Lena chats with us about solving unexpected problems, creating authenticity and belonging in the workplace, and setting work-life boundaries
Lena Chhay, a technical program manager in our Denver office, is passionate about providing a platform for all voices to be heard and helping people and organizations become the best versions of themselves.
When Lena isn’t advocating for her clients or communities, she’s enjoying the Denver food scene, bouldering, or cuddling her cat, Cat.
How did you find your way to consulting and Propeller?
I took an “Introduction to Management Consulting” course during my last year of college and became infatuated with the nature of the work. It is challenging, but you can see the impact you’ve had on the people you work with relatively quickly, and there are so many moving parts, which keeps the day-to-day interesting. In my last position, although I was engrossed in project management, the people and challenges I worked with remained the same. Now that I work with clients directly, it’s been fun to solve unexpected problems together and build meaningful relationships in the meantime.
“It is challenging, but you can see the impact relatively quickly. There are so many moving parts, which keeps the day-to-day interesting. It’s been fun to solve unexpected problems and build meaningful relationships in the meantime.”
Tell me a bit about the work you’re doing and the unexpected problems you’re solving.
As a technical program manager, I am responsible for project communications, helping my teammates resolve and unblock issues, and keeping the team looking forward to achieve our milestones.
Right now, I’m working with a global retailer who recently acquired a startup. I work with the startup to communicate and collaborate with the technical team at the retailer to understand how we can integrate their tool onto the retailer's website.
I love project management and bringing order to the chaos. It is satisfying to build a structure and methodology that gets the team to a point of fluid communication and meeting our goals together. There are a lot of opportunities to build trust with my teammates and I appreciate the bonds we build by overcoming challenges together.
What do you like about working at Propeller?
I love the people. My co-workers are authentic, intelligent, and kind. The culture is different from a large, corporate environment. Each Propellerite I meet is friendly and interesting. I don’t feel the need to mask parts of my identity.
Propeller really cares about their people, too. Earlier this year, I was working late constantly on a high-stake project, and that stress was impacting other parts of my life. When I talked with my performance manager, he was supportive and went above and beyond to speak with folks internally and at my client to understand the situation and help prevent burnout. It was a meaningful gesture, and it did result in a healthier work-life balance. It was also a moment of learning to advocate for myself.
“I love the people. My co-workers are authentic, intelligent, and kind. The culture is different from a large, corporate environment. Each Propellerite I meet is friendly and interesting. I don’t feel the need to mask parts of my identity.”
How do you maintain that work-life balance?
One thing that's helpful is setting hard boundaries on when I need to stop working. This can be tough for me. I have ADHD and get into periods of hyperfocus where I will keep working and then look up at the clock and notice it’s 10 p.m. So, I have an alarm that goes off at 6 p.m. to remind myself to prioritize myself. To stop working and eat, talk to my husband, and do all the other things that make me—me—outside of work.
What’s your favorite Propeller ethos and why?
“Commit to people.” Committing to people is the core of a professional services firm’s success. It is also core to the success of a feeling of belonging as well. If you don’t take care of your people, then the other business outcomes that you want aren't going to happen as easily or as sustainably.
“If you don’t take care of your people, then the other business outcomes that you want aren't going to happen as easily or as sustainably.”
You’re the lead for our DEI initiative, what inspired you to become involved?
I’ve always been passionate about DEI, my community, and other people, their rights, and their experiences. At my previous company, I helped launch seven employee resource groups locally. When I came to Propeller, I expressed my interest in getting involved in our DEI work—and I was ultimately asked to lead the initiative. It was a surprise, but a good one. It’s given me the opportunity to grow my confidence and ability to lead and listen to my team members and give them opportunities to grow their leadership as well.
Right now, we’re working on a three-year rolling plan for our DEI strategy and laying down the foundation for how we can build upon that in the years to come.
How does Propeller welcome people to show up as their authentic selves and how can other organizations do the same?
Workplace equity looks different for every organization. The people at your organization and the people you’re serving should inform your strategy. What Propeller does well is hiring curious, open-minded people with different perspectives. When one person shows up authentically it inspires other people to do the same and creates an environment where they feel safe to do so.
“When one person shows up authentically it inspires other people to do the same and creates an environment where they feel safe to do so.”
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Outside of work, you can find me mobilizing my community around issues I’m passionate about. I am most proud of the work I’ve done for the Asian-American community including advocating for transgender and gender non-conforming membership in Asian Greek organizations and organizing a Stop Asian Hate rally in Colorado. Hobbies include being a foodie (I love eating food), cuddling with my cat, bouldering, and tennis.
To wrap things up, I have a few Rapid-Fire Questions for you:
Favorite food? Korean food
Summer or Winter? Summer
Favorite Denver restaurant? Fruition
Favorite podcast? How I Built This
Favorite Propeller Slack Channel? Animal Lovers
Name one person who inspires you. Bill Daniels. He’s the person who funded my scholarship in college.