From academia to the civil service and now working at Indeed as an Associate Site Lead, Lynette Tan walks us through her mid-career changes. She shares what she learnt, her challenges and what helped her through it all.
Lynette grew up in Singapore and spent some time in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, where she studied Neuroscience and Anthropology while minoring in Classics.
Always fascinated by human behavior, she had an interest in looking at human interaction from different angles.
“I know it might seem like an odd combination, but studying the rise and fall of ancient civilizations went hand in hand with examining our evolutionary history. What motivates us? What frustrates us? What makes us come together as communities and work towards shared goals? What makes us want to tear systems down?” she reflected.
With a passion for human behavior, her journey to Indeed strangely enough, began with chickens.
“My first real job was as a lab manager looking after dozens of chickens. Our lab was doing research on cognitive development in newborns – basically, what are we born understanding,” she said.
“Chickens turned out to be the best test subject for this, and so I learned to build cages, wire up a lab for monitoring, create and animate 3D models… and care for chicks!”.
After a year of this, she moved on to join the Singapore government as a policy officer, and eventually underwent training as an Organisational Development practitioner. In 2019, she made yet another transition and joined Indeed.
Transitioning between sectors is not easy, but Lynette has been driven by the desire to find a place where she can do meaningful, impactful work.
“My discovery of the field of OD was life-changing. When I first joined the government I didn’t know what OD was. I had already been interested in the human aspect of team effectiveness, and had tried to work on issues like team morale and accountability,” she shared.
“One day my agency’s OD team came to chat with my unit, and started asking all these questions about challenges our team might be facing – it was like they were reading my mind…as the team left the meeting, I grabbed them and said, ‘I want to do what you do’!’” she recalls.
The opportunity to join the OD team arose and Lynette seized it. She shares how at the time, a lot of people she respected were not in favor of the decision she made as OD was not a high-prestige role in government. She went ahead with her decision as she really wanted to learn what made teams tick.
She never regretted her choice. “I received incredible training in this role, got to meet and learn with others who were working towards the same goals, and could start testing out my own ideas – and this time my idealism was backed by a more solid foundation.” she said.
As she grew in her OD experience, she became interested in learning more about how good organisations work, and wanted to make the jump into the private sector to broaden her experience.
A friend referred her to the job at Indeed which was exactly what she was looking for. She joined as the Site Operations Manager, looking after the health and effectiveness of the Singapore site. Now, a year later, she has stepped into the role of Associate Site Lead which has allowed her to branch out to regional and global work as well.
“Indeed has been more than I dared hope for. Indeedians are incredibly mission and value-driven, and the work culture is the best I’ve come across,” she said.
“Besides being surrounded by people I respect and have so much fun with, I get to work on building teams and communities, and on improving fundamental organisational processes, like interviewing, training and performance management; helping our teams grow through their careers. This role gives me exactly the view I wanted to see: what makes organisations great?”
Her role by nature involves managing a significant amount of uncertainty. Indeed has moved very quickly in the last year especially, which has meant that everyone has needed to adapt to more changes than usual.
“The Function Office, which I belong to, has sight into multiple teams and access to many streams of information, which can mean learning of events or situations on the horizon before we reach consensus on how to respond as a company,” she explained.
“Over time, I’ve come to realize the importance of being able to sit with the feeling of being uncomfortable,” she shared.
She emphasized the importance of differentiating between what we can and cannot control. This comes with some patience and self-awareness and for those looking to learn, she recommends Peter Bregman’s “Leading with Emotional Courage” as a place to start.
Lynette also believes that it’s important to make space for pursuing different passions. During the height of the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore, she picked up watercoloring as a way to calm herself. “I find that painting allows me to fully focus my mind on the task at hand, and take a break from my normal thoughts and worries. It helps me maintain perspective,” she said.
In addition to continuous learning, Lynette said she owes her success to the people who believe in her. “It’s an empowering thing to have someone raise your horizons by expecting more of you than you would yourself, and I am thankful to everyone who does that for me, some of whom are right here at Indeed,” she said.
From that, she has gained a breadth of experience and depth of knowledge. Her advice to those who might be going through or planning on changing industries mid-career is to focus on your strengths, know the direction in which you want to go, and see what you should add to your toolbox of skills to be really successful in your next job,” she added.
“Know that it’s normal to be afraid! I’ve never been more terrified than in making the jump to Indeed!” she admitted.
“At the time, I figured out I was afraid of failing in such a public way, of proving that I couldn’t do the job I was claiming to be capable of. I had to be okay with that – once I realized it was just pride holding me back, I was ready to bite the bullet. And luckily for me, joining Indeed has turned out to be the best decision I’ve made!”
To hear more from Lynette, listen in to this episode of our Culture Matters podcast: