Career Profile: Shang Chen, Technology
Shang Chen has her hands full as both a business school student at University of Chicago Booth School of Business and as the Director of Business Development and Analytics for Snapette, a fashion discovery mobile app. A former management consultant, Shang has always explored her creative and entrepreneurial side, starting her own wedding photography business between college and business school. After business school, she hopes to enter the technology industry as a product marketing manager.
Describe what you do on an everyday basis.
I'm currently still a business school student earning my MBA. However, I've already been doing product marketing on the side for a couple of technology companies. It involves a lot of talking to customers and learning about who they are. There is surveying and data analysis; I'm in Excel a lot. Communication is important too; at the end of the day, I have to be able to condense what I've learned from my market research and translate it into actionable items for our engineers and co-founders.
Did you know you wanted to be in the technology industry when you were younger?
No, but I always had an obsession for technology. I had computers in my house since I was 7 years old. I learned to design and code websites in middle school. I had my first taste of working in technology in college when I interned for Google.
What do you love or hate most about your industry?
I love that technology is constantly open to change—innovation, thinking outside the box, and being different are all encouraged. I feel that my job reflects my creative background and my passion for changing people's lives in a meaningful way.
How did you prepare yourself for a career in technology? What steps did you take in high school and college?
I didn't know that I wanted to be in technology until after college—until after I held a management consulting job, in fact. In high school and college, I focused on developing transferable, core skills, learning all the basics of business and economics. I did a lot of extracurricular activities to build up leadership and organizational skills and to learn how to work with all different kinds of people. Now, while I'm in business school, I'm taking as many classes as I can in entrepreneurship and marketing. I also read blogs like TechCrunch,VentureBeat and the technology section of TheNew York Times to keep up with recent trends.
What surprised you most about working in your field?
A lot of startups are opposed to the structural thinking that comes with working in consulting and from being in business school. I completely value the experimental nature of startups in technology, but I also believe that, every now and then, we need to step back and ask ourselves: What am I trying to do? How is it working out?
What three qualities allow someone to be most successful in your industry, and why?
1. You need to be technical. Even if you aren't an engineer, to be in technology, you have to be passionate about technology and be able to understand how things are built.
2. You need to be data-driven. Technology development depends a lot on data analysis of the usage of your product and how it's performing.
3. You should be creative. Especially in a technology startup, you're always short on cash, time, and resources, so you have to be able to make the most of what you have.
What kinds of career growth opportunities are available in this field?
To the top! If you start a company, you're CEO from day one. Or you can get your start at a larger company like Google or Facebook and then branch out to new things once you find your passion.