A Friend From Work: Kat Tung (Customer-Obsessed)
Serendipitous is how I would describe how I found Kat - I was scrolling LinkedIn as I usually am for 80% of my life, when I stumbled upon one of her posts - her headline said “Customer Success | Talent | Former Restaurant Nerd 🍍 | Forever People Person 🌻"
At the time, Beacons had just started looking for a Customer Support Specialist to join our Customer Success team, and I was looking for a Recruiting Coordinator - so I was EXCITED. After looking at her profile, I saw that she was trying to transition careers - she had an incredible career in hospitality and restaurants, but was now looking for a customer/people facing role in tech. She had such a clear voice, it was almost jumping out of my screen.
I had to know her!
Kat had worked in hospitality since she was 16. Her first job was at Applebees, but she never thought of hospitality as a career. “Growing up asian, the only options: engineer, lawyer or doctor,” she laughed. “I had no idea it was even an option.” But she always enjoyed working in restaurants because she got to meet different types of people every day.
”When I was looking for colleges, I found that hospitality was actually a career path,” Kat said, and this was an obvious choice for her. She went to Cal Poly Pomona and did hospitality there, but most of her learning was done on-site, working at different restaurants, hotels, and bars.
She met an array of people from different walks of life, and even experienced management at the early age of 23. “I got thrown in there,” she recalled, “as per usual of my life.” But hotel management turned out to be a fun challenge - she led events and banquets, managed the bars, room service and executive lounges. She was “making life-long relationships with different clients, yet putting out fires at the same time,” she said, all the while cultivating a culture that she wanted for the teams she led.
After working at the Marriott for 5 years, Kat decided she wanted a change. “Marriott is a really cool, huge conglomerate, but I wanted to work with the little guys,” she said. Kat wanted to feel connected to the people she was working for and with. “I wanted to help peoples dreams come true. Knowing the owners meant a lot to me and I wanted to help them succeed.”
So, she joined Tacolicious - a hip, full-service Mexican restaurant with 4 Bay Area locations - as a Managing Partner and quickly got the opportunity to open their new restaurant in Manhattan Beach. This was the opportunity to start something completely from scratch. She helped build the structure of the restaurant, the ambiance, the team, and the goal was to open in March 16, 2020 - we all know how that went.
Still, Kat blew everyone away when they opened a few months later in June 2020. The SoCal location outperformed profit expectations and had a 70% employee retention rate (during COVID? hello?). After a year and a half, she ended up having to leave Tacolicious due to family responsibilities. Realizing that she had always prioritized work, she decided to put family first. “I really did enjoy working,” Kat said, like a true workaholic, “it was weird for me not be able to do that.”
When she returned to the workforce, she started looking for other career paths. ”I realized that I’m strong in building relationships, building ‘regulars,’” she said. “Project management was interesting to me, to a point that I even got a certificate for it, but customer success - you’re doing project management but you’re also building relationships.” In a lot of ways, it felt like her roles in the hospitality industry, something that came naturally to her.
After a few months of interviews with tech companies (one of them being us), Kat was faced with a decision that was actually a lot more familiar than she thought. A couple of her other opportunities were with larger companies which to her, in the very beginning, felt like the best option. “I was trying to jump into a completely new industry, and I thought, I won’t know what the heck I’m doing,” she said. “I felt less stressed about larger companies - if I do f*** up, I felt like it wouldn’t be as big of a deal - whereas if I worked at a startup, I would feel so much more responsible for any mistake that I made.”
Long story short, my initial feeling of “I have to know her” turned into “I have to work with her!” So I tried obsessively. Getting the team to love her was easy - they knew as soon as they spoke with her - but getting her to choose us was a little more panic-inducing. We were competing with bigger, more established companies, which carries a lot of weight with most candidates.
Forever People Person (at Beacons!)
Thinking about it more, Kat realized that “Conglomerates were exactly what I wanted to escape in the hospitality world! I want to continue to make a difference.” So she took a chance on us. ”The fact that I get to work with other co-workers to try to build community for our users but also put out fires on a daily basis,” she said, “It wasn’t such a huge transition. Instead of dealing with soggy tortillas and fries it’s like, ‘My custom domain isn’t working.’ You’re still at the end of the day, taking care of other people; making them smile, making their lives easier.”
Kat loves people, so it’s not surprising that her favorite thing about Beacons is the team. “Internally, we really enjoy each others’ company, whether remote or not,” she said. “Every company tries to boast about how great their ‘Company Culture’ is and how much everyone loves each other at work, but they haven’t met Beacons. Beacons has the warmest and the funniest group of people I’ve ever met, all working with and for each other; so everything has been an easy transition. Everyone made it so.” (I actually tried to get her to tell me it was hard. She was like, no. Easy.)
For her, the decision to join us was “all about the people and really believing in the product. I think the product itself is really cool and its helping creators all around the world; It’s also still just the beginning! Beacons’ Roadmap is insane!” She could easily tell from her interviews that “everyone loved working with each other and everyone believed in this company and its success.”
As for the work itself, “There a lot of interesting creators out in the world,” she said. ”Its been pretty entertaining to see what people put out there! I’ve seen some Spicy things, some Posh things, some Sporty things…the whole Spice Girls!”
Kat’s only been with us for a few months, but I can no longer remember a time when she wasn’t. Not only is she phenomenal at her job, she’s a culture carrier both in and outside of the office. And though her path is a unique one for Beacons, it’s not unique for the industry - full of candidates who have incredible transferable skills and are looking for a career transition.