Editor’s Note: We're searching for the best and brightest admin professionals and workplace operators in the US. Know an outstanding Ninja? Nominations for the 2020 All-Star Awards are now open!
We’re excited to finally have the opportunity to celebrate our fifth OfficeNinjas All-Star, Karina Young!
Karina works as an office manager for the Khan Academy in Mountain View, CA. In addition to creating efficient systems and keeping the office running at full capacity, Karina has been instrumental in developing global on-boarding programs, fostering company culture, and planning events. She believes that her strongest skill is her ability to connect with people. And her coworkers agree!
One nominator wrote:
There’s pretty much no aspect of the office that Karina hasn’t improved: food, email, humor, office supplies, beverages, purchase orders, furniture, puppies—everything. She has literally redefined my expectations of an office manager.
Let’s take a minute to learn more about this OfficeNinjas All-Star!
ON: How long have you been an office ninja?
I would say my official ninja-hood started in 2009 when I was manager of a small business. I didn’t realize back then how much of what I was doing and learning would be so essential in my future career. That was really the foundation for me becoming Operations Manager for a tech startup in San Francisco and now being Khan Academy’s Office Manager!
ON: What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk and why?
A photo of my husband and me at Disneyland. No matter how hard I work and all that I put into my career, I always make time for my family. That photo is an important reminder to cherish life outside the office. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or stretching thin, it’s a good way for me to remember to pull back, prioritize, and get what is actually important done. The little stuff will work out. Plus, I think I’m a pretty fun person and that photo reminds me to always stay that way. In my most stressful moments at work, you’ll still see me with a smile, joking and trying to not let that stress stick to me.
ON: Tell me about the craziest day you ever experienced as an office ninja.
At my previous job, we had recently moved offices into a temporary space while our new office was being built. A week after moving in there was a major leak in our ceiling that destroyed our kitchen and the women’s bathroom. That was really not that bad. A week later our office was robbed and the second I walked into the office I was bombarded with employees saying “My Mac is gone,” “My suitcase is missing,” “I think my Bose headset was taken,” and on and on. I remember just feeling like I had to take it one thing at a time to get through this. I had my other admins call the police and began compiling a list of missing items. The next few hours were total insanity, but my team was there for me every step of the way. My office manager got me a croissant because she knew I hadn’t eaten, my engineering team helped me disable accounts and keep our data secure, and although everyone needed me for something that day, everyone was also there to help and support me. It was a very hard day, but we got through it by working together.
ON: What’s your favorite part of being an office ninja?
The best part of being an office ninja is having a wonderful team. I’ve been fortunate that all throughout my ninja days, I’ve never had a bad team. I’ve always loved my coworkers and they truly make the job worth doing. Especially now with Khan Academy, I feel so incredibly blessed to work with my colleagues. Not only are they all ninjas in their own field, but they are a blast to work with. I have so much fun with them and love seeing them every day. Even on my hardest days they are my biggest champions and cheerleaders, and I love that.
ON: Where does your drive come from? What keeps you motivated?
My drive comes from my passion to help others. Working in office operations isn’t glamorous or a place where you get to be the star of the show (unless you are an All-Star!). It’s really about putting together the hundreds of tiny pieces that make a company run every day. You have to understand the importance and significance of your role as an admin, manager, EA, or whatever you are. If you don’t feel like the work you do is meaningful, there’s no way you will be motivated to do all the crazy things we have to do. I know how important my job is to my team, and seeing them enjoy my work is the cherry on the sundae for me.
ON: What’s your favorite afternoon pick-me-up?
The best way to put a little pep in my step midday is going for a walk in our office’s neighborhood. We are so lucky to have the best weather ever in California, and I love to get out, feel the sun and fresh air, maybe grab a coffee or Boba, and just be present in the moment. I have a hard time breaking away from my ever-growing task list and when I finally do, I always ask myself, “Why aren’t I doing this every single day?!” It helps me recharge, get focused, and actually work more efficiently.
ON: What is your greatest professional achievement? What are you most proud of outside of work?
Right now I’m revamping our new hire onboarding program and I’m so proud to be working on that. I love new hires and helping them get acclimated to a new office, so this is a passion project I’ve been waiting to take on. I hope our future hires will see all the hard work I’ve put into their onboarding as they go through it.
Outside of work I’m super proud to be building my mini-me right now. I’m currently pregnant and I think it’s by far the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. I mean, I should really wait until she arrives to brag, but I know this lil’ ninja is going to be a total badass. I can just feel it.
ON: Any exciting project you’re currently working on?
We have an intern class that comes every Summer, so I’m working with our recruiter to plan all their events for the next three months. It’s one of the most fun things I get to do. Outside of all the tactical things I take care of, planning events and outings is always so much fun. I love to watch my team get out of the office, blow off some steam, and bond with colleagues they don’t normally interact with. Our events include bi-weekly classes taught by colleagues on all subjects from chess to book binding to coffee roasting, our annual talent show, movie nights, and a ton of other fun surprises I don’t want to spoil!
ON: What are the top 3 traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
First, you have to be dedicated. I know a lot of people that work hard, but there is a threshold that you cross when you go from being a good worker to being amazing. You have to be someone whose passion for their work drives you to do better, be better, and give your best 100% of the time. Not just when you feel like it or when it’s easy, but mostly when it’s hard and stressful and you want to throw your hands up. That’s when you need to be able to roll up your sleeves and get the job done.
Being a fun person is a big part of being an All-Star. Office ninjas interact with so many people across companies and in different positions, and I’ve noticed that those who work with a smile and a sparkle to their personality make the difference. There is nothing worse than being in a hard work situation and being stuck with someone who is miserable and pessimistic. You have to know how to look on the bright side and stay optimistic to be successful.
Humility is also a huge factor in being an All-Star. None of us work alone, even if it feels like it. Personally I know that I wouldn’t be where I am without all the coworkers, past and present, who helped, mentored, and supported me. You have to know how to ask for help and delegate as well, which is a part of being humble. I may joke with people that I’m a one-woman show, but that’s not the case at all. My teammates are my rocks and they help make me an All-Star.
ON: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received was to follow your heart and the rest will take care of itself. I went into college being an English major and right before the first day of class the head of the department said that exact phrase to all of us. They told us never to follow a path that you think is right or that other people will prefer. If you do what you love and you listen to your passion, everything else will work out. After hearing that, I switched majors immediately and have taken that advice to heart in all aspects of my life.
ON: Office ninjas often have tips/tricks of the trade. Any you care to share?
Learn to let things go. And when I say “things” I mean everything—stress, grudges, anxiety, hard feelings, lack of confidence, fear. If you’re feeling held back or stuck in a rut, look at yourself and see what role you’re playing in that. If you’re having a bad day at work, brush it off and start over. If someone or something is bothering you, it’s because you’re letting them. Don’t give anyone the power to control your feelings or life, just let it go. You are the only person who can make or break your success—which road are you going to take?
Great advice, Karina! We hope you enjoy your sweet $500 gift card from our amazing sponsor, Sprinkles!
Today’s All-Star is presented by:
Sprinkles Cupcakes literally invented the cupcake bakery. In addition to their handcrafted cupcakes, Sprinkles now offers housemade ice cream and cookies and ships nationwide.