Senior Financial Systems Analyst Ziwei Yu has modeled the way for taking advantage of the growth and opportunity Phillips Edison’s award-winning culture offers its associates. Ziwei joined PECO in February 2013 as a Senior Property Accountant and was quickly promoted in late 2013 to Assistant Controller and in 2016 to Corporate Accounting Manager. While she excelled in the accounting team, Ziwei’s talent and passion led her to pursue her current development role in IT when an opening arose in 2018 (more on that career-changing move below!).
Ziwei was named a Rising Tech Star at the comSpark Cincinnati conference in 2019. In her spare time, when she’s not busy keeping her toddler son out of trouble, she enjoys reading or listening to books, power lifting and visiting national parks. She loves the outdoors and is always ready to try new things such as scuba diving and outdoor rock climbing. Her next goal is to learn how to surf.
With an adventurous spirit and enthusiasm for learning, Ziwei is a true PECO leader, seizing opportunities for growth and pursing her passion. We asked her to share a bit about her career journey and recommend resources for others looking to follow in her footsteps. Here’s what she said:
What do you believe are the actions and/or characteristics that helped you get where you are today?
Keep learning and take initiative. When I started in Accounting, my Excel skills were very limited – I don’t think I was even able to use the commonly used VLOOKUP function properly. I was determined to get better at it and took training every year. Later, when PECO began building what we call “cubes” (to look up and cross reference information), I taught myself how to use the more advanced functions to automate files and processes. When I see a problem, I want to solve it and I don’t wait to be asked. Accounting used to have a monthly process that took 2 people about 5 hours combined to complete manually. I took it on myself to learn how to write a macro to complete the task in a matter of a few minutes. I was able to move to the IT Department because I demonstrated my interest and ability to learn and apply technologies.
What was the most important risk you took and why?
The biggest career risk I have taken was moving to the IT Department after investing 10 plus years in Accounting. Since graduating in 2007 with my master’s degree in accounting, I spent more than 10 years in different areas of accounting including general accounting, audit and tax. Over the years I developed an interest in how we can take advantage of technologies to make accounting tasks less manual and tedious, but I never thought about leaving accounting until late 2018.
A casual conversation with our former CIO sparked the thought, “What if I actually move to IT?” At the time, there happened to be an opening in the department. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be a good career change or if I could succeed in such a different role because I didn’t have any education or prior work experience in IT. But my love of learning and interest in the field won out and eventually I decided to give it a shot.
Today, I’m incredibly happy that I made the decision. In my current role, I get to do what I am passionate about, creating tools for the businesses to do things more efficiently and effectively. I also see the value of my business knowledge coming to life – even though the two roles are drastically different. In addition, going through the transition process - from doing something I knew very well to something I know very little about – helped me grow tremendously both personally and professionally. I relearned to be humble, to not be afraid to ask basic questions, to work very hard and to learn aggressively. I was especially fortunate to have the incredible leaders and teammates who were forever patient as I was learning the ropes and always willing to lend a hand when I need help. I still get their help every day!
What books, podcasts or other resources would you recommend to continue career growth or leadership growth?
I believe that leadership is about action, attitude and commitment. There are many books (not necessarily all about leadership) that inspired me to be a leader and continue to develop my leadership skills. Here are a few of them:
o Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs’ commitment to quality and great products was especially inspiring to me. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."
o In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo
It doesn’t take much for women to be perceived as difficult. The same behaviors and attitudes that often make men appear decisive, committed and charismatic are considered “difficult” when displayed by women. This book witfully narrates 29 successful and ‘difficult’ women’s lives and achievements. These strong and smart women who live on their own terms and are unapologetically daring are fun and inspiring to read about.
o Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Traditionally, extroverts are the poster children. They are perceived as more fun, more creative and as being leaders. In this book, Ms. Cain challenges this perception and points out numerous introverts who are great leaders and have impacted the world in meaningful ways. As an introvert, after reading this book I started seeing inverts and extroverts differently. More importantly I see myself differently.