Member Karishma Shah On What a Career Coach Does Exactly

Karishma’s career journey led her to help other women.

Welcome to our Member Profiles series. We’re highlighting women who come to The Assembly to collaborate, sweat, and engage. 

When Karishma Shah started working at Airbnb in 2011 there were 50 employees. When she left three years later, there were 1,500. During that time she grew with the company, taking on community management, marketing, and event planning roles. The fast growth also meant that Karishma had seven different managers in a short period of time. Thankfully, an outside career coach acted as a mentor, and Karishma says the experience inspired her to become a coach herself.

“When I was at Airbnb, the founders gave us access to the executive coach they were working with,” Karishma explained to me recently as we grabbed coffee in The Assembly clubhouse before a Stronger Flow class. “With so many management changes, the coach was the only one that knew where I had been and where I wanted to go.” When Karishma felt like leaving her job, the coach helped provide perspective and drew her out of her own bubble. “I realized what I was most passionate about was developing others,” she said.

After stepping away from full-time work, Karishma took time off to travel. When she came back to San Francisco, she decided to pursue a new career as an executive coach for emerging leaders. She signed up for training at the Coaching Training Institute (CTI) in San Raphael. There she completed a six-month certification program, which included 100 hours of coaching. Once she was ready to begin working, she tapped into her network of women working in tech.

Getting Personal and Professional Feedback

So what exactly does an executive coach do? Karishma told me that she helps high-potential women in their 20s or 30s crystalize their values and make sure their careers lineup with those values. Sometimes that means working toward a career move, since it’s hard to keep working on a job once you realize you’re truly not passionate about it. Or, it could mean taking new approaches to how you interact with the employees you manage. Karishma said that imposter syndrome is often one of the biggest issues she confronts: “I help women break their own glass ceiling and get them out of their own way,” she explained.

I help women break their own glass ceiling.

Karishma offers her clients a personal 360 review. Instead of just talking to your coworkers, she also includes the people you interact with the most in your personal life. “You don’t really collect feedback from friends yourself,” she told me, explaining that she provides a forum to do just that. After asking colleagues, friends, and loved ones what her client should do more of and what she should do less of, Karishma presents the feedback to the client in an aggregated and anonymous way. She often finds that there is a lot of positive feedback to share, which can be powerful. “I find that women can be hard on themselves, so if you just note what people are saying it’s hard to ignore that and to not take that in.”

The 360 review can also include constructive feedback, of course. Karishma does her best to make it actionable. She shared this example with me: one client said it was really important for her to build connections with the people who work for her. But her personal 360 review revealed that she was coming off as impersonal, distant, and hard to approach — the exact opposite of what she wanted. “Sometimes people will realize, ‘I think that I’m doing this but I’m not,'” Karishma said. She worked with the client to identify potential saboteurs to her stated goals and came up with changes she could make to get closer to her employees.  

Today, Karishma does a lot of her work from The Assembly. “When I saw this space, I felt like this is exactly what I need. Especially, the energy of other people,” she said. Karishma credits The Assembly for motivating her to focus on work tasks, but also to drop into a workout class. While Karishma is busy helping other women, she’s made time for herself and her values by becoming a member. “I feel like I have this home away from home.”

If you’d like to connect with Karishma, say hi when you see her around in the in the Clubhouse!

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