#MakingTheMove: Management Consultant to Entrepreneur to Intrapreneur

Before launching an Asian American seltzer in partnership with 88rising and the world’s largest brewer, AB inBev, Henry Shi thought he was going to become an accountant just like every other Asian student out there.

Even when he had a cushy job as a management consultant, Henry faced his fears and told his parents that he wanted to leave his job to become an entrepreneur. To his surprise, they supported him and he went on to run a multimillion-dollar escape room business, pursue an MBA at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and become an executive at a Fortune 500 company at the age of 30.

Hear about Henry’s unique career path as a risk taker with professional ADHD and passion for exploring the world (he has visited 45 countries) and the unknown!

From a typical Asian student who pursued accounting to an entrepreneur who ran a multimillion-dollar escape room business

As a third-culture kid with a father pursuing a PhD in England, Henry travelled the world while growing up. Eventually, his family settled down in Texas and he decided to stay local for his university experience. Given the typical choice between engineering or medicine, Henry persuaded his parents that accounting was an acceptable career path by taking 13 AP classes in high school.

Soon after starting university, Henry realized that he wasn’t all about accounting and a busy season internship with PwC confirmed that he was more interested in making money than figuring out where it went afterwards. Instead, Henry graduated and joined the corporate world as a management consultant where, despite the long hours, he got bored. One day, when a couple of friends who were looking to get a loan from the bank asked him to review their business plan, Henry decided to invest $40K that he had saved up and opened a local coffee shop.

A few months later, Henry found that some college students that he had mentored were interested in opening up an escape room after seeing them in the U.K. He decided to help them out by investing 20% and they grew the business to 9 locations and several million dollars in revenue by age 25.

How pursuing an MBA led to executive leadership opportunities at a Fortune 500 telco company

Although Henry was making great money, it wasn’t retirement money and he eventually found that he had stopped learning once the escape room business became repetitive. He asked himself if he’d still want to run escape rooms in 5 years and decided that he’d rather challenge himself in a different stretch environment.

This decision led him to pursue an MBA at the London Business School and Wharton because he wanted to see more Asians in leadership positions since Asian Americans only made up 2% of the S&P 500 CEOs despite being 20% of the workforce. Throughout his MBA, he became interested in scaling start-ups and interned at some VC and private equity firms and startups.

After completing his MBA, Henry joined T-Mobile’s Executive Leadership Program and after three years of diverse experiences leading call centers and working in corporate strategy, he finally got the call to lead a new broadband venture as a Director. Although he had achieved the goal of becoming an executive, Henry soon found himself stagnating and pondering new career opportunities.

Following his passion for innovation and becoming an intrapreneur

Henry then got approached by ZX Ventures, a global investment and innovation group of the world’s largest brewer, AB InBev, to launch an Asian American hard seltzer in collaboration with 88rising. Although he had to take a small pay cut, Henry saw a unique opportunity to be a part of a new industry and follow his passion for entrepreneurship and Asian American empowerment. He believes he has more control over his impact and can exponentially grow the business.

Today as an intrapreneur, Henry invests his time on building brands that people love by involving the cultural community around them – Year Of has been intentionally designed with Asian creatives from the flavors to the can design to the campaigns. On the side he also helps grow the next generation of Pan-Asian leaders through volunteering with Ascend’s Seattle chapter.

Career Q&A

What do companies look for in intraprenuers?
Leaders who have owned a P&L, know how effectively build and manage large teams, and know how to gain buy-in key stakeholders across the business who might be less entrepreneurial in spirit.

What are 2 paths to pursue in a company?
Mature business units: more secure but takes a while to move up the ladder
Growth business units: riskier but there are opportunities to grow quickly and have a bigger influence on impact and outcomes

What should early-in-careers focus on?
Put yourself in target rich environments where you intersect with a lot of people and different types of challenges
Sit, soak, and absorb data and experiences
Be trustworthy aides to your leaders

What should mid-careers focus on?
Use your experiences to train your mental models to execute and drive outcomes
Figure out what you’re passionate about
Understand how your collection of experiences create value for others – namely your leaders (how can you multiply their effectiveness?)

How do you overcome imposter syndrome?
Remember that no one knows what they’re doing whenever they start a new role
Develop the confidence to acknowledge that you don’t know everything but have the skill and resources to figure it out

Thank you so much to Henry for taking the time to share his fascinating journey and learnings from both his entrepreneurial and corporate experiences!

Hi, I’m Karen and I am passionate about sharing my learnings, experiences, and perspectives. Most of the time it’s related to career development; other times I am simply interested in random topics. You’ll find a mix-mash of content on here from paying off student loans to creating a career walking deck, so enjoy whatever you find and do share your feedback with me and share #kkarenism with others 

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