During Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, we reached out to UCLA Anderson students and alumni who have made an impact. They include Daniel Yang (’16) and Yen-An Cho (’16), who both grew up in East Asia and later came to the U.S. in pursuit of higher education. Yang grew up in China, Cho in Taiwan. Yang is an engineer turned consultant, and Cho is a lawyer turned tech VC.
By Cheechee Lin
Q: Why did you come to UCLA Anderson?
Daniel Yang: I was an engineer before business school and was looking to make a transition. I previously interacted with former Anderson students, and got to know the resources available to help us (engineers) transition in our career paths, and this school seemed like a good choice. Community-wise, I grew up in China, and diversity was a huge factor in my decision-making process. Los Angeles is the center of everything, and the diversity of the community definitely appealed to me. My wife was pregnant at the time, and she moved to Irvine. By attending Anderson, I was able to spend more time with my family. My daughter was actually born on my first day of school at Anderson — we named her Ming Ya, which means bright and graceful
Yen-An Cho: I did a lot of merger and acquisition deals during my law career, but I chose to pursue an MBA for two reasons: I needed to learn how to manage my wealth, and I found myself interested in technology. My career in law was case-by-case, often lasting only a couple months, and I was shuffled onto the next project. I wanted to work in high tech, where innovation is a continuous process that creates impact on the mass population. I chose Anderson because tech and the West Coast are synonymous, and Los Angeles provides the breeding ground for a lot of startups to establish their base. Having spent two years here, I can say that my initial assumption was right: There is a wealth of tech opportunities here, and I made the right choice!
Q: How have you transitioned to or from tech?
Yang: I studied engineering in China, with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. The high-tech industry was the obvious path for me, but I found myself gradually more attracted to the strategic nature of managing a project, rather than the engineering process itself. It’s a very interesting time for technology, as there’s a lot of disruption and a lot of giant companies are consolidating. Many tech companies are trying to defend their turf, whilst looking for new opportunities. It’s interesting to see how lives are being changed.
Cho: I studied at National Taiwan University Law and NYU for my law career, but now I’m planning to transition to technology, eventually working toward a career in venture capital. My current work at JD.com models its business after Amazon, except its direct sales target people in China. This is the second largest e-commerce company after Alibaba, but the good thing is it is moving toward other areas beyond just e-commerce, including IoT and other advancements. Because regulations surrounding businesses are now less harsh in China, JD.com has the potential to do a lot more, including equity crowdfunding.
Q: What do you enjoy doing on your time off?
Yang: I’m part of UCLA’s CFan Chinese Theatre Group. This is one of my passions during my free time. I love the community-building aspect of this — L.A. is one of the few places that has such clubs, where an entire play is performed in Chinese. This year, we focused on diversity in the community, distilling a story of immigrants like me that reflects the life we’re experiencing. This resonates with people who share my identity, and this project has definitely been one of my highlights at school.
Cho: I’m part of the Greater China Business Association, which focuses on bringing Chinese companies here to Anderson for recruiting. This year, I helped bring in TenCent and JD.com both for presentations and recruiting. The number of Chinese companies looking for talent here at UCLA has spiked upward by 80 percent this year, and it’s a trend I hope continues. More than 15 students this year have chosen to go back to China post graduation, and it’s very encouraging. I also am very proud of my wife and her accomplishments, as she’s started a blog called Irene’s LA Kitchen, which features her marvelous cooking and some of our inspiration from hanging out with friends of different cultures. Her blog has over 70,000 views and she has also authored a book!
Q: Have you felt you fit in at Anderson?
Yang: Coming from a different country and having spoken a different first language your entire life, you feel lost and homesick when you go to a new place. Yet at UCLA, I’ve found a community that cultivates a sense of belonging and connecting with people. There are more and more interactions between China and the U.S. in cross-border investments. Having that bilingual background is advantageous. I’d say this new balance offers a lot of opportunities for cross-border projects that classmates can work on in the future.
Cho: In any environment, you will always meet people who treat you as equal, but you may also have uncomfortable experiences. However, you meet many good students that you can tell honestly embrace you even though at times you feel awkward with your English. Anderson still has room for improvement in making the school more international student friendly, but it is making progress. I’d like to thank one of my classmates — Megan McCoy (’16), one of the nicest students I’ve met here — who helped welcome me and made me feel at home.
Q: What are your future plans?
Yang: In the short term, I’d like to go into management consulting in the U.S. At Anderson, I met some friends who were in management consulting who gave great guidance, and I’d like to also give a shout out to the career advisory services here, which have helped me in my transition and landing my summer internship. I’ll be working in consulting, which will give me exposure to a lot of different industries, and I hope in a couple of years I’ll be able to find what industry I’d like to settle in. Eventually, I’d like to go back to China.
Cho: In my first year at JD.com, I’ll be in a rotational program that will allow me to see all aspects of the business: e-commerce, hardware, crowdfunding, etc. After that, I’ll be doing operational work for the next two or three years, but I’d eventually like to jump to a startup and help it grow. In the long run, I’d like to start a venture capital fund, and bring value to startups beyond just the money. I’ll be in China for the first couple of years, but I believe I’ll move back to the U.S. for my venture capital endeavors. As of right now, VCs need to spend a lot of time in the U.S. to know the most advanced technology, but China does provide a better environment for profitability.