We sat down (remotely!) with Christian Lewis to talk about client management, learning to code on Myspace, and LGBTQ+ activism.
Q: Let’s start with a little bit about your job history and what led you here. What did you do before Unqork?
Christian: Before Unqork, I worked at Goldman Sachs for six years. I started off my career in their Operations division where I managed communications for about 6,600 people globally. After about two years of working there I started to get a little bit antsy, and then I heard about “Project Mosaic,” which was the early stages of the consumer business for Goldman Sachs.
I joined that team in a group where we negotiated all of our third-party contracts, as well as some of our aggregator contracts with companies like Lending Tree and Credit Karma. I helped with the launch of Marcus by Goldman Sachs and its subsequent products, integrations, and acquisitions. After that role, I became the chief of staff for Adam Dell, Clarity Money, the Marcus App, and the Product & Design organization of Marcus by Goldman Sachs.
During that time, I had heard about Unqork and got really excited about the mission of the platform because the company was building really tangible products. Unqork actually built the entire onboarding experience of the loans platform for Marcus and did it much, much faster than when we were building it out on our own. So that really caught my attention.
Tell us a bit about your role at Unqork now.
Currently, I’m a Client Manager that covers the financial services industry. My job consists of the following: I source potential clients and talk to them about the pain points they might have in their financial institutions—which I’ve witnessed first hand—then I actually go and build that use-case for them.
Once they’ve seen the value of the platform, we work to engage them in a contract. Then, we develop a team that helps define the bigger project—and then work with the team to deliver them on-site for those clients. We also manage the ongoing client relationship and any increases in scope for those teams. It’s a pretty cool job. Sometimes it feels like you’re a product manager, sometimes it feels like you’re an account manager or even a sales rep. All of these different roles are what make it the most fun.
Was it hard learning to build with a no-code platform?
I hate to say it, but the way I learned how to code HTML to a minor degree was by playing around with my MySpace profile back in the day. It’s embarrassing, but that’s probably as technical as I really got. In my early career, I tried to learn how to build a few things out—but it was never really to the degree where I had a fully functioning platform.
What’s really unique about the Unqork platform is the drag-and-drop experience. When you get into building out the logic, it’s a lot like using Excel functions—I felt a little bit at home given my comfort with Excel. Once you start playing around with the platform, it becomes a matter of being organized and trying to figure out logical flows.
The minute everything starts clicking and it works, you get a little bit of an adrenaline rush where you’re like, “Wow, I actually made something!” There are definitely components that I still have to self-learn, but there are a lot of resources internally that have been made available to help me get to the point where I understand how to build even more.
Are there any particular projects or use-cases you’ve worked on recently that you’re really proud of?
I had the opportunity to work on some CARES Act projects recently. The CARES Act is the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, which was put in place to provide government assistance for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States. It very largely focuses on small businesses and helping them recover or continue working throughout the pandemic. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve worked on, because at the end of the day, people need the money in order to keep their employees—helping businesses receive that money feels like we’re making a tangible difference.
"We’re starting to build out a group called “Unqork The Spectrum,” which is basically an organization for all of the LGBTQ+ and ally Unqorkers. Within this group, we’re creating a bunch of programming for Pride that involves having speakers talk about digitization in the industry and how they’re being trailblazers in their various spaces."
What do you think makes a good client manager?
I’m still learning about strong client management in my own day-to-day, but I think empathy is the number one component. I came from a role where I was the client for many, many vendors and third-party companies. There are so many different pieces within a financial services institution that are disparate and hard to manage, and I think anything you can do as a client manager to make that easier for the client is immensely appreciated.
I also think being very technically aware of what the team is capable of, managing expectations, and communicating these things back is extremely important. You may be on track with a project, but you want to make sure the client fully understands what your KPIs are and what your targets are so everybody is on the same page. Finally, I like to get to know a lot about the clients and be a completely open sounding board for them.
Now that we’ve covered a bit about what you do, we wanted to dive into a few questions we’ve been thinking about during Pride month. First off, what are your pronouns and how do you identify?
He/him/his, and I identify as a gay man.
What are some of your experiences in regards to being part of the LGBTQ+ community in both the tech and finance industries?
I think Goldman did a really good job of making sure that I was meeting folks from tons of different backgrounds and hearing about their stories. I think the financial services industry generally does recognize diversity as an important piece of understanding their clients and solving problems.
I think regardless of the industry, it’s a lot about who your leadership is, who your manager is, and how they support you and how much they’re willing to listen. I think it’s important that they’re willing to support and listen to your peers as well.
I’m constantly trying to make sure that I’m working at companies that are aware and have that empathy. I also try to find places where I can look up to LGBTQ+ leaders—those that are the best in the industry at their job and are able to balance work, family, and giving back.
My experience at Unqork so far has been excellent—bringing my whole self to work (even though it’s currently remote) is so important to me.
Do you have any examples of how Unqork fosters change in the industry and supports its LGBTQ+ team members?
We’re starting to build out a group called “Unqork The Spectrum,” which is basically an organization for all of the LGBTQ+ and ally Unqorkers. Within this group, we’re creating a bunch of programming for Pride that involves having speakers talk about digitization in the industry and how they’re being trailblazers in their various spaces. The idea is, “Let’s get some really badass LGBTQ+ people in the industry and have them show off how they’ve changed their business and their culture through commercial contributions.”
We’ve also created a channel called “Unqork Together” where employees can share their pains, thoughts, concerns, and ideas about their experiences in general—and any ways that Unqork can help make things better. I think we’re in a really unique position as a company because we have a platform that can build anything. I’m sure we’re going to have folks coming up with application ideas around how we can help in a concrete way, so conversations are definitely happening.
Want to see the power of no-code in action? Watch the above demonstration of "Project Cupid," New York City's online marriage portal to support legal unions in a time of pandemic.
Are there any changes you’d like to see in the tech community regarding LGBTQ+ issues?
I think intersectionality is one of the most important pieces—it’s one thing to be LGBTQ+, but especially with discussions around race, we need to have a really frank conversation about how to support more people within the community. Many times it becomes a gay and lesbian thing. But there are specific groups of the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans women of color, who are particularly impacted by socioeconomic issues and violence.
Finding ways to create policies and platforms that support folks throughout our community is what I think money and time should be put towards. Given that there is finally a massive focus on injustices that people have experienced for centuries, I hope that that conversation is being heard as loudly as I feel it’s being heard.
Finally, while we’re talking about putting money and time towards communities, are there any charity organizations or fundraisers that you work with and you’d like to shout out?
I participate a lot with the LGBT Center of Manhattan, which is one of the few places in the world that takes someone who has contracted HIV or AIDS and supports them through the whole experience as a person, not just a diagnosis. An individual can come to the Center for testing, safer sex kits, PrEP or PEP, counseling sessions, youth camps, and everything in between. If someone has been exposed to or diagnosed with HIV, folks from the center will physically walk them to the hospital and help them find insurance to cover costs, if they need it. They even host ongoing sessions to help build community and support those impacted. It’s a full-service program.
In addition to these programs, I do a bike ride every year for the HIV and AIDS services for the Center, which is a 275-mile bike ride from Boston to New York City over the course of three days. To be honest, I personally hate biking—I didn’t even know how to change my gears on my first year doing the ride—and wow, that was one of the most painful experiences ever. But what you realize as you’re participating on the ride is how strong the LGBTQ+ community is. You’re also energized with a call to arms, which is to end AIDS and the stigma around HIV & AIDS.
Someone I look up to greatly as a friend and in the industry always says that the ride is special—it’s when everyone gets together and we take The Center on a road show for three days. It’s exactly that, a community on wheels trying to make an impact. And not only are we raising awareness, but last year we raised over $2mm dollars for The Center.