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He’s ‘the ultimate support’ at YCharts — and the company supported him when he needed it

What’s it really like to work at Chicago startups and tech companies? Blue Sky’s Inside Job lets people on the ground tell us in their own words.

James Han, 33, Director of Customer Success at YCharts

We’re a financial data provider. Our biggest clients, percentage-wise, would be registered investment advisers. We provide the data so you can make your own recommendations to your clients. A big stakeholder in our company is Morningstar. On top of the data they provide us, we also create our own formulas.

Our website is browser-based, so it’s very easy if you’re on your iPad, or if you’re on your phone, to just pull up a stock chart.

I’m in the ultimate support role. I help support the support people. I’m in some big business development deals, as well. We just signed a big client, a large mutual fund company. Before we did, they had certain things they wanted to see in our product. I helped vet all that stuff.

We’re subscription-based. My job is to make sure we minimize churn, and that’s through support, through reaching out to the clients themselves, everything. I have four account managers and three customer support people.

There are about 30 people here (in Chicago). There are about 10 in New York. The company started in 2009. I started in January 2015.

I grew up in Southern California. I was born in a hospital so close to Disneyland. Between my seventh- and eighth-grade year, I moved out to Riverside, because my parents had a bankruptcy. They were running a retail shoe business, but my dad invested in a real estate deal, and it basically went south. We were coming home from the mall, and I experienced the eviction process, and it was like 30 days to move out. 

They do this thing called “KYC” at YCharts. It’s called “Know Your Colleague.” Two or three people go a week. This time around, (President and CEO) Sean Brown asked us, “What life experience moved you the most?” And I actually talked about this (bankruptcy). One of the biggest lessons learned is before you get into anything, make sure you do the due diligence in figuring out the right choice. That got me into wanting to get into finance, as well.

I went to UC (the University of California), Irvine. I majored in social science research, so I did a lot of stats mixed with a little bit of education reform. There’s a lot of overlap with finance.

For my MBA, I was like, “I’m going to apply to one super-big sports program with a good business school in Michigan.” My wife didn’t want to live in Ann Arbor, so we moved to Chicago, and I did a weekend MBA program at the University of Michigan.

I cold-emailed 200 companies in Chicago I was interested in. When I met (YCharts’ VP of Sales) Dave (Lubnik) for coffee, I got turned down the first time. The only position they had was account executive. I knew I wasn’t the best fit for it, but I applied anyway. I was still continuing the search when Dave emailed me back a couple of weeks later and said, “Hey, we have another role for you.” And I said, “Sure!”

I sit in the heart of it all (in the River North office). I have hair gel at my desk. Usually, I bike in, so I have helmet head, and I have to do my hair. Someone gave me this dog calendar because last year, I got a dog. It’s a Cavapoo. His name is Mandu. It means “dumpling” in Korean. He’s rad.

We have an education committee. We do this thing called “Starbucks and Study.” We actually don’t go to Starbucks; that’s the funny part. We get food at random restaurants for breakfast, and we’ll have an outside adviser come in or we’ll have a VC firm guy come in.

We have Cubs baseball games, monthly happy hours, team dinners. You spend 40 to 50 hours of your life a week sitting next to someone. You better like them!

My dad passed last year of renal cell carcinoma. I took off weeks at a time to visit him. Because a lot of our work is internet-based, I would sit bedside with my dad, and when he was sleeping, I would just jump on a computer and look through deals.

To me, the flexibility meant they truly did care for me. Everyone, too, was asking, “How is your dad doing?” Since they did care a lot, it made me want to give more. It did mean a lot, for sure.

As told to freelance reporter Erin Chan Ding. Stories are edited for length and clarity.

Originally featured in the Chicago Tribune.