The Pivotter Series explores the themes of ambition, motivation, and productivity as experienced by high-performing women.
Shen Liu, Senior Product Manager, Walmart International.
San Francisco Bay Area
What are some of the most important things to know about you?
I love traveling to spend quality time with family and friends, and if I can enjoy a great meal with them, even better! My favorite hobbies are cooking, various arts & crafts, and yoga. Also, my spirit animal is Hello Kitty.
What do you do - and what what drives you in your career as well as personal endeavors?
I’ve been working at Walmart eCommerce for 3 years, and have been focused on launching new products, services, and businesses. What drives me in my career is continued learning (having multiple, varied tasks + projects) and creating connections (“rainmaking” and connecting different teams + parts of the company). This is also evident in my personal endeavors as well - I enjoy exploring new places, living in new cities, and overall having a lot of variety and diversity in my life.
What does ambition personally mean to you - what place does it have in your life?
Ambition used to mean achievement and accolades, particularly in the sense of career. Setting goals, and achieving them was something I prioritized, a lot. My career was a high priority in my life, and I chose to make some personal sacrifices in order to achieve what I had defined as professional success. These days, I am learning to balance that drive - with more boundary setting, so that I can still have ample quality time to spend with important people in my life, or on centering myself.
Do you think our culture perceives “ambition” to be a dirty word for women? Why or why not?
I think ambition can be a dirty word for women. Having ambition, and some of the traits that may come along with it–being aggressive, direct, or goal-oriented–can be perceived negatively by everyone: Males and females alike.
It’s unfair and unfortunate, but it does happen.
What does ‘having confidence’ mean to you - what place does it have in your life? How do you work on it?
Having confidence means presenting my true self and believing in myself. It also means listening to my intuition and inner voice when making decisions, and not being persuaded by others.
I work on confidence by spending time on self-reflection, and being truly honest with my own feedback.
It also means treating myself as a best friend rather than a critic. This means being compassionate when mistakes and imperfections arise.
Additionally, surrounding myself with empathetic, non-judgmental, supportive people helps me build resilience, which increases and maintains confidence.
Please share one of your current, important goals (can be personal or work-related).
My current goal is to do things in good character, and specifically, this means “prioritizing truth over desirability.” I had read about this in David Brooks’ The Road to Character, and that particular snippet really jumped out at me.
Why is this a goal and how did you realize it was something that you wanted to work on?
I am a very “others-focused” person - someone that always considers what can help the team / environment / others. Sometimes it’s possible to get very far down a particular, and maybe wrong path, just to please others. There may be some misalignment between that path and a vision that is authentic to me. I would like avoid those situations and be able to speak up about it when it does happen.
What’s your plan for achieving it?
To be honest, I don’t know if I have a plan. This will take a lot of practice and learning, as well as being more emotionally astute.
I'd like to better understand how to deliver the truth (if it’s not an easy message) sensibly and mindfully. I believe this starts with paying more attention, listening, and taking a step back to reflect before providing a response.
What do you do if you are having a hard time defining goals?
If I am unable to define something, but I know that I want a change, then I calm my mind first and slow things down. This can be through meditation, prayer, or rest.
Then, I journal. I write down as much as I can don't edit the first time around.
Afterward, I synthesize and prioritize the information, and listen to my gut when it comes to defining next steps.
How do you stay motivated to fulfill your goals and sense of ambition, and what do you do when you get stuck?
Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated. I do have moments (or longer periods of time) when I feel more "hamster-in-wheel-ish" than I would like. Sometimes deadlines get compressed and responsibilities feel overwhelming.
Historically, a decade ago, when these things happened, I tried making a plan and charging ahead. Now, I like to take more time to rest.
Perhaps it's a little bit of it is procrastination :) but I believe that it is worth it to observe the thoughts and feelings that bubble up to the surface in moments of silence or periods of inaction. Whether it’s a nap, yoga, or silent-meditation retreat day, I try to focus on not-doing and not-solving first. Sometimes I get lucky and there are valuable nuggets that help me get unstuck.
What is one tool/trick/lifehack/resource/service do you use to stay productive?
I put everything into my phone calendar as soon as something is scheduled (even if it’s tentative). I also use my phone to set reminders for tasks, either in my calendar or triggered by proximity to a certain location, so that I have one less thing to remember.
I've learned a great deal about my behavioral tendencies and habits by really paying more attention to how I am allocating my space, time, and money–whether it’s Konmari-cleaning my room, tracking how I’ve spent my time, or budgeting.
Cleaning my space has greatly helped me be more productive because now I don’t spend more time than needed looking for items to complete a given task.
Understanding my high- and low-energy times (e.g. I am a morning person, but even simple tasks can be challenging in late afternoons) has taught me to reallocate my tasks.
Keeping a budget on my phone has also helped me be more mindful of my spending, which is great because it has taught me to appreciate more of what I choose to consume.
The other thing I started doing about a year ago was reducing the number of notifications on my phone. I check my phone often and I don’t need to see or hear a ping every time I receive something. This small adjustment has helped me greatly.
I really don’t believe in true multitasking and I’ve come to accept that anything that distracts me when I am in the middle of a task, project, or conversation, can wait just a little bit. This habit allows me to be more fully present on the task at hand.
What activities do you do outside of your full-time gig (whether that’s work, parenting or something else)? How do you find time to do it? How does it make you more successful in your full-time gig?
I’m learning to take better care of myself.
This means finding time to do what I want to do–whether it’s going on a long drive, getting a massage, meditating, doing yoga on the beach, or simply taking myself to a nice restaurant.
Finding time isn’t always easy, and it can come down to putting an event in my calendar for “alone time” or “me day”. If I don't schedule it, I may forget that being alone and prioritizing myself can go a long way–and improve the quality of my relationships and my work.
What would you do with an extra 15 minutes a day?