Employee Airtime: Planes, Puppies and Profound Impact - Get to know US sales and operations dynamo Stephen Fung

4 minutes
Employee Airtime: Planes, Puppies and Profound Impact - Get to know US sales and operations dynamo Stephen Fung
Get to know Senior Sales Operations Manager Stephen Fung, employee number three in the US team at Airwallex.

You just got engaged and are getting a puppy - congrats on both fronts! How do you feel? 

Thanks a lot - it’s been a whirlwind over the past few weeks! We’re feeling really excited and positive about all the upcoming preparation (both wedding and puppy-related), and know it’ll be a lot of work too. For the engagement, it was tough keeping it a secret, since I had both our parents fly out and have to drive all the way into wine country, but it worked out well, where friends and family were able to attend live, both in-person and over Zoom. 

As for the puppy, we just picked up little Potato from a small ranch in Idaho. He’s currently 12 weeks old and starting to get comfortable in his new home. His favorite thing to do is pick up sticks on walks and sleeping on his back.

Everyone meet Potato - he’s 12 weeks old and was born in Idaho

Prior to Airwallex, you worked in the finance department at Uber. Tell us about the experience and what draws you to high-growth startups?

Working at high-growth startups has been an unbelievable experience, and one of the bucket list career items I’ve been able to check off. Working at Uber, there were definitely some late nights and moments of head scratching in the lead up to their IPO, but I’m really grateful I was a part of it. I’m starting to see a lot of similarities between early-Uber and where Airwallex is headed - this gives me a lot of hope for the future. 

What has really attracted me to these types of companies is the ability to make an impact on day one. The work you do has a profound impact on the product, processes, and people rather than feeling like a proverbial cog in the wheel. 

You were employee number three in the US. How has your role changed?

That’s a technicality (Bryant and I started together)! But working with him, Toshi and Carol for the first few months were some of the most memorable moments at Airwallex, especially working out of a 4-person WeWork office where we had to lock the door any time one of us stepped out. What’s been really interesting about the role is that I was hired in “Strategy and Operations,” which meant that it could support anything and everything, depending on what the business needs at the time. In the early days, that meant cold-emailing banks and customer outreach, creating product marketing materials, funds flows, and fielding Zendesk support tickets! 

Nowadays we’ve hired a great team to make those areas much better, and so a lot of my focus is spent on the platform side working on customer onboarding and sales operations. While the roles have changed quite a bit, I would say that it all still falls under what I was hired to do. That’s always been the exciting part about being at Airwallex!

Word is you have a pretty impressive airline miles / points collection. What’s the craziest trip you’ve taken to increase your mileage? 

It’s become a bit of a side hobby/hustle as I’m always trying to find creative ways to accrue more points and miles or retain my status even without flying as much the past several years. The craziest one that comes to mind is when I was still in consulting and needed about 40,000 more miles for the rest of the year. It was late October, I had just rolled off my project and did not have any travel scheduled for the rest of the year. I took three trips over three weeks: one to Hong Kong for two days, one to Hawaii for one day, and another one to Hawaii where I got to Honolulu and turned back on the next flight out (lucky for me I was able to buy some Dole pineapples at the airport).

Our flight back from Vietnam was made a little bit better thanks to this meal

It takes time and persistence to penetrate a new market. Based on your conversations, how have North American customers responded to our solution? What unique challenges are we solving? 

We’ve hired a great U.S. team that’s been able to articulate the breadth of our products to some of the largest enterprises in the world. Though each customer is trying to solve for a slightly different use case, we are truly providing a unique product with scale and giving these companies the ability to white-label their own payments platform. We are arming them with the tools they need in order to customize the whole experience for their customers and allow them to control that narrative. Giving these platforms the choice between a fully native payments experience or a lighter branding (particularly for those with fewer dev resources) allows us to cast a wider net on the types of companies we target, and I believe we’ll be able to do this better than any of our competitors.

What advice would you give to those working at a high-growth startup?

For the sake of word count, I’ll keep it to the point. Start each day with the intention to be adaptable in a changing environment, be organized with your workload, and practice patience (particularly when dealing with customers!).

Looking to take the next step in your career? Check out our careers page for open roles.

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