Embracing unpredictability: A day in the life of Sung Hae Kim, Chief People Officer at Kueski
- What’s it like working at the largest Mexican BNPL firm while living in the US?
- From unpredictable workdays to outdoorsy weekends, here’s a day in the life of Sung Hae Kim, Chief People Officer at Kueski.
Sung Hae Kim is very much a global citizen. She was born in South Korea, and grew up in Florida in the United States. She spent a large part of her adult life in Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. And she currently lives with her two sons in Berkeley, California — a place where she’d wanted to live since she was a teenager.
Sung’s professional life is pretty “global” too, considering she lives in one country and works in another. She is currently the Chief People Officer at Kueski – the largest BNPL and online consumer lending company in Mexico, which uses technology, AI and data to expand access to financial services for underserved consumers.
Sung says there's a lot of opportunity in Mexico for helping the underbanked, which is one of the reasons why she joined Kueski.
“Kueski has been around for over a decade, and we have a trusted brand. And that's one of the reasons why we've been able to grow so quickly within BNPL. For millions of Mexicans, we provided their first loan, so we have a strong brand. We're now serving over 1.7 million people and several thousand stores.”
So, what exactly does the Chief People Officer at Kueski do? Here’s how Sung describes her role: “You know, the CEO has someone to look at the financials, the operations, the growth, the product… but this is really someone who's there thinking about all things related to people: hiring, developing, training, and also being the key person in building the people strategy and culture, as well as bringing that culture to life in everything that we do.”
From unpredictable workdays to outdoorsy weekends, here’s a day in Sung Hae Kim’s life.
Morning: planning for the future, reflecting on the past
The way I plan my morning is, I look at the first meeting I have in the morning, and I wake up an hour before that. So my morning really depends on my meeting schedule. But generally, I’m up between 6:30 am and 7 am, since I’m two hours behind Mexico.
I like to spend some quiet time in the morning with a cup of coffee, and think about what I want to focus on that day. And I set a goal for myself — for example, if I know I have a particular challenging conversation or project coming up, I actually think about and visualize how I could turn it into a success.
And then later, before I go to bed each day, I like to revisit it and think about how I did. I actually have this five-year journal, which includes a prompt for every day of the year. That makes it really fun because you can go back and reflect on how you’re doing things differently compared to the previous years.
Afternoon: embracing unpredictability
What I love about having a people-focused role is that no two days are alike. Even if you've planned a typical day, there's never a typical day. I have regular meetings with the senior management team and my direct reports on the various projects that we're working on. But because my role and my team focuses on the humans in the organization, you can't predict what's going to happen. This can be challenging, but that ambiguity and the opportunity for me to create structure and processes – that tension – is what keeps this role really interesting for me.
But to give you an idea of what I'm working on right now, we're implementing a modern HR information system that will hopefully automate many of our workflows and streamline the way employees get access to important information. Although there are a lot of HR software companies in the US, we're actually working with a company in India, whose software was built to handle a lot of complexities involved in HR and employment.
We’ve also designed an onboarding experience for our new employees that makes it easier for us to function as a distributed workforce. I’m currently working with my team on various leadership development solutions – both training as well as experiential and pure learning.
Another priority is revamping our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy through equitable policies and interactive trainings. We’ve also been implementing career ladders so that everyone understands what's required for them to advance in the company. We want to be at the forefront of equitable pay, and be the company with the most inclusive culture in Mexico.
Our company is fully distributed. We have a very small office in Guadalajara, but we went fully remote with the pandemic. You know, I'm one of the few people that work in the US. The vast majority of my colleagues work in Mexico, and we have people in other countries in Latin America as well. It's not my first time being part of a remote team – in fact, I was doing remote work for a good part of my career, working for US companies while living in Asia.
But that doesn't make it easy. I think it's more of a challenge because I'm also learning Spanish – I’m not quite fluent yet. I've been making an effort to do a lot of my meetings in Spanish, as a way to fit in well with the different teams. The good thing is that we do have opportunities to be face-to-face — we actually have a budget set aside for that.
I recently went to Mexico to meet with the management team, as well as my direct reports. Part of the visit focused on business planning, but most of it was actually about team-building, bonding, and talking about our personalities – sharing more about ourselves. We also had a big party at the end of December – all 700 people at the company were invited for a special celebration that marked the end of the year, as well as our 10-year anniversary.
Evening: unwinding over (Spanish) TV
In the evening, I make dinner for myself or my kids, depending on who’s around.
After dinner, I like to unwind by watching or listening to something in Spanish. I’m either listening to a podcast or watching a movie or TV show. I recently watched a Spanish TV series called Velvet. The purpose is to become more fluent in Spanish, but I obviously enjoy it too.
When do I go to bed? Oh, I’m a night owl. I tend to go to bed at midnight or later.
Weekends: travel, yoga, tennis, and creative writing
What I do in my free time has changed quite a bit over the years… I mean, in the past, I used to travel a lot on the weekends. I’ve probably visited around 42 or 43 countries – I lost count at some point. But lately, I’ve become more of a creature of habit, like a lot of us did during the pandemic.
There’s a few activities that I do regularly, including hiking, yoga, and creative writing. I also love cooking, and I try to make at least one dinner on the weekend, especially when my kids are around. I have a few things I can cook without a recipe, but I always try to find something new. And I actually love getting feedback from my kids.
On Sundays, I do yoga, and recently, I’ve started playing tennis with a group of women who are all at the beginner or intermediate level, like me. And it’s been more about having fun, connecting and socializing than playing competitive tennis.
For the past three years, I’ve also been attending a writing seminar, and I’ve actually recently finished writing a novel. So far, I’ve been pretty nervous about publishing it… but one day I will!