This article is part of our series "Employee Spotlight," where we speak to and highlight some of the wonderful people who make up the exceptional teams at Wayfair.
Since joining Wayfair in 2019, Rob Lee has been a key contributor to building out our Home Services team. Outside of his day-to-day role, Rob is one of the co-leads of Immigrants at Wayfair, an employee resource group (ERG) dedicated to offering resources, sharing experiences, and advocating for solutions to the challenges that are unique to US-based immigrants. We interviewed Rob about his work at Wayfair and his experience supporting fellow immigrants.
What brought you to Wayfair?
"I was recommended to check out Wayfair by my career advisor during my MBA at Wharton. As soon as I started speaking to people, I was impressed by their friendliness, intelligence, and humility. It seemed like a great place to build my career, and I have not been disappointed!
"Wayfair’s culture is well balanced. While we are an ambitious sort, eager to tackle big problems and grow our business, it is always approached with humility. Furthermore, the concept of radical candor, caring personally, but challenging directly, makes for a healthy but engaging environment."
What is your day-to-day like?
"As the lead for Wayfair’s extended warranty business, I’m splitting my time between the near- and long-term plans. Most days I have a few meetings with cross-functional teams to make sure our joint projects are moving forward, such as expanding warranty coverage to European markets. A few times per week I will meet with our external warranty partners to maintain those relationships and check in on initiatives. With the time that’s left I am working on various business topics ranging from strategic plans, performance analyses, and customer process improvements."
What makes Wayfair a great place to grow your career?
"I’m happy to work at Wayfair for a few reasons. First, I think it is a noble mission to help people affordably create great homes. Especially in the last year, I think we can all appreciate the importance of our personal spaces. Second, the people are great to work with and spend time with - the right mix of friendly, smart, humble, and ambitious. Third, the way the company runs matches my values including having a healthy office culture, good work-life balance, and paying attention to social topics such as DEI.
"I am excited to build my career at Wayfair since I was given significant responsibility on day one, and have been given more chances to develop as I have grown. This is thanks to the trust and coaching of managers and leaders around me."
You’ve lived in several different countries from growing up in Canada to living in Singapore, France and the U.S. How have these different cultures shaped you and your career?
"There are many parts of our personality and working style that are influenced by our cultural environment. While most people think about the differences between industries (e.g., lawyers vs. artists) there are significant differences between countries.
"After moving between industries as a management consultant and then moving between countries while living in Singapore and Paris, I developed an appreciation for these differences. The main lesson for me is to approach situations with modesty, to balance inquiry with advocacy, and recognize that no particular style or cultural norm is 'better.' People can learn this even without living abroad! One just needs to approach situations with an open mind, and assume your counterparts have good intentions to allow you to empathize. This is especially important at Wayfair where we have a diverse workforce."
What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in relocating to Boston?
"Many people at Wayfair and in Boston are from the New England area. They are a friendly sort, but already have friends and personal networks. One way to break into these groups is to find hobby or activity groups. My wife and I made some great friends in our area by joining our local CrossFit gym, and eventually started spending time with those people outside the gym. Wayfair is also a draw for people from across the country and around the world. I became good friends with other MBA new hires since they were also Boston transplants."
You co-lead our Immigrants at Wayfair ERG. What inspired you to lead this group?
"Growing up in Canada, I always assumed that I understood American culture since our language and pop culture were largely the same. Ever since I began living in the U.S. for graduate school, I realized that immigrants face many challenges that most Americans don’t even realize. Confusion and uncertainty regarding visas, taxes, and healthcare and more can create significant stress, which can detract from what is an otherwise great quality of life. As a part of the ERG leadership, I am working to alleviate these concerns by creating community resources (e.g., income tax guide including discounts) and initiatives (e.g., a cultural awareness training that is in the works)."
From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges or misconceptions that immigrants face in the workplace?
"I think there are three major topics that need to be addressed. First, there are a lot of administrative tasks that immigrants need to navigate. This can be directly related to being an immigrant (e.g., visa applications) or part of being new to the U.S. (e.g., healthcare benefits). In either case, Wayfairians can support immigrants by making sure they have the right resources to help them and people to answer their questions. Second, immigration is a hot topic in the U.S. and the language used by some people can make immigrants feel unwelcome. Wayfairians can remind their immigrant colleagues that they are happy to have them here and are thankful for their contributions. Third, immigrants have a different cultural context than most Americans. This should be accounted for. For example, American sports idioms like 'hit it out of the park' might need to be explained. These differences can also be celebrated. You may want to ask an immigrant colleague to contribute GIFs from their favorite Bollywood movie instead of always using American pop culture references."
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