Sapa, Vietnam (pre-startup life)

Last year, I started Uplevel, a concierge that matches you with a personal development coach. Now, Uplevel has over 40 coaches and has successfully matched 45 people with a top-tier coach.

While I’m still early in my journey, I’ve already been on a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges. I’ve been anxious about putting myself out there. I’ve felt overwhelmed by tackling too many things at once. And as I coach and chat with fellow early-stage founders, I notice the same patterns come up. We experience many of the same mindsets and behaviors that hold us back.

When I reflect on…


How much was your coaching experience worth to you? my friend asked. I scratched my head and thought about it.

I can’t put a number to it, I responded. It was priceless.

He wouldn’t accept that as an answer. Put another way: would you undo the effects of coaching for $5,000?

Definitely not, I responded.

How about 5 million?

Thinking back to where I was before I got my first coaching session and where I was 8 months later, it pained me to think about unwinding it.

Yeah, probably, I said.

50 thousand?

…No, I wouldn’t.

If somebody offered me…


Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

So you’ve got a degree in computer science. Should you become a software engineer or product manager?

I can’t tell you the answer, but I can tell you about my experiences as each.

Engineers and product managers work together every day to achieve the same goals, but the two roles have different responsibilities involving different mindsets.

Fundamentally, product managers are responsible for the “what” and “why” while engineers are responsible for the “how” and the “when”.

After a few years in each role, I’ve observed three key differences in mindset:

  1. How I spend my time
  2. How I measure my impact


Improvisational theatre and product management have well-documented parallels: they both involve thinking on your feet, dealing with heavy uncertainty, and saying “Yes, and…”.

Six months into my PM career, I signed up for an improv class hoping to build these skills. Yes, I walked out feeling more comfortable improvising at work, and I learned an important lesson: celebrating mistakes makes you a better performer.

From Day 1, our instructor, Diana, began training us to be OK with screwing up. To warm up, we played a game called Pass the Clap: each person claps in sync with the person next to…


We built a new game on Quizlet called Gravity to help students learn vocabulary while having fun. As words fall down your screen from outer space in the form of “asteroids,” you race to type the answer before they hit the planet. Building all the animations we needed in React gave us an opportunity to push the boundaries of what it can do. React is still relatively new, and it wasn’t created to support animations — its declarative nature and under-the-hood DOM updating system do not provide us with time-based control over our UI. However, we felt that the benefits…

Jen Liu

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