Where are you from?
I was born in China, grew up in Marshall, Minnesota (population 13,680), and worked in Minneapolis before coming to SOM.
What did you do pre-SOM?
I started my own restaurant, PinKU Japanese Street Food. As an Asian-American, I was never a big fan of Panda Express. I always thought that as people get more educated and familiar with Asian food, they will look for options that are more authentic and reflective of the local culture. Additionally, most countries in Asia have a huge street food scene, where people of all demographics gather and communities flourish, but that doesn’t really exist in the U.S. (except at state fairs in the Midwest—LOL), so I decided to do something about it, and PinKU Japanese was born. I currently have one location near downtown Minneapolis and one location at the MSP airport.
What interested you in pursuing an MBA, and what led you to choose SOM?
Constant reflection, self-improvement, and lifelong learning are extremely important to me, so an MBA was never an “if” for me, but “when.” I feel like SOM has the most “soul” out of all the top MBA programs given its focus on business and society. I wanted to pick a school that would not only help me gain the skills needed to advance my career, but also help me become a better citizen for the people and communities around me.
What can we find you doing on a weekend?
Ideally, I would wake up early and read the Wall Street Journal (paper version), make my monster smoothie, go for a morning workout that will keep me huffing and puffing, climb a mountain or explore a new city in the afternoon, and relax in the evening with the people/person I love at a concert or a cool bar.
Who is your role model and why?
My role models are my childhood friends. I moved from China to rural Minnesota when I was 10, not speaking a word of English or knowing anyone, but I met a great group of friends who not only accepted me for who I am, but also taught me skills and gave me the confidence to become the person I am today. Almost two decades later, we are still all best friends and text each other daily. I won’t list any names because we’re all ultra-competitive and will likely confront each other if I list one person and not others.
When the world reopens up, where is the first place you’ll go?
Tibet. I love nature and faraway places with rich history, culture, and one-of-a-kind landscapes. I would love to climb Mount Everest someday.
What advice would you give prospective students?
Applying to MBA programs is stressful. There is just no way around it. The best thing you can do is to plan early if you can. I took my GMAT five years before I came to SOM and started outlining my admissions essays a year before I submitted my application. This reduced my stress level significantly and allowed me more time to consider my options. Always remember: nothing meaningful is easy, and nothing easy is that meaningful.