Professional Spotlight: Sherman Tam
Sherman Tam is a Senior Marketing Manager for Western Digital and volunteer on CareerVillage.org
Written by: Corina Chen and the CareerVillage.org Team
For senior marketing and innovator Sherman Tam, success in the workplace begins with striving for excellency. He first learned this lesson from his dad. He writes, “My dad motivated me for a career because he was a great role model to show me what I needed to do.” As a role model, his dad didn’t care what Sherman wanted to pursue as a career, as long as he was self-motivated and success driven.
Sherman continues, “He…thought I might want to take over his business, but that wasn’t for me.” Ultimately, his dad wanted Sherman’s best, and Sherman recounts how, “ He wanted me to attend college and get a professional job because owning your own business requires very hard and long hours. I did both, which is why I’m successful, but also it made him very happy.” Sherman adds, “I think you need to be self motivated to be successful… but also a self-starter, determined, focused, confident and disciplined.”
In high school, Sherman described himself as an “average student who learned more from seeing and doing than reading”. This hands-on approach propelled him towards his tendencies of confidently taking initiative and being determined. When it came time to begin actively pursuing a career, he started his journey in the editorial department for a financial services company, but was quickly laid off. Faced with unemployment, a friend of Sherman’s in sales told him her computer company was hiring for marketing positions. Despite a lack of marketing experience or knowledge, Sherman says, “I got hired because they liked my positive attitude, willingness to take risks and ability to figure things out so the job gets done.” These traits became transferable skills that applied to whichever career path Sherman currently worked. 25 years later and Sherman has continued to pursue a career in marketing full of learnings that have grown Sherman as a professional — “I like being creative and working on many different projects to help increase sales.”
His quarter of a century in marketing was not without challenges. To a student’s question about the most stressful element of an office job, Sherman admits, “The most stressful thing about working in any office is the politics and dealing with negative people. I’ve learned it’s best to stay away from both those things because they don’t benefit you as a person…Being confident, aware and strong with a positive attitude will help you navigate any office environment.”
Sherman ends his advice to a student by suggesting one of the first business self-help books that helped him develop strong work habits: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. He says, “It made me who I’m today and I still practice the habits professionally and personally.”
Although Sherman had a fulfilling career, he also had some regrets. When asked to describe a moment in his career that didn’t go as wished, he replies, “Getting comfortable in my job and not taking a risk to see what other good career opportunities are out there to push myself further.” Ultimately, learning the benefits of pushing himself to get uncomfortable helped him to reach farther in his journey.
Despite having a linear career path, Sherman’s years of professional experience have also offered a broader view of the professional landscape. Regardless of industry, Sherman believes that all jobs offer promotional opportunities based on achievements. To encourage a student who wanted to know her chances at promotion, he writes, “ If you work extra hard and consistently show more accomplishments than your peers, management should recognize an employee for a promotion. Creating a detailed personal development plan to review with your manager is a great way to help work towards a promotion. This will make sure you clearly understand what’s required to get promoted and how to make it happen.” He speaks from personal experience when he adds, “I’ve been promoted a few times following this practice and use it as a Manager today.”
Ultimately for Sherman, striving for excellence is rooted in sincerity. He writes, “Always be yourself, have a positive can-do attitude, work extra hard, be honest and respectful, but also communicate openly.”