Best Hire Ever: Marriott’s Jessica Lee on How Immigrant Parents Influenced Her Career

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Aug 3, 2020
This article is part of a series called Podcasts.

In Episode 8 of Best Hire Ever, Kris Dunn chats with Jessica Lee, VP of global brand talent at Marriott International, about growing up in a household with immigrant parents from South Korea. Jessica and Kris discuss her memories of growing up in that household related to themes of work and achievement, building to how that upbringing influenced her own career and choices on how she raises her own children.

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Show Highlights:

2:00 – Is it Jessica, JLee, or JL?  Not Jess or Jessie, BTW.

3:00 – KD talks about the pressure for college admissions, first jobs, etc. on today’s young workers. KD points out that Jessica has done great things, but did not have a master plan at 22 or 23 years old. JLee agrees and talks about going on a date in DC with a guy who wanted to know her five-year plan.

6:15 – Jessica describes growing up in a household with immigrant parents from South Korea. She talks about being a 1.5 or second generation American. Jlee also talks about her first memories related to work and her parents.

8:35 – KD asks Jessica about her parent’s desire to “create something” and whether they communicated that vision. JLee talks about the contrast between her parent’s approach and her own relationship with her children.

10:45 – Jlee talks about her siblings, their achievements from a career perspective and her role as the youngest in a household with Korean heritage.

14:23 – JLee talks about what she sees in herself related to work based on her memories of being raised by immigrant parents. JLee talks about while expectations were high, there was an expectation/reality that they had to figure things out on their own, which is a cornerstone of who she is professionally.

17:45 – KD challenges JLee to find a single trait to attribute to one her parents and she comes up with a great one — her mother’s attention to details and how everything communicates something specific to the outside world — appearance, communication, running a meeting, etc.

23:40 – Jessica talks about the connection of how she was raised to how she’s trying to raise her own kids. She talks about the positive impact of having no safety net on her and her husband and struggling with how much her kids should be forced to struggle. JLee also talks about her parent’s expectation of a professional career vs how she wants to influence her kids related to career choice. KD asks about what her second generation Korean peers are doing related to safety nets for their children.

30:00 – Jessica talks about how mental illness in her family (peaking in her high school years) also influenced how she was raised and how she views the world, as well as the impact of losing her father when she was 20. All of it combined to provide her with drive and initiative, as well as her worldview. KD asks JLee if the mental illness didn’t exist if she would still have the same drive from a career perspective.

35:00 – JLee shares info from her executive coaching sessions. Scoop! KD and JLee talk about how having a limited safety net build self-awareness and urgency.

39:15 – KD is back to JLee as a parent! How is she going to weave all of it together — background, experiences and more — to get the best possible outcome for her kids? JLee talks about the balance between “stacking the deck” vs forcing them to bootstrap in life.

This article is part of a series called Podcasts.
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