Nigel Lo recently stepped into the role of CEO at Kin On, a not-for-profit health and services provider for the Asian community.
Challenge Yourself & Chase Your Dream
One of the benefits of retirement is to have the leisure of trying something new and to pursue the hobbies and work that I have always wanted to do. During my retirement, I enjoyed working on home improvement projects and playing the game of golf. I also loved teaching at the Renton library and the Chinese Information and Service Center. Believe it or not, I've also learned how to sing karaoke and perform with a live band. I was very happy to partake in all these activities, but in my heart, I always wanted to re-engage with the community in a more significant way. When the opportunity at Kin On was open, I jumped right in.
The CEO of Kin On is responsible for the overall financial and operational performance of the entire organization. Kin On has various business segments including the skilled-nursing facility, in-home care services, and Healthy Living programs. We are also building a new assisted living and adult family home apartments. There is a lot of growth opportunity to integrate these business segments seamlessly in the Kin On Continuum Care model. The challenges that I can foresee in a non-profit organization could be in the establishment and implementation of processes and procedures. A non-profit sometimes does not have the resources to develop and update processes and procedures as quickly and effectively as needed. There are state regulations to be met and complied with. So what is it that an engineer and project manager like me could do to take charge of this elder care enterprise?
Looking back, many leadership skills and philosophies that I learned throughout my career at The Boeing Company have prepared me for this role. The fundamental principles on managing a business regardless if it’s a profit or nonprofit organization are essentially the same. You must think strategically and have a strong vision.
During my preparation for the Kin On interview, I began to realize there are many similarities between working at Boeing and Kin On. Both jobs have profit and loss responsibility and strong management obligation. The leadership attributes requirements are very similar as well. The ability on charting the course, delivering results, setting high expectations, and inspiring the teams is imperative.
My time at EDI was also a rewarding professional development experience. Twenty years ago, my EDI community project was to work with Kin On. In other words, where I am at right now was because of EDI and I am very grateful for that. Through the EDI program, the leadership development learning in regards to understanding the Asian culture, its strength and challenges, and leveraging the experience is simply remarkable. It helped my career at Boeing and now I can fully utilize the leadership development at Kin On. I feel fortunate and honored to have this opportunity to lead the Kin On team.
Over the years, there are mentors and colleagues who have always stood by and supported me. They are great role models and inspiring individuals who I always learning from. I count on their honest feedback and advice. At the personal level, family and friends who understand my goals and aspiration, always encourage me to chase my dreams and offer good advice along the way. I treasure this network of mentors and supporters in my life.
Some final words:
Leadership skills are transferable. I am a living example of it. I encourage the future leaders focus on developing a set of leadership skills and gaining experiences that you can articulate when you progress in your current assignment or at your next big opportunity. These soft skills will differentiate you from another equally capable individual and open doors that you might not have thought of.
Find your passion. I have never thought that it would be possible to go from building airplanes to managing an elderly care enterprise. And here I am! When you can combine leadership skills and passion, you have a very good chance of achieving your dreams.
Think big! Stop worrying about level, rank, title, and money. Start focusing on personal and professional development. Believe in yourself and use your talents to do something that creates an impact in making the world better.
Joining Kin On as the new CEO is a wonderful opportunity to contribute and engage with the community in a meaningful way. My mother, sister, and uncle are all residing in different elderly care facilities. This opportunity cannot be more relevant to me than any other positions in my career. I am very excited to lead the teams and take Kin On to the next level and make a difference where it matters.
My new position is Category Engineering Director for Young Athletes Footwear at Nike, Inc., managing the engineering and manufacturing strategic plan of the category and managing four engineers. I am planning to understand and master the position in the next 2-3 years.
EDI has been the trigger to build self confidence in reaching the new position. I had a chance the few months after my graduation to give a presentation about my learnings to footwear leadership; they were very impressed and felt confident to give me the new position.
The biggest challenge is the transition from managing projects to managing people, you need to develop totally different skills (EQ is the first that come to my mind). I don’t know yet about successes or failure because I am new to the position, but I will wait for the end of fiscal year to get feedback.
Definitively all the EDI training (guest speakers and EDI friends like Jeff Racicot) have inspired me. I also had few Nike mentors who inspired me. My dad is also a huge inspiration; he used to manage a factory.
My advice for others is to gain self-confidence (the most challenging person you have to deal with is…yourself!). Feel that you are ready for the next position and communicate to your managers. My main motivation is now the four engineers I manage; my goals is to have them reach their full potential and achieve their own goals.