This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life” series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout May, we’re celebrating Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and featuring members of the Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN), one of the company’s five Business Resource Networks.
Though her Malaysian immigrant parents emphasized education as being the key to success, Kathleen Ng didn’t always see it as important growing up.
“My parents had this belief because the highest level of education back in their home country was middle school,” she says. “But I wasn't the smartest kid in class and dreaded going to school. A large part of me always felt less than or never enough.”
Though Kathleen struggled with learning and with her confidence, she also spent three summers in college directing JoyCamp, a children's summer school in Elmhurst, in the heart of Queens. “It’s one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City, but also predominantly an Asian community,” she explains. There, she oversaw 120+ local community children and trained teachers on effective classroom leadership.
Kathleen began her 2U journey as a technical recruiting intern with Trilogy Education, now a brand of 2U, Inc. At that time, she was a junior in college. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career,” she says. “I just knew I wanted to be a part of furthering education.”
Once she started full-time in recruiting and the world of human resources at 2U, Kathleen explains, something clicked. “I found myself wanting to learn more,” she says. So Kathleen made a leap of faith and decided to seek out a master’s degree.
“I was able to get into the Master of Science in Human Resources program at Pepperdine University,” Kathleen explains. “Thankfully, my degree has been fully funded by the 2U tuition reimbursement program, which opened up this opportunity for me. Regardless, I was nervous to begin my first semester because of my previous track records in school. But because this was something I was passionate about, I have been able to maintain a 3.8 GPA—whereas in my undergraduate program, I barely had a 2.6 GPA.”
Read on to learn more about Kathleen’s trajectory of success, her role at 2U, and how she is embracing her Asian-American roots by being a part of APIN.
Kathleen with family and friends for her 2018 graduation from Queens College, where she majored in Psychology and Sociology
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
When I joined Trilogy, I loved the passion that people had to positively impact people's lives through education. When Trilogy was acquired by 2U, I saw that there were parallels as well. I saw the passion that folks had in making a positive impact on others lives through education.
How would you describe your role as a senior people operations specialist at 2U?
As a senior people operations specialist, I help to make the employee onboarding experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible. It is important to ensure that our employees have a positive experience and have all the materials needed on day one. Therefore, our team helps to focus on improving processes to make that experience as seamless as possible.
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
What I find most rewarding is that I believe that I can see the positive impact that I'm making in others’ lives. Our team focuses on instructional staff onboarding and we support any HR-related inquiries they might have. Supporting this population of employees is rewarding because by supporting them from day one, we’re empowering them to teach the next generation.
Kathleen (left-middle, brandishing a peace sign) and a group of her friends in a pre-pandemic pose
What’s your favorite part about working at 2U?
My favorite part of working at 2U is working alongside many passionate and mission-driven individuals. I think that everyone cares deeply about education. 2U's mission is transforming education through technology—and that, in turn, can produce life-changing outcomes for students. I also work closely with my manager Eunice Devis, who is a great supporter of our team and the work that we do. I am grateful to have a manager who I can learn from and also be my authentic self with.
Why did you join APIN, and what does Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you? How do you plan on celebrating it this year?
I joined APIN because I wanted a community I can learn from and also relate to within 2U. And Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month helps me to remember my roots as an Asian-American. Growing up, I was usually the only Asian-American amongst my peers, and there was always the tension of, Am I Asian or am I American? As I grew older, I found myself finally understanding that I am both, and I found myself fully embracing my roots. I do believe that there is more to learn about my roots and I can share this knowledge with others without fear of judgement.
This year’s theme for Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.” How does this theme specifically resonate in your work at 2U and/or your life?
This theme specifically resonates in my work at 2U and my life in that it reminds me that my work is meaningful. It serves a larger purpose of making the world a better place and creating a brighter future for everyone.
Our team focuses on instructional staff onboarding and we support any HR-related inquiries they might have. [It’s] rewarding because by supporting them from day one, we’re empowering them to teach the next generation.— Kathleen Ng, senior people operations specialist at 2U
Out of everything you’ve done at 2U so far, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of enrolling myself in a 2U-powered degree program at Pepperdine University. It took a leap of faith and a lot of hard work, but I actually feel extremely empowered to do my own work and more.
What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! In my experience, people are always willing to listen and help. I would also suggest they put time on people's calendars to find out more about their stories. During the pandemic, it is difficult to have social interactions in the day-to-day. So be intentional about building relationships via Zoom by placing time on someone's calendar to build connections.
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