December 19, 2022

What you study doesn’t determine your future – YOU do! Friends w/ HEX with Shirley Pham

Charles Perelini 🇦🇺🇼🇸
What you study doesn’t determine your future – YOU do! Friends w/ HEX with Shirley Pham

Who are we meeting today?

Shirley Pham is a HEX alumna and the Product Marketing Manager at HEX. She spends her free time on her passion project: being the Marketing Lead for Medical Pantry – an Australian charity that redistributes excess medical supplies to those in need. 

Her career’s a stunner – as you can tell. How did that happen? Here’s more... 

Watch Friends with HEX w/ Shirley Pham

Why HEX? 

Motivated by a desire to explore her passions, Shirley joined one of HEX’s first International programs in San Francisco back in 2018. 

After studying a Bachelor of Science and working in Health Information Services for some years, Shirley found herself wanting more. She craved creativity, strategy and – most of all – excitement! So, she went back to university to study marketing.

This sparked her interest in the business and entrepreneurial world, and after hearing about HEX from some other students, she decided it was something worth exploring. Did it help? Well, it sure did change her career trajectory! 

Shirley’s Career 

Since her HEX-erience, Shirley has gone through several career pivots in her life – while enjoying her professional development every step of the way. 

Career Steps

  1. A self-proclaimed introvert, Shirley was questioning if she could thrive in the business world and decide that to figure that out, she needed to abandon her comfort zone. As she had just graduated, she was bombarded with an array of choices to make. It was impossible to know where to start. Her passions weren’t clear to her yet. Her path was not set. She had an undergraduate degree, and work experience in science and a Masters in Marketing. Where to from there?

She did the super-scary step of joining 12 total strangers on a a HEX program for 2 weeks – well out of the comfort zone of an introvert!

Source: gfycat

She was proud in hindsight to have joined despite her fears and professional insecurity. Shirley realised that stepping out of her comfort zone was necessary for her to progress. She was on her way to pursue a career that she never thought possible. 

  1. A couple of years later, Shirley saw HEX was hiring a Program & Events Producer, and her passion for helping others led her to apply. After absolutely nailing the interview with her preparation, passion, and attention to detail, she became the person responsible for student interaction with HEX (programs, events, etc.). She knew the value that was being provided as she had benefitted from it herself.
  1. After her experience working with the target group and getting to know their desires and expectations, Shirley moved from this role to one with a more digital product focus, in order to create a solution that fit into the lives of students studying during the pandemic. Was it easy? 
Source: Tenor

How did Shirley successfully overcome and actually benefit from those challenges and career pivots?

And what makes Shirley HEXtraordinarily special? Here are some of her career tips.

  • Be a life-long learner

Being a life-long learner means mistakes are great, and new challenges are welcome. A steep learning curve can be tackled! No hurdle is too big. Shirley realised this mindset was necessary in today’s work environment and as she pivoted to a product focus, she helped HEX survive the pandemic by shifting from live travel programs to digitally innovative programs. 

Shirley’s openness to learning enabled her to create meaningful experiences – no matter if they were online or offline!

  • Know your values but stay flexible.

Shirley truly understands the hassle and stress of figuring out what to do with your life and the gap between the theory taught at university and what you end up doing in real life – as she’s been there herself!

Therefore, she has a sense of fulfilment in her current job. She can see the value she, and the company, is providing. This is so important, but also so challenging to find in a job – and for some it might be right around the corner, others might have to work on it to end up in the nook they feel comfortable in.  And let’s face it –  organisations are more successful when their employees aim towards the same direction as their business mission (Read more here). 

Just remember that personal values also change, and that they are sometimes not clear from Day 1 – give yourself time to explore yourself to find the right job fit. 

So, are we saying University is useless? Not at all! It is exactly there to help you discover your core values. Shirley reminded us all that there’s plenty of opportunities out there to discover your professional pathway. And she uses what she learnt at university and her first job at Medical Pantry now! 

  • Shirley has an innovative mindset. All in all, she’s a QUEEN!

At Medical Pantry, Shirley also uses her innovation mindset adopted from HEX. As it is a relatively new charity, she uses her creative thinking and commercial knowledge on plans, strategies and stakeholders to reallocate excess products that are in perfect condition to underserved communities, humanitarian aid, educational purposes, upcycling, etc. Did you know that hospitals are the third largest contributor to landfills? Medical Pantry is fighting that! 

Shirley’s Top Tip

‘Just ask’ 

When you have an idea or an inspirational notion, don’t throw it away or consider it as unrealistic. Reach out to people, leave your comfort zone, and ‘just ask’! The worst thing that can happen is that they say yes - because then you actually have commit to it! If they said no, which simply won’t change the situation you came from and does no harm. So, it’s actually two tips: Just do it (cringe) and YOLO (more cringe). Follow your dreams!


Be a life-long learner to continuously develop professionally, know your values and make your job align with them to stay fulfilled. Stay flexible to adapt to change and adopt an innovative mindset!

Think you might want more of that kind of creativity? Check out the HEX programs!

Find Shirley here and show the amazing NGO “Medical Pantry” some love here

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