“I am a contagiously cheerful, thoughtful and hard-working person to be around.”
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Fun Fact About Yourself: I ate a live (and still wiggling) octopus while I vacationing in South Korea.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of California at Berkeley, Mechanical Engineering
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: SMA-America Solar Technology
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My company was launching a new product, which was great because the U.S. market was absolutely exploding. Unfortunately, the European market was going through a huge decline, which forced downsizing in our German headquarters. I was unsure who would support us or if we would even get support through the product launch. This made our team very worried, as the U.S. team was getting more projects than we could ever imagine. So, I decided to be vocal about my concerns. I started with conversations with my boss, who had me meet with the vice president. After multiple meetings of highlighting the gaps and defining the scope, the vice president told me to book my ticket because he was sending me to Germany. I lived and worked in Germany for three months supporting the U.S. team. I gained invaluable experience working directly with headquarters and loved every moment. This all happened because I decided to speak my mind. If you have something to say, say it.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My MBA class has such a diverse student body from all over the world. However, there is a big underlining characteristic between everyone, which is obnoxiously friendly and open – which is the Carolina Way. Everyone is just ridiculously nice to one another and that is incredibly fitting for my personality.
Aside from your classmates, 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? There are so many great schools out there, but Kenan-Flagler caught my eyes because they advertised their program as “quantitatively rigorous.” Since I did not have a business or finance related background, it was important to me that I develop a strong working foundation before developing my philosophies. And whenever I told a Kenan-Flagler staff I was worried about not knowing the material, they never had any doubt that they would be able to teach me everything that I needed to succeed.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Carolina Women in Business! The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was one of the main reasons that I became an engineer. Like SWE, Carolina Women in Business (CWIB) is focused on supporting a minority group in the profession – women. You don’t have to be a woman to participate; you just need to support women. Business school might seem like it is dominated by males, but there are definitely females in the mix. And CWIB highlights this fact, while raising awareness to those who are intimidated by the gender imbalance in business. Equally important, CWIB will be a great support group for women to have throughout school.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? When I finished my undergraduate degree, I thought I was going to get my masters in engineering. Instead of jumping straight into school, I waited to gain perspective as a professional and am so glad that I did. As I experienced engineering in the real world, I learned that business was the most important aspect. Every engineering decision is a business decision. While the technical portion is important, it is the business situation that drives strategy and major decisions. This motivated me to develop personally towards being a problem solver from both the engineering and the business angles.
How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? The simple answer would be return on investment. Financially, in long-term planning, an MBA just makes sense in terms of numbers. However, the intangible portion investment involves an outlook on where you want to be in your career. When I was imagining where I wanted be in 10 to 20 years, it wasn’t where I was. Of course, there are other ways to reach your goal, but an MBA would be the quickest way to my goal. And an MBA is a chance to advance into (senior) management or even redirect your career, whichever door I choose. My MBA is an investment in my future self’s lifestyle and happiness.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I only applied to UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? The usual research online, like Poet & Quants and university sites, has great information. However, the most useful way for me to evaluate fit was going to the actual schools and meeting actual students and staff. This is time (and money) consuming, so be selective and plan accordingly. The actual culture can be felt when you’re walking down the hallway or sitting in a potential classroom. Also, when you speak to a representative from the school, you will be able make a connection and determine fit. If travelling is limited, take advantage of when schools are visiting in nearby. Admission teams are aggressively recruiting, so take advantage of it!
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was an aggregate of my experience growing up in a community of immigrant families, which taught me to work hard and support those around you. Most from the community came to this country with few possessions; my father literally only had the clothes on his back. Life has been an uphill battle with learning a new language, establishing a new home, and finding their niche in society. However, we all had each other and our families, which provided us the support to balance the challenges. Since my parents worked long hours, neighbors watched over me as I was growing up. And since some families struggled with English, I would help translate letters and set up for them appointments over the phone. While there were difficult days, they were resilient and kept fighting. Together, through hard work and determination, they were able to create a life for themselves and for their children, including me.
What do you plan to do after you graduate? My goal is to develop my project management career from technically focused within manufacturing and construction to include financial responsibility for both the development and execution of projects. My technical expertise will ensure successful projects, while my business skills will provide financial confidence throughout the project lifecycle, which is critical as renewable energy transitions out of government subsidies.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Still passionate about providing sustainable and reliable energy, I will shift my focus from solely using renewable energy to considering all forms of energy working synergistically. I will also transition my role from managing individual projects to managing a team of project managers and their aggregate finances. This will allow me to focus on financial strategy and adjusting them to market trends or policy changes. And this will pave the path to working for a utility and planning their portfolio.