University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Intellectual curiosity for business transformations. Inspired by my parents’ immigrant spirit to succeed.
Hometown: Union City, CA
Fun Fact About Yourself: Growing up, I communicated with my parents using four different languages (English, Mandarin, Taiwanese and Cantonese), often using English and the three dialects over the course of a “regular” five-minute conversation.
Undergraduate School and Major:
- Harvard – Economics, Secondary in Folklore and Mythology
- East Carolina University – Professional Educator’s License
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:
- Pacific Investment Management Company, LLC (PIMCO), Analyst (2013 – 2015)
- Teach for America, Corps Member (2015 – 2017)
- Duke University, Associate in Research (2016 – 2017)
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment thus far has been “making the leap” from financial analyst to public school teacher for the purpose of serving my country.
During the financial crisis, I was a senior in high school when I witnessed my parents lose half of their life and retirement savings in the stock market crash. As blue-collar workers with little more than high-school educations, my parents were left wondering what to do next. I felt a sense of responsibility to understand the situation for myself and for my family’s financial well-being.
In college, I took every course I could to figure out how the economy functioned. Naturally, a degree in economics led me to my first job as a financial analyst, a role in which I learned about the inner workings of financial markets. The purpose for my learning was two-fold: I wanted to know what factors led to the financial crisis and think of ways to make the system better.
I shared my findings at monthly workshops for local, low-income youth, representing the PIMCO Foundation as a volunteer financial literacy instructor. During my second year at PIMCO, when the three-person team I directed was voted best teaching team by the students, I knew I had a unique opportunity to transform the financial trajectory of our nation’s poorest through teaching.
As a Teach for America corps member, I applied the skills I learned in business to: secure outside sponsorships for two fully funded educational field trips; create shared Excel templates to modernize the process of tracking and analyzing student achievement; and apply research-based interventions. At the end of my two-year corps commitment, I was really proud to have been nominated by my colleagues at school for the district’s inspirational leader award as well as selected by the Teach for America staff to give remarks on behalf of the 2015 corps at the year-end celebration.
Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? I confirmed my interest in attending business school after my first year of teaching, when I recognized the amount of processes that could be improved through the incorporation of business principles. If my goal was to enroll the following fall, that left just six months to get all of my application materials together in time for second round deadlines at my target schools. Therefore, my GMAT advice may be particularly relevant for those with the objective of completing the application process within a year, especially while working.
First, although many schools these days accept both the GMAT and GRE, if you are a career switcher and believe you can do well on the GMAT, take the GMAT. Some industries (such as investment banking or consulting) look at GMAT scores, so if you are interested in these areas, you are going to have to take the GMAT anyway. Another reason to take the GMAT is to show admissions committees that you are serious about business school in particular, and have the ability to handle the quantitative rigor in the classroom.
Secondly, study content in several different formats so you have the ability to answer GMAT-type questions in any context, not just in the way one publisher writes the question. My process started with the GMAT Prep by Kaplan because the book is broken down into subject areas (arithmetic, algebra, geometry, sentence correction, reading comprehension, etc.). I buckled down and read GMAT Prep by Kaplan like a college student absorbing information from a textbook. I then added a second layer to my studying, which was completing practice questions from The Official Guide for GMAT Review published by GMAC. The companion website for the book comes with practice questions online, which allows you to simulate testing conditions since the GMAT is computer-based. Finally, I used GMAT Flashcards by Magoosh in the App Store to round out my study plan. This app is a spaced repetition flashcard program, which was very useful because I could rate my knowledge of a question (“mastered,” “reviewing,” or “this content is new to me”) and then see the questions again at a frequency that would eventually help me master all of the questions.
Third, be resourceful about your time and find creative ways to study! While traveling, GMAT Flashcards proved to be incredibly valuable because all I needed was my phone to review questions mid-flight or when waiting in line. At home is where I could focus on building my stamina; I would block off hours at a time to complete a practice test from the GMAC website, mimicking test day as closely as possible (timing of breaks, no outside distractions, etc.).
After two months of preparation, including sitting for the test twice, I achieved my target score. When I took the GMAT, you could only take the exam once every 31 calendar days, so my final piece of advice would be to plan ahead and build in time to possibly re-test before the application deadline.
What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? As someone who is very intellectually curious and values diversity of thought, I knew UNC Kenan-Flagler was for me when I realized I could continue being that person both in choosing my academic plan of study as well as in interactions with classmates. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, students have six dedicated career and four enrichment concentrations to choose from, or a student can design their own course of general management study. Additionally, students who want to hold leadership positions in multiple clubs are highly supported by their classmates because there is a strong culture of paying it forward and paying it backward as success breeds success.
The UNC Kenan-Flagler factor – the mission to graduate leaders invested in making a positive impact in the world through business – is important to me because involvement and development have been common themes throughout my career. For instance, while at PIMCO, I was an active volunteer with the PIMCO Foundation, helping to achieve our company’s strategic goals through philanthropic efforts. While serving in the Teach for America corps, during school breaks, I conducted academic research (gathering and analyzing information, formulating and testing hypotheses) to develop solutions to improve the financial well-being of low-income households. These themes will continue in business school through my work as a Dean’s Fellow, Forté Fellow and Consortium Member and I am looking forward to whatever comes next!
What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? Managing my multiple priorities well! On a day-to-day level, that means fitting in time to run outdoors no matter where I am working in the world. Running is one of my favorite ways to process my thoughts from the day, a time to listen to new podcasts, and my secret to staying high energy! A longer term goal is to continue spreading the mission of The Consortium and Forté Fellowship programs. I am where I am today, in part, because of these programs and I also want to help make organizations more successful through diversity and inclusion efforts.