How Far East Can You Go Before West?

April 15th, 2014 by under China, Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.

Count down, retrospect, and celebrate a closure and the new start.

When I was approached by prospective students, about school, MBA, life as an international student, the first thing I often told them was “I might not be the right person to talk to.”

I am not a typical MBA. I struggled, and I chose to stay atypical. “It takes nothing to join the crowd, but everything to be alone.”

I don’t do traditional text based cover letter; I don’t send resume to companies or connect with HRs. Instead, I do an infographic CV and I talk to co-founders and CEOs.

I no longer look for a job. I look for like-minded people to create my job.

I have no concentration or track. I do fashion merchandising, entrepreneurship, graphic design, data analytics, marketing strategy, and consumer insights. They are equally weighted to me.

I have no Plan B. I have no alternative. I have no choice but to stick to my passion and indulge my rest of life in fashion + technology + e-Commerce.

How far east can you go before west? Assume the globe is round or flat, everything will eventually loop up together. My heart triggers my passion, my passion pushes me forward, my forwardness opens doors, and doors reconnect my heart.

Two years of MBA allows me to stop, make mistakes, retrospect, learn, get up, and take a fearless path that is no return. And that’s one of the biggest and fortunate transition of my life so far.

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The Profile of A Free Rider

April 12th, 2014 by under Fun and Fearless, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.

Never try to debunk a free rider. Identify and avoid a free rider before it’s too later.

MBA is neither heaven nor hell; your classmates are neither angels nor devils. If you want to improve your life and learning experience, try to avoid common free riders and academic parasites, and you need to get to know them first.

Despite a relatively small sample size, most free riders I’ve encountered so far share the following commonalities.

  • Most likely it’s a he, but sometimes, it can be a she.
  • Most likely good looking, charming, and very if not overly personable.
  • He or she leaves almost perfect first impression, often striking you as quick-wit, honest and innocent.
  • He or she makes a lot of upfront commitments.
  • Endowed with talented public speaking skills and enjoys speaking in public.

Ouch! There are plenty of nice and wonderful people like that! Don’t worry, there are traces you can track.

  • Growing more charming and personable in front of bigger groups, authorities, and seniority.
  • Overly eloquent but what he’s just said doesn’t make a lot of sense. (If you are smart enough to realize that…)
  • Most likely a qualitative person and doesn’t sign up for a lot of quantitative courses.

Free riders are known for their ability to free ride without being held accountable of. Trust me. Don’t try to debunk a free rider, just avoid them.

And voilà! Count down to graduation!

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Algorithm Pranks

April 5th, 2014 by under Fun and Fearless, Say What MBAs Say, The Smith Experience. No Comments.

As my affair with data anlytics continues to unfurl, I realize that data and algorithms are naughty and if not handled properly, they are trouble makers. Even those self-claimed data masters have their awkward moments and let me list just a couple that I’ve witnessed recently.

  • Amazon and its recommendation system

Admittedly, I fancy some exotic exercise, such as….pole dancing. Seriously, you get some comfortable stretches through practice which also makes you feel more confident about yourself. So I bought a portable dancing pole through Amazon to skip the crowded studio pole sharing scenes. A week later, Amazon started to send me new recommendations based on my “historical purchases and items I’ve owned”, the highlighted feature recommendation was a pair of silver NIPPLE RINGS! As astonished as I was, getting to know there is a type of product called nipple rings on earth, I wondered what algorithms Amazon’s recommendation system used to jump to the conclusion that me a dancing pole buyer would need nipple rings. Seems to me there is a pretty strong correlation coefficient between “dancing pole” and “strippers”.

  • Pandora and its customized ads

Admittedly, again. I fancy some 90s-00s Hip Hop and R&B. While I’m playing my classic 90s Hip Hop mix on Pandora, I am forced to listen to this ads that basically urges black women to purchase an in home HIV test as they are a particularly vulnerable group to AIDs. So again, another strong correlation between “female”+“90s Hip Hop” and risk of AIDs infection.

While I write these little incidents out rather light-minded, I feel offended by the inherent stereotypes the collaborative filtering system has been coded in predicting customer needs. By far, algorithm still falls short in recommending real custom fit contents, due to the fact, which I believe, of the gap between understanding the complexity of consumer behavior and normalization of certain segments.

Outliers that we often choose to neglect have strong story-telling power, also a secret key to unveiling a hidden new segment.

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Reaching Out II: Beauty Doesn’t Feed You. You have to be beauty.

March 4th, 2014 by under Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith. 1 Comment.

“God gave you the shoes that fit you, so put ‘em on and wear ‘em
And be yourself, man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don’t ever let no one tell you, you ain’t beautiful…”

-Eminem, Beautiful

I came back from Harvard Business School for an annual retail and luxury goods conference and I feel better about myself.  I met some awesome like minded speakers and made some tangible connections that might potentially lead to more open windows.

I came fully ready to challenge the elite ego and I considered myself successful.

I feel slightly sad for people at Harvard that many of them were too obsessed with “status” to ask a risky smart question. I fully understand their insecurity that they had to build a wall against the “non-elites” by not making eye contacts or talking back to non-Ivy Leaguers.

I also know that not all HBS students are like these. The co-founders of the company I am interning in are those humble, smart HBS women that everyone enjoys working with.

To quote Lupita Nyong’O: You can’t eat beauty. Beauty doesn’t feed you. You have to be beauty.

Money. Fame. Status. All the things that can be easily taken away from you can’t feed you. You have to someone that can’t be stolen and again feel proud about yourself.

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Twitter – The Hidden Weapon of Job Hunting

February 12th, 2014 by under Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say, The Smith Experience. No Comments.

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I am very slow when it comes to the adoption of social media related technology. Most people choose to have a user name or a herd of followers as soon as a new thing comes out; I would rather wait until I make sure it is not something like Facebook that feeds you with semi-garbage information. That does not justify that I just registered Twitter and had only 21 tweets and 9 followers.

However, a purely unexpected incident changed my entire view of Twitter and led to new discovery of techniques in job hunting.

I bought a Chanel bag from an online marketplace X and made a comment on its user experience via Twitter.  I assumed that’s how we use Twitter, we tweet things we think about. And then I realized the Founder and CEO of X followed me and private messaged me inquiring for what user experience failed to fulfill my needs. And it was the CEO himself, not some copywriting agencies.  He asked me if I could write him an email and I did and the next thing was I added him on LinkedIn.

What are the rare chances of getting connected with a CEO in real time through online exchange? Well, of course, the comment I made might get me stand out. I’m sure Twitter influencers get tags hundreds of thousands of time daily.

It struck me why not using Twitter to follow the companies and people you admire and reach out to them directly? We international students usually don’t get a chance to meet the hiring managers because HR people are the biggest hurdle. Why not use Twitter or LinkedIn to get around with HRs and talk to the people you wish to work with directly?

It’s just a start but I will share more as I myself exploring social media.

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New York!!! New York??? New York…

February 10th, 2014 by under Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith. No Comments.

Me and my friends thought my heart was in New York already.

I commute some nine hour insane trip for my internship; I spent hundreds of dollars on hotels and transportation for some looming networking opportunities; When I created my online dating profile, I chose New York as my location.

But most recently I started to question: is New York really the city I want to stay in?

I came back from an up-scale soiree in Manhattan last week and was somewhat confused. I skipped classes and researched attendees and got some fancy letter press business cards but ended up making no connections. The dilemma of the fashion industry once put me off came back bugging me again. When I did fashion my own way, I made awesome supplier connections, sold some exclusive designer deals and maintained many loyal customers who later turned friends who would write me letters and send gifts. Despite all the transactions happened in the virtual world, our connections were real and genuine. But when I was in New York, some of the fashion/luxury networking scenes made me uneasy. I couldn’t help notice the pretentious smiles, wandering eyes, and insecure smirks.  People checked you out by looking at your watches, bags and shoes and they were too occupied to impress than to be impressed.

By far, I have enjoyed my internship very much. The co-founders of the company are brilliant, humble and down-to-earth entrepreneurs that work hard and respect their employees. And that’s what I have expected for New York.  However, the reality struck me that there is always a part of the glamour, expressionism, show-off side of fashion that I have to live with. Will a behind-the-scene type of person be comfortable stepping into the spotlight? I have no idea.

But that’s the fundamental reason why I have to experience, feel, fail, and learn. If it were not for the internship and the networks, I would have lived in an imagined world of New York. Reality check is so important that a job is more than a job, it’s part of your larger eco-system including your off-job life and relationship, which are equally important as a career.

Networking is more than getting connected with other people; it’s also about getting connected with yourself.

 

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Fitting In or Standing Out? Breaking Into Fashion, In China Context

December 23rd, 2013 by under China, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith, Say What MBAs Say. 1 Comment.

Most international students have some sort of identity crisis when they just came to the US. We are shy; we have accents; we don’t get drunk or high too much. Despite the high inclusivity of American culture, we sometimes still feel isolated. So “fitting-in” has become a major part of our social homework.

We talk English to our fellow countrymen; we eat Five Guys and watch footballs, forcing ourselves to fall in love with a sport we don’t even understand. Unfortunately, we still couldn’t fit in. We see our more than two decades of foreign lives ” a baggage”.

Wait a minute? Why fit in when you can stand out? Why not stay special?

This was the new wisdom I found when I was put onto a student panel of a luxury industry seminar in New York. When it comes to China luxury market, we are hot! Americans want to dig our brains and know everything we intake and expel. The audience, luxury retailers exchanged business cards with Chinese on one side and we added contacts on WeChat. Some rather effortless insights of mine led the way to a casual business lunch with a luxury retail company and another upcoming networking event with some rather prominent business people with China connections. Unfortunately, I could not disclose any further details until I secure some real opportunities.

Make sure to fully use your regional advantage. Our value is not in how “fit” we have become into American culture. What makes us special makes us stand out. Find places that look for talents with your specialties and feel proud about them.

 

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Chanel, All time Favorite for Over-Compensation?

November 20th, 2013 by under Arts and Culture, Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Internationals at Smith. No Comments.

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting article on Fashionista.com about how Rihanna and Miley Cyrus were classing up raunchy videos with lots of Chanel.

Their corresponding clips share a couple of major similarities: One being an abundance of Chanel accessories, the other being an abundance of, well, ass.

If you look back, the highly Hip-hop influenced American pop culture is a history of obsession for exotic luxury. Rap Queens of the 90′s, for instance, led by Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott are known for their signature show-off of bling bling Chanel accessories in equally explicit video clips; Bugatti and Lamborghini have been classic lyric fillers from Akon’s hay days to Britney’s recent release; and there are artists who actually named themselves after Chanel and Gucci.

We get it. Hip-hop was originated from ghetto music and over-compensation is not uncommon. Don’t get me wrong. I grew up with Hip-hop and I love some of the old skool and hardcore stuff. But pairing strippers with Chanel is more ironic than iconic. Can I call it the inferiority-superiority complex? Well. It’s surely not Ms. Coco’s intention and it will never stop me from loving my Chanel!

See some of the pictures capturing some raunchy performance with Chanel highlights. I was stunned how Lil’ Kim managed to mix & match her expensive Chanel outfits and made them look so cheap!

Miley Cyrus

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Rihanna

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Lil’ Kim

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Missy Elliott

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(Source of photos)

http://fashionista.com/2013/10/rihanna-and-miley-cyrus-class-up-raunchy-videos-with-lots-of-chanel/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/williamedwinw/17-pictures-of-lil-kim-wearing-chanel-7hmq

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Academia + Entrepreneurship: When Science Meets Great Business Ideas

November 18th, 2013 by under Internationals at Smith, People, Say What MBAs Say, The Smith Experience. No Comments.

Jorge Mejia is not your typical PhD student. He owns his own company and has just finished a six month research and entrepreneurial project abroad with the world’s largest incubator, Startup Chile. He’s working on his PhD in Information Systems at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Mejia did his undergraduate and master degrees in computer science at Georgia Tech. Ever since his first internship he has been engaged in a number of R&D projects that have become successful business innovations in their respective industries.

In 2004, he took an internship with NCR and was assigned to a task as part of a product development project of the “live” interaction system between humans and automatic check-out machines, which you see regularly in major supermarkets across the country.

After graduating with his MS, Mejia worked in a consulting firm for more than three years and spent half of his time traveling to countries in Europe. He worked with a Swedish telecommunications company in 2006 in research on cable live streaming, which was exactly what Netflix was doing three years later.

Most recently, he and his company Rively are researching and developing an app to enable customers to check in “moving objects” – the first of its kind – on their smart phones. If Foursquare helps you find the perfect places that are stationary, this app allows you to check-in on a particular bus, train or flight and review your transportation experience, not limited to the carriers.

“I like research,” said Mejia, “and I always try to find research that is interesting and people have actual needs for it.”

In 2012, Mejia and his college friends formed a team to participate in Startup Chile, a six-month $50,000 budget accelerator program backed by the Chilean government, which selected 100 early-stage start-ups out of 600 applicants worldwide. Mejia conducted research for his PhD project within the incubator to see how the entrepreneurs were using their money and time.

“Six months and $50,000 – you can use them for product development, or traveling to raise money, or going to networking parties for mentorships or ideas,” said Mejia. “I wanted to measure the outcomes of these different approaches.” He analyzed the data he collected and found out that if teams didn’t know each other well, the probability of raising money was low.

“We screwed up a lot,” he said, noting that they lost a teammate in the beginning and they couldn’t find a developer. “It was also our first time meeting with an investor,” Mejia recalled. “It was all about real-world learning and I highly recommend this incubator program.”

Mejia appreciates the support he received from the Smith School. “[The level of support] is unconventional for a business school,” he said. “My professor was putting his neck out for me and the school was not afraid to take a chance on me.”

Now, Mejia is looking at areas that could combine his strengths in academia and entrepreneurship. “I love research and I want to find cool problems to solve,” he said.

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Sexy Data

November 10th, 2013 by under Fashion, Fun and Fearless, Say What MBAs Say. No Comments.

I still remember my own words during my first week in business school – “I find it really hard to develop affection for data.”

You never know.

One year later, I fell in love with data! Not simply because I am doing surprisingly well in heavy quantitative courses, in fact scoring A+ across all data driven classes, but also because I discovered the fun part of it.

Of course, I am never a friend of math. But data is not just about math. Math is merely a tool but what makes a difference is your business sense and the creativity involved in setting up hypotheses. Last term, I took a Marketing Analysis class and I am totally addicted to it. Upon completion, I chose to enroll in an advanced course in Data Mining and also take a major data analytics project in my recent internship at a fashion e-commerce company.

Yes. I will keep you posted of this exciting and challenging internship.

For 26 years, I have never thought of myself as a quantitative person and I have been trying to avoid numbers for my whole life. If it were not for the MBA, I would never have forced myself to acquaint with data and found the sexy part of it. So never make a conclusion for things you haven’t tried out yet. Outside the comfort zone lies the sweet spot!

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