FAVORITE DISH: Fries. WHAT TIME I USUALLY GET UP: Late morning 10am. ONE OF THE HARDEST TIMES IN MY LIFE: When I have nothing to do.
Guiding others, to make up for the lack of guidance
SCALING ONE'S ABILITY TO HELP. Henry Shao had just sold this third company, Movoto, a real estate technology company, and he was wondering about his next steps. “I was thinking about what I should be doing, whether I should continue working or retire. But the thought of doing nothing was awful,” Henry says. Movoto had been his third company. His previous companies were Cranite Systems, a wireless security software company, and MediSpark, a mobile healthcare startup that was acquired by iScribe and eventually Caremark. This time, Henry wanted to do something different. He wanted his next company to help as many people as possible.
Henry thought about how he had mentored many young people in their careers. “But I can only help so many people at once.” Millions of people graduate every year, but not all of them have access to a mentor to get ahead, he says. With his expertise in technology, he came up with Zippia, a personalized job searching site that has now over 4 million monthly visitors. It allows applicants to search for jobs based on their major, background, workplace preferences and career goals. “Having a mentor is a privilege generally reserved for the rich, and I wanted to use my skills to help level that playing field for people without that privilege,” he says.
For Henry, knowing that his skills can help a huge number of people at once is hugely fulfilling. That desire to help others is in part a response to his own childhood experience, where he had to figure things out on his own, as his parents never went to college and could offer little guidance on his career. “I spent so many years being lost, so now I’m putting information online so anyone can access it,” he says.
Henry’s approach with Zippia mirrors how he would help any young person trying to start their career. People don’t just want to know what jobs are out there, they also want to know what a career path entails, or what it means to embark on that journey, he says. “That guidance helps people beyond just the next job; it helps them on their career path.”
CREATING SPACES FOR PEOPLE TO REACH OUT. Just as Henry had was on his own to navigate his career, he had no support figuring out his identity as a gay man.
Henry grew up in Hong Kong, went to high school in England, and did his undergraduate studies in Indiana. He recalls going to the library in high school and reading about gay characters in novels. Those fictional characters were his only exposure to gay people. “There was certainly no exposure to LGBT people in Indiana, which was largely conservative,” he says.
Not until he came to Stanford for graduate school did he realize that gay people had an important role to play. “Not having any role models or any representation did not stop me from doing what I wanted to do. But it made me more resolved to make a better world for people to seek the help they need,” he says.
And in putting oneself out there, one could be surprised by how accepting the world actually is, Henry notes. He recalls working for a Mormon boss, who didn’t bat an eye when Henry came out. It didn’t affect their working relationship. “The world has really changed, and if you put it out there that you’re the best at what you do, people will accept you,” he says.
Henry acknowledges that not everyone has a level playing field. Women have it harder; people of color have it harder; the tech world is still dominated by straight, white males, he says. He hopes that in time, as he slowly chips away at those barriers through his own example, he can help create a world where entrepreneurs of any background can make their dreams come true.