Cecilia Sun is the Vice President of Digital Customer Experience at Blue Shield of California. That means when members, providers, brokers and employers engage with us online, on a mobile app or in any other digital capacity, the buck stops with her.
Sun brings more than 15 years of experience leading product development, partnership management and customer experience for large global organizations like American Express Co. where she was responsible for developing customer-facing experiences in mobile, web, live chat,
voice response and video service channels.
In the three years since Sun took leadership of our digital customer experience, Blue Shield has accelerated its effort to launch new digital experiences including a mobile app that is currently rated 4.7 stars in the app store compared to Kaiser’s app which has a 3-star rating. She also increased member satisfaction by 95% and usage of digital by 37%.
You can tell in your first minute meeting her that Sun grew up a straight-A student, but this rare woman in tech can also invent cocktails better than the best bartenders in Las Vegas, and you’d never suspect the well-polished Sun could ever be considered a “sneakerhead,” which is why we’re dishing on her life and career:
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to take a chill pill. I can recall various times in my life where I thought, this is the most important thing in life -- like my SAT score or achieving various superficial milestones early in my career. This led me to not only be overstressed, but also misplace my energies on the wrong things, like micromanaging their work, which really impacted people around me. Now, my favorite thing to do, in the words of Elsa from the movie Frozen is to “let it go!” I now focus on what’s most important: the people, the relationships and the goals.
What is your customer experience philosophy that has helped you in your career?
Always ask the customer what they want and need. The success of modern digital experiences is built on the old mantra: the customer is always right. Any time I find myself debating with my team over some design or feature, I always say, “did we ask the end user?” If we deepen our understanding of our customers, eventually we will be able to anticipate their needs, like Steve Jobs did when he launched the first iPhone.We all aspire to have one of those type of career wins in our lifetime.
What is your latest binge watch obsession and why?
I’m obsessed with “Black Mirror” on Netflix. It’s a science fiction series that shows the darker consequences of misuse of new technology. I’ve also been re-watching The “Great British Baking Show.” It’s a baking competition that’s wildly popular in the UK. I lived in London for two years and fell in love with the show for the incredibly intricate cakes and pastries contestants produced, and for the humor and fun the judges bring to the show.
What do you do to stay energized?
Before I moved here from New York City, my vision of California was all about the beach, so I moved to Ocean Beach in San Francisco. It’s not as foggy as people think it is, but even on foggy days, I find the energy and waves very calming. I’m already a high-energy person, so I need to balance that with a more calming energy. A walk along the beach with my boyfriend does that for me.
What is the most innovative technology solution you use in your daily life?
Voice-activated technology has truly been incorporated into my personal life. I use the Xfinity voice technology to help me search for shows. I use voice search on Google more than typing, and I have Amazon Alexa to control multiple things around the house. Voice interface is already everywhere. We just need to learn how to use it.
Do you have any hobbies you do in your spare time?
I love the creativity of cooking, mixology and baking. I am less of a cookbook chef and more of a make what’s in the fridge or at the market chef. A dream of mine is to open a bar one day and be able to unleash my creativity with a changing menu of cocktails using ingredients in drinks that people haven’t thought of mixing before. I also love pairing a new cocktail with a baked good and testing it on my boyfriend and work colleagues. There’s nothing more fun than going to the farmer’s market and buying a bunch of ingredients, and then creating something with it.
What are you reading?
I’m currently reading two books. One is “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight who started Nike. I love memoirs and I am a bit of a “sneakerhead,” meaning I like to keep up with new sneaker trends and I collect sneakers-- especially classic ones from Adidas and Nike. The other book is “Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation” by Linda A. Hill and a few others. She is a Harvard Business School professor broadly known for her teaching on leadership and management, and this book has some great case studies that we can learn from on our innovation journey.
Are you loyal to any brands and why?
I’m one of those people that like to try everything, so it’s hard for me to stick to any one brand, but I always buy from Amazon. I probably buy something from them two to three times per week.They make it way too easy!
Next time you cross paths with Cecilia Sun, ask her about her sneaker collection, and maybe you’ll get an invitation to taste one of her creative cocktails and farmers market fresh baked concoctions.
For more on Sun and the Blue Shield of California digital customer experience team, read the recent interview on Glassdoor.