Humans of Lob is a project dedicated to getting to know our Lobsters on an individual level. For our fourth entry, we sat down with Operations Manager Daniel Lian.
So, let’s start with your childhood. Tell us a bit about your upbringing and your family.
I was born in China, and at the age of one I moved over to New York with my mom and dad. We were there until I was about 4 years old. From age four all the way through high school, I lived a suburban life in Michigan with my parents and two younger siblings.
I think our story follows the typical immigrant story pretty closely. My parents knew they wanted a family and in China they’d have been limited to one child. They saw America as a place for greater opportunities and a better life for their children.
How did Lob come into your life?
When I graduated from college I went to work in New York in Finance with my long-time roommate Dan. That’s when we met Leore. We often talked about how great it would be to run our own company one day, but at the time it seemed like a distant dream. After a year or so, we all went our separate ways to go pursue different jobs, but kept in touch. It wasn’t until a few years later that Dan and Leore reached back out looking to bring on another Lobster.
The biggest reason was definitely the people. I knew the founders and early employees really well. They were humble, hardworking, really intelligent, and fun to be around. The opportunity to work with people of this caliber, people that I consider friends, was too good to pass up.
What do you work on here at Lob?
I spend most of my time in a couple of areas. The first is finance and accounting. My team puts together the financials, monitors our business health, and makes sure that we’re spending wisely.
Next is Employee Experience. We put together policies and processes to help make Lob employees effective and engaged. Projects we’ve worked on include compensation tiering, career leveling, administering performance management processes, and our office move.
Finally, customer support. I work with Brenda, our dedicated support agent, to make sure that we answer customer questions quickly and effectively while communicating their feedback to the rest of the company.
What project are you most proud of at Lob?
I was part of the team that designed and implemented our current billing and pricing system. By working with our technical teams, I was able to see things with a different perspective. Thinking through all the details and edge cases of a customer-facing product was an exercise I hadn’t done in previous roles.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your life so far?
Generally speaking, I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to face any truly dire obstacles yet. I would say the biggest one that I’ve faced is entering the professional world. Working in investment banking was very intense, ranging from 80 to 120 hours a week in the office. It was definitely a grind, but it also instilled a really great work ethic in me. Now, I think that I can get through anything.
What was your greatest personal success?
Since my mom was a violin teacher, I started playing violin at the age of four. I hated it. I just didn’t want to do all of the practicing. As much as I disliked it, I was pretty good. I joined a high school youth orchestra, and after a series of auditions, ended up as concertmaster. Obtaining that achievement made up for all the practicing.
What is your favorite piece of literature or art piece?
I don’t have a favorite, but a book I’m particularly enjoying at the moment is A Man Called Ove. It’s a story about an elderly man lost in a rapidly changing society, trying to adapt and find purpose after the loss of his wife. It’s a touching story that musters sympathy for those “old and grumpy” people we come across. If you’ve ever watched the beginning of Pixar’s Up, it’s a lot like that. I think I like it so much because it appeals to my sappy side. I love the sappy, tear jerking stuff — rom-coms, soldier homecoming videos, those P&G Mother’s Day Olympic commercials. If it gives you the feels, you can bet I’ve watched it.
What do you do outside of Lob?
I like playing basketball and guitar. I also purchased my first motorcycle earlier this year so I’ve spent a number of weekends riding around the Bay.
One thing I’ve actually been trying to do more of is dance. I used to dance ballroom in college. It was one of those activities I stumbled upon by chance, and I’m very thankful I did. I found ballroom dancing fun because it engages so many different parts of the brain. It merges elements of musical interpretation, emotional expression, performance with physical ability, stamina, and technical precision. It’s also a great way to meet people since you need to build a connection with your partner. I actually met my girlfriend of 10 years as partners for ballroom during our freshman year of college. It’s been a bit since I’ve danced competitively, but I still attend classes occasionally to scratch that dance itch – most recently it’s been hip-hop and salsa.