Editor’s Note: This blog is part of our new “We Are EM” series, focused on a new generation of consultants. What does employment look like for Millennials, who came of age during the internet explosion and entered the workforce during an economic recession?
Flexing Multiple Talents
With a background in American Studies, Justin had no idea he would get into marketing. But a fateful meeting with Ken Chen, owner of EM Marketing, changed all that. In addition to working on client projects, Justin now runs its Design and Development practice.
For Justin, consulting means something very important: flexibility. Not just in yoga (which he enjoys), but it also allows him time to nurture his passions such as acting, photography, and travel. While his “day job” provides learning opportunities and financial stability, Justin adeptly integrates work and life for personal fulfillment.
How Justin Got Started
After graduating from Stanford, Justin joined his alma mater’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) as an administrative assistant for a few years. (“Perhaps I stayed a little too long,” mused Justin). During that time, emotions were stirring as his dad got sick and passed away. It triggered a sense of seeking out something more fulfilling.
Justin decided he’d like to try to get back into acting. After all, he had already appeared in more than a dozen theatrical productions as an undergrad. Cast in California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, he left CISAC to pursue this particular talent more seriously.
Satisfying as it was to do professional theater, Justin needed to figure out how to make money. Enter his helpful friend, Zoe. She connected Justin to her neighbors, Ken Chen and Kathy Jung, who ran a business that was “always looking for a random assortment of people” to do work that’s flexible. Seemed perfect, and probably not so random.
Why Consulting Works
Acting has ebbed and flowed, but over the years Justin has taken on business development and project management, and now oversees EM Marketing’s Design and Development practice area. However, he’s technically an irregular part-time employee. The role is not holding him back from auditioning for some commercial work (and less theatre) on the side.
“Theatre in the Bay Area is great, but it's not a place where more than a handful of people can do it in a sustained way to support a lifestyle,” said Justin. “I'm finding myself more interested in maintaining maximum flexibility for traveling, seeing friends, going on hiking trips. Any time you sign up for a show, you're locked in and can't really leave town for two or three months depending on how long the run is.”
With travel, Justin says that “an awesome benefit of working with EM is that when I take trips, I can be totally off the grid. I can really check out.” Ask him about fantastic excursions to Spain and Italy; Mexico City; his big southern road trip through Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans; London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague… Adventurous, he and his wife are.
Additionally, most of his work is not on-location, so to speak. “Being able to work from home means I can work from anywhere,” said Justin. It allows him and his wife to work while visiting family in San Diego or on the East Coast. Or spend summer time with friends in gorgeous Seattle. This type of flexibility keeps him engaged and excited to continue working in this way.
Growing and Exploring with EM Marketing
Over the years, Ken and Justin have developed a strong work and personal relationship. “Ken is a pretty fantastic person and boss. He is supremely nice, understanding and flexible,” said Justin. “He’s instilled a lot of confidence in me. He’s the type of person who is okay if you make a mistake, which is pretty refreshing.”
While Justin started out as a social media consultant, Ken listened to his feedback that it wasn’t his thing. Ken has helped Justin explore his interests, keeps him intellectually curious, and mentors him along the way. Since Justin had no previous business development experience, Ken invited him to client presentations so Justin could listen in on pitches and conversations.
That first fateful meeting with Ken has set Justin up for success. Justin said, “Back when I was in a bind financially speaking, I started working for Ken and you know, haven't really stopped since then.” For the foreseeable future, Justin plans to maintain this lifestyle which continues to keep him well-rounded, well-traveled, and fulfilled. In Shakespeare’s words, “All the world’s a stage… And one man in his time plays many parts.” Indeed.