12 - Building culture at Airbnb in Asia and leading with authenticity - Alan Chang

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“I would have been a better manager, better leader & better friend had I known the difference between compassion and empathy.”

Alan was born and spent most of his life in the US between Hong Kong & North Carolina. He sold his first company in 2009 and then relocated to Hong Kong to further explore Asia.
In 2010 he went all-in on digital businesses after he saw Groupon explode in Chicago and helped a friend’s company that was able to partner up with Groupon in Hong Kong.

As he continued to network in tech in Hong Kong, he was introduced to the Airbnb founders in 2011 at an event and quickly bonded over some of their shared values. So Alan decided to postpone his next entrepreneurial venture and instead join up with Airbnb and eventually become the Regional Manager of Northeast Asia.

For the past year, Alan has relocated back to Silicon Valley and is now heading up Special Projects for Airbnb. One of his key projects was helping the design, strategy & expansion strategy for newly-launched Experience platform.

Alan is a no-BS, very authentic guy who is well connected to his personal values and carries that authenticity and connection into his daily life at Airbnb.

In this episode:

+ How he tricked his mom into loving Airbnb
+ How he got into Airbnb so early on
+ The importance of core values driving your career
+ How he personally reflects and maintains his set of priorities
+ How he developed the confidence to be authentic
+ Idolizing Michael Jordan’s story but not idolizing people
+ Why you should hire people you’re ‘scared of’
+ How to build a culture, especially in a remote office in Asia
+ How to get global teams to build trust & empathy across cultures
+ Using Discovery Insights across all of Airbnb
+ His favorite interview question
+ Talking some his favorite potential hires out of starting the job because their goals didn’t align well to the role
+ How he could BS his way into a Michelin starred restaurant
+ Battling his “resting confused face”
+ The difference between Empathy and Compassion
+ Why Compassion is more important for business leaders than Empathy

Insights Discovery:

Alan on Linkedin:

Alan’s book recommendations for startups & culture:
1) Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

2) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

3) Start With Why by Simon Sinek – I first discovered it on Ted

4) The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

5) The Lean Startup by Eric Reis


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