but boy, was I wrong. I think it’s really sort of my own rigidity of thoughts and unwillingness to see the ways where and how I can improve that really hurt me, and also coming from corporate environment in the office, and you’ve probably experienced the same, where everybody-

Haritha:

Yeah. I was going to ask you, I was going to say, was it because you were so used to a very corporate environment, where everyone works like a robot almost, and now all of a sudden you’re interacting with humans who have a lot of emotions, and they don’t keep it in check?

Angie Kim:

Yeah. No. Hopefully, it’s not robotic, and it’s genuine, authentic, but you’re right. Everybody you meet in the office, there’s zero tolerance for any negativity. Right? Everybody-

Haritha:

Exactly. Yeah, and by robots, I mean-

Angie Kim:

It’s so nice.

Haritha:

… there’s a certain decorum that we maintain.

Angie Kim:

Sure, absolutely.

Haritha:

We’re professional-

Haritha:

… but when you’re out on the streets, there’s no expectation. You’re literally out in the world.

Angie Kim:

The wild, wild West. Absolutely.

Haritha:

Exactly.

Angie Kim:

Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. You’re facing the real world, you’re facing the real customers, and don’t get me wrong. We have so many great customers who are kind and supportive, but the reality is there can be some who can be abusive and cruel too, and you can imagine how it just put my whole life in a whirlwind, but honestly, I couldn’t be more thankful for the support that I received from so many people across the enterprise, and my front line team here that I’ve been working day and night alongside with for the last three months, they continue to keep me grounded, keep me strong, keep me courageous, and reminded me to be kind. So, long story short, this was and it still is an extremely valuable experience for me, and I do not regret a thing.

Haritha:

The team, it makes or breaks you, and when you have an amazing team-

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

… they’re all working towards the same purpose, that’s awesome that you have such a nice team, and I know you must have had ups and downs, and I do want to have a really serious discussion on this because you know the world of today, and in a couple of days it’s just been so sad-

Angie Kim:

I know.

Haritha:

… just all the news in the US, over here, the xenophobia. It’s just heart-wrenching. I just feel so… I’m like, oh, my god, really? I thought we’d gone miles ahead, but it’s almost like we’ve gone backwards in progress. But I don’t know if you feel open to sharing, but I’d love to know, and I’m sure the listeners too would love to know if you’ve had any experiences that were a little hard-hitting and in your face, and that really made you vulnerable, but the takeaways, I think, would be profound to the folks listening.

Angie Kim:

Honestly, Haritha, I was expecting this question as part of this podcast. Right?

Haritha:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angie Kim:

I’ll be honest with you. I thought I would have my answers ready and lined up for this, but you’re absolutely right. In the recent events that uncovered just so much pain and injustice for the black community, I’m still processing my own feelings around it. Oh, my god. I’m getting emotional talking about it to you. But I thought I had it tough, and talk about all the times where I was mistreated and abused because of my Asian descent. In the last 12 weeks, I’ve been spat on, I’ve been told to go back to China, even though I’m Korean. Get your Asians straight.

Haritha:

My god.

Angie Kim:

And was ridiculed for having a little bit of accent that didn’t sound Canadian, but recently, actually, our CEO of T & T Supermarket, which is a subsidiary of Loblaw Companies as well, her name is Tina Lee, she said something-

Haritha:

Oh, Tina was the Ascend Canada Exec of the Year in 2018.

Angie Kim:

Oh, my god. Right on.

Haritha:

Yep, yep.

Angie Kim:

So, you might be familiar, but she said something, she shared something with the company that really struck a chord with me, and that’s how we should extend our patience, and not to mistake fear for racism. Initially, that was going to be my take on this. Let’s be patient as people get through this time, and let’s not mistake fear for racism, but honestly, Haritha, I don’t know. I don’t think we can afford this so-called patience anymore because more innocent live are being hurt. Right?

Haritha:

Yeah. I think it’s time to act, right?

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

Yeah.

Angie Kim:

Just because of the color of the skin, it’s so unfair, and I think we need decisive action now, because at the end of the day, there’s only one race in the world, and that’s the human race.

Haritha:

Absolutely.

Angie Kim:

Sorry, go ahead.

Haritha:

No, no, no. No, my heart goes out to you, Angie, because I’ve been there. Having lived in different countries, I lived in the UK, and you’d think that because the UK once held hold of India I would face a lot of racism there, but I didn’t face racism much in the UK, but in the US, which I thought was one of the most welcoming countries, as an auditor with EY, I faced so much racism for the way I looked, the way I talked, and I feel you. I know exactly what you’re going through. I am so sorry, and I wish I could give you a virtual hug, really, but know you’re not alone. You have an entire community, and the entire Pan-Asian and black communities, everybody out there who is a person of color, we all need to come together at this point in time.

Angie Kim:

No, absolutely.

Haritha:

We have to stay strong.

Angie Kim:

No, you’re absolutely right, because enough is enough. Right?

Haritha:

Right.

Angie Kim:

So, I couldn’t agree more with you. It’s really up to all of us, and you’re right. If you haven’t been a victim of racism, wow, you’re actually one of the privileged few, but-

Haritha:

I know.

Angie Kim:

… I’m certain that all of us have seen racism in action, and if you-

Haritha:

In someone, yep.

Angie Kim:

Exactly, but if you decide to be silent when you witness racism happening in front of you, then we are part of the problem too. Right?

Haritha:

Agreed. Agreed.

Angie Kim:

Just like how we were saying that there are no good cops until the good cops starting holding bad cops accountable, absolutely the same. I think we are all accountable to eradicate racism once and for all, and also, not just xenophobia or racism or bigotry, but discrimination of any kind. Right?

Haritha:

Yes.

Angie Kim:

Hard to believe we’re in June now, but it’s a pride month, and-

Haritha:

I know.

Angie Kim:

… we have to celebrate kindness and love because it really has no boundaries.

Haritha:

Yep. I mean, all colors of the rainbow. Right?

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

I think that’s what we need to promote. But you know what? I’m glad you mentioned what Tina had to say because fear is an important concept to understand, because a lot of folks out there are saying, “Oh, our communities are being targeted,” and people have faced racism, and especially with COVID, they’re like, “Go back to where you belong, go back to your country.”

Angie Kim:

Oh, I know. Terrible.

Haritha:

These are words that you don’t want to hear because you think, oh, my god, Canada is home for me. I was born and raised here. I’m as much Canadian as you are. Then when you hear things like this… But giving it that thought, that, oh, maybe they’re afraid, maybe fear is causing them to… It gives you a little bit of perspective, but to your point, I think it’s becoming more obvious that we still have such a long way to go for true inclusion. But you know what? I want to move on to a happier note. I’ve seen a lot of the bad side.

Angie Kim:

Yeah, a lot of difficult questions.

Haritha:

Yeah, and I’m so sorry to put you in that position, but-

Angie Kim:

Oh, my god. No, no, no. I’m happy to share. Thank you for asking.

Haritha:

Okay. I’m glad. Well, whatever may cloud you, there is always a silver lining.

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

So, I’m sure you did see some positive actions and thoughts over these few months. Is that something you can shed some light on?

Angie Kim:

Oh, yeah, and I love that question because it’s such a great segue from our last difficult conversation, because there is one best practice that has not only gotten me and my team and all of us through the last three months, but I know it will continue to get us through anything and everything that may come in our way going forward. To be fair, we didn’t invent this practice, but it’s something that we all have in us already, and guess what? It doesn’t cost us anything either. So, the best practice I’ve witnessed that made the most amount of difference to myself and my team and everyone around me is really kindness, assuming good intention, having each other’s back, and practicing gratitude, like how you have, Haritha, when you go to the grocery store, even if it’s going out of your way to recognize somebody.

That’s really what held my front line teams together in the last three months through all the fear and exhaustions we face daily, and as we talked about just now, abuse, cruelty, and hatred unfortunately exist, but for every one of those interactions, there have been 100 more acts of kindness shared back with us. In fact, I’d love to share this story because it actually happened just a couple days ago, where we had a customer, her name is Jane, who gave us $50 in cash just so then we can treat our team to a pizza party.

Haritha:

That’s amazing-

Haritha:

… and I love how you know your customer’s name. That’s awesome.

Angie Kim:

I was like, “What’s your name? You are so amazing.”

Haritha:

That’s so nice.

Angie Kim:

So, anyway… Yeah.

Haritha:

You know what? I didn’t know you could do that. I would love to do that. I’d love to help throw a pizza party for my local Longo’s and Loblaw folks.

Angie Kim:

I know. It’s so amazing.

Haritha:

That’s awesome.

Angie Kim:

Some of you may think, oh, it’s just pizza, but when was the last time you donated $50 to something or bought a lunch for a stranger because all you wanted to say was thank you?

Haritha:

That’s beautiful.

Angie Kim:

Everything you do-

Haritha:

That’s so great.

Angie Kim:

… in kindness, it makes a huge difference.

Haritha:

Did you guys have a good pizza party?

Angie Kim:

Oh, you know it, girl. It was awesome.

Haritha:

That’s awesome. Love it.

Angie Kim:

But honestly, for those of you who are listening, who take time to acknowledge the work you do, like you do, Haritha, thank you so much because you are the reason why we feel so proud to be serving through these times.

Haritha:

Oh, don’t, Angie. It’s really interesting. We ordered through the Loblaw, the online shopping, and my partner, he actually went to go pick it up. So, he did the PC Express pickup, and a rep came out to load our car, and I wasn’t there, but my partner, he came back and he said, “You know what? I feel so guilty because the rep who’s loading my car, he’s probably 10 years younger than me, and I’m going and ordering stuff online.” He’s like, “No. You know what? I’m going to go into the store and get grocery,” and we’re actually now doing grocery shopping for some of the seniors in our community as well, because-

Angie Kim:

That’s amazing.

Haritha:

It was just so heart-wrenching. He came back and he said, “No way. I’m not doing this. I felt so guilty sitting inside the car as if I’m a person of privilege.”

Angie Kim:

Oh, no. We are happy.

Haritha:

But you know what? I think those are the aha moments that this COVID has taught us. It’s really tapping into our innermost emotions, like humility, empathy, and the word kindness, so bang on. But you know what? We are a couple of months down, and it’s almost become business as usual for us living in this sort of pandemic world, but from your perspective, what do you think the near future looks like?

Angie Kim:

Truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t know what the near future looks like, and I think that’s okay, though, because the coronavirus-

Haritha:

It kind of gives me anxiety, so it’s nice to hear it from you.

Angie Kim:

because the coronavirus didn’t come with an expiry date or anything like that, and have you seen Finding Nemo?

Haritha:

Yes.

Angie Kim:

Dory says, “We just got to keep on swimming.”

Haritha:

Just keep swimming.

Angie Kim:

That’s what we have to do. We just have to uphold our best-in-class practices to continue to keep everyone safe, fed, and supplied, with just as much diligence as day one, if not more and more every day. I mean, there are a few things we do think about, and that is how will the world change when we have beat this virus once and for all. Right?

Haritha:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angie Kim:

Will our customers prefer our PC Express platform, like you and your partner enjoyed, having somebody load it into your back of your trunk?

Haritha:

Oh, no, no.

Angie Kim:

No, no, no, no. But it’s a service that we want to evolve too. Right?

Haritha:

Right.

Angie Kim:

Would our customer prefer that? Will you look for less points of contact? Can we still build trust and confidence with every single service we offer? So, I think these are some of the important questions that we all need to think about, and really listen to our customers so we can continue to best serve you and address your needs today, tomorrow, and going forward.

Haritha:

Yeah, that’s a valid point, evolving and understanding what… Yeah, maybe regular grocery shopping is not going to be the norm anymore, so we need to adapt that.

Angie Kim:

Yeah. Who knows, right?

Haritha:

But you know what? I think the biggest question of all going forward is going to be will the demand for yeast and bread flour ever go down.

Angie Kim:

Hopefully, we’ve gotten over the worst for toilet papers.

Haritha:

Yeah. Now we have toilet paper, but oh, my god, I’m still unable to find yeast, so it’s crazy.

Angie Kim:

I know. I know. Come to Matt’s No Frills. We’ve got a box there.

Haritha:

Okay, awesome. Well, folks, don’t go lining up there because Angie only has one box for me. But I also wanted to touch upon bringing our whole selves to work in this virtual environment. You are at the storefront, so you’ve still got people interaction, but a lot of us, we’re sitting at home. I’m sitting, I’m just facing a wall all day. I’m looking at my partner’s face day in, day out, but how do we bring our authentic selves to work in this virtual environment? Because no more coffee chats, no more Starbucks runs, no more Timmy’s runs. So, what exactly does the concept of bringing your whole self to work mean today?

Angie Kim:

I mean, I love that question because you’re asking how do we bring our whole authentic self to work instead of just being there, and I totally get it too because right now, I’m actually splitting my time. I’m at the store Monday to Saturday, but also, I do have my daytime job. Thank God for my amazing team who’s taking on over-and-above tasks to allow for my time volunteering at the store, but I still do have to touch base with them and host regular meetings just to make sure that the business must go on. Right?

Haritha:

Yeah.

Angie Kim:

So, I’m having to balance… I’m in a unique situation where I’m balancing both. I’m at the front line, but I’m also doing the office job virtually too-

Haritha:

Wow.

Angie Kim:

… so I 100% get and empathize with the challenges we have now that everything is virtual. So, I actually have a few tips I practice with my team daily, and they all happen to start with a letter S. It’s set, show up, and share, and I’ll elaborate a little bit more. So, set is for setting time, boundaries, and expectations. Since we started working virtually, I actually catch my team working around the clock. I’ll have emails from them from 6:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night, over the weekend.

Haritha:

Guilty as charged.

Angie Kim:

Oh, my goodness, Haritha. Working virtually doesn’t mean that you have to be available all the time, nor is that the expectation. Right?

Haritha:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angie Kim:

So, really set the time you are dedicated to work, and protect time that you have for you and your family, because I think that time is more important now than ever, so don’t be apologetic. Set time. The second S is for showing up, and it’s actually exactly what it sounds like. For the time you set to work, you actually have to show up with your best energy and commitment, and I’m not talking about lock your kids up and abandon them while they cry for you because you’re committed to work. Of course, be flexible, and be forgiving to yourself and others when unexpected interruptions happen, but for those golden hours when you are able to commit, commit. Dress up. Turn on your camera. Engage when the meetings happen. Don’t be checking your Instagram or be streaming Tiger King on Netflix on the side. Right?

Haritha:

Yes. I’ve started turning on my camera for every meeting now because I’m-

Angie Kim:

Good for you.

Haritha:

… holding myself accountable.

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

I’m not dressing up, though. Let’s just get that out there, but-

Angie Kim:

You’re beautiful anyway.

Haritha:

Oh, no. But it’s like-

Angie Kim:

But no, you’re right.

Haritha:

… I know I’m in my pajamas. I’m like, “You know what? This is me, but you can see me in my true element,” but you’re right, turning on the camera, I’m encouraging my team as well to do that, because it just holds you accountable, and it adds a bit of that inter-person connection that we don’t have now.

Angie Kim:

Doesn’t it? I agree.

Haritha:

Yep.

Angie Kim:

Yeah. No, I couldn’t agree more. You know what? We can tell when you’re not fully present, even if you don’t have camera on. Right?

Haritha:

Oh, yeah.

Angie Kim:

So, just remember the same meeting etiquette we had in-person, it still carries virtually, and the way… If you were to show up and truly commit, then you just feel more engaged and valued for both yourself and your time as well. Right?

Haritha:

Yep, absolutely.

Angie Kim:

So, do show up when you can commit. The last S is for share, which is… I’ll be honest. It’s difficult for many of us, and I’ll admit that I’m not so great at it either, but I’m getting better thanks to my team. My team is super nosy when they ask me, “How are you, Angie?” and I say, “I’m fine.” They’re like, “No, look. Really, how are you?” They’ll ask me 10 times. So, God bless them.

Haritha:

Until you spill the beans.

Angie Kim:

Exactly, because there’s always something that’s not just fine, and my team really engages me in that open conversation, so, so much to learn from them, but you’re right. Just don’t say, “I’m good,” in your autopilot mode if you’re not. Share the good and the bad, the opportunities you see, the difficulties you face, the happy times, the pain points. Share them. Don’t bottle them up.

Haritha:

Yeah. I love that. I love that. Transparency is key because when you go physically to work, they can see it on your face.

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

Your teammates know if you’re feeling sick or you’re not doing well, you’re feeling dull, and you take a day off, or you leave home early, but then now you’re behind a screen. You’re on the call. They don’t know what you’re going through. You might be-

Angie Kim:

Exactly.

Haritha:

So, my mom, recently, I had an experience where my mom’s neighbor got diagnosed positive, and my mom’s sitting with my elderly grandparents in India. They’re 90-plus, and I was freaking out. I was just so devastated because I’m like, oh, my god, I’m not going to be able to travel-

Angie Kim:

Oh, my.

Haritha:

… and I was such an emotional wreck, and I just told my team, I was like, “Guys, I’m really going through an emotional time right now,” and my team was so supportive.

Angie Kim:

Absolutely.

Haritha:

But if I hadn’t told them that, I would not be performing at work. I would be slacking. I wouldn’t put my 100%. Now that I’ve shared that with my team, my team constantly checks in, “Hey, how’s your mom doing?” and I love that. I’m like, oh, my god, my team is amazing. You know?

Angie Kim:

Absolutely. Absolutely, and thank you for that because you’re absolutely right. You’d be surprised how many people care, and no, it doesn’t make you look weak if you share it. I think it builds that authentic connection we’re looking for, and trust me, we’re all going through more or less the same trouble. Right?

Haritha:

Yeah.

Angie Kim:

So, like you said, I think you said it the best, Haritha, showing up with our authentic whole self is really only possible when there is a level of trust and confidence that we have within each other. So, why don’t we just give each other a chance so then we can be our best selves and our whole selves, with or without these virtual settings?

Haritha:

I love it. Oh, my god. Angie, thank you. I think you’re on to something, and I personally think this is going to go viral very soon, the whole concept of set, show up, and share. I love it. I’m going to promote that within my team, set, show up, and share. That’s it. It’s going to be a new rap song.

Angie Kim:

Oh, my.

Haritha:

But I’ve gotten an all-time inspiration high just listening to you, and I’m sure so are the listeners. Thank you so much for your time, and a huge, huge shout out and thank you to the entire front line families that are working out there. We’re truly grateful for everything that you do for us. Angie, any parting words before we wrap up the session?

Angie Kim:

No, just really just to echo your gratitude, Haritha, and your whole community of Ascend Canada, I just really can’t thank you enough for giving me this forum to share and have this honest, courageous, and vulnerable conversation. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you.

Haritha:

It’s our privilege, our privilege, and super excited to release this podcast and get everyone to listen to your amazing stories. So, folks, make sure you set, show up, and share in the days to come. Until then, stay safe and stay tuned.