Women Who Reign: Yehong Zhu
“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” — Maya Angelou
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My freshman year I founded Harvard Square College Consulting, a startup that aims to increase access to higher education for high school seniors across North America and Asia. Sophomore year, my interest in international experiences and cross-cultural entrepreneurship led me to intern at Northern Light Venture Capital, a Chinese VC firm that invests in early-stage companies across Silicon Valley and Beijing. This summer I worked as a business reporter at Forbes Magazine in New York, where I covered retail, technology, and market trends. Next summer? Hopefully I’ll end up somewhere in SF; we’ll see. Stay tuned!
*Fun fact: G-Eazy follows me on Twitter! Crowning achievement to date? I think yes.
What # would define your life journey?
To quote Julia Hu, founder and CEO of Lark, “Resilience is the one skill that I have tried to cultivate, because if you get knocked down and don’t get up again, then you’re dead.” You can’t ever let the obstacles in your life stop you from doing what you want to do. With courage, resilience, and a little bit of grace, you have to get up each time you’re knocked down. It’s the only way to move forward.
Favorite website / app:
Favorite website: I’m actually a huge fan of Quora. In addition to being an avenue to learning new things, and also a great platform to hone my writing skills (the first million I’d ever earned was crossing a million views on my content), Quora gave me an intro to tech.
Co-founded by Charlie Cheever (Harvard ’03) and former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo, Quora was a Q&A startup that phased its public release carefully to build up hype and cultivate quality content; its first beta users were invite-only by design. So when I joined in 2012 — not long after the site opened up to the public — it felt like I was stepping into this rarefied bubble of experts, thought leaders, investors, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, all talking about startups.
Having grown up in the deep South, it was my first real exposure to tech culture, and it fascinated me because it was so different from anything I’d known. It definitely provided a huge inspiration for my interest in technology.
Favorite app: Evernote. It’s indispensable on my phone. I use it to organize my ideas and my plan for world domination, which syncs nicely across mobile and web. I actually paid for a premium account more because I liked the company than out of actual need. True story!
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Recently I was watching Marvel’s trailer for their new Wonder Woman movie. At one point it cut to a clip of a man telling our favorite Amazonian superheroine “I can’t let you do this,” to which she responded simply, “What I do is not up to you.”
There wasn’t enough context to ascertain what was going on. Maybe she was going to stop World War 3. Maybe she was about to fight aliens. Maybe the guy loved her and was acting out of the best of intentions.
The point is, it didn’t matter. The scene was so empowering because it demonstrated that Wonder Woman was self-assured enough to set her own terms in this world. That’s a superpower in its own right. (Of course, her actual superpowers are pretty cool, too)
Song that makes you want to dance:
Definitely “One Dance” by Drake. I was so obsessed with William Singe’s cover of this song that I wrote a long-form article about it on Medium. My roommate couldn’t stand me because I was playing this pretty loudly upwards of 100 times this summer. What can I say? I’m enchanted.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Starting a company is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Many founders will tell you this. From motivating a team and creating something of value from scratch, to advertising your services to the world and figuring out how to close a deal, success is never easy, and the odds are stacked against you.
But you stick with it, you persevere, and you learn along the way.
One of the most rewarding moments of this entire experience is seeing clients we’ve helped mentor over months through a long and arduous application process finally get into the schools of their dreams — whether that’s a successful transfer to UPenn, a full-ride acceptance to Columbia, or an international student’s admission to a top public school in the US, replete with a generous scholarship offer. Nothing feels better than knowing you just made a huge positive impact on the lives of these incredible, bright, and extraordinarily accomplished individuals.
In 10 years I see myself building a company and scaling it up.
Despite the difficult lifestyle, the late nights, the early mornings, the isolation, the uncertainty, the stress, entrepreneurship is a way of life that I subscribe to, one that pays off exponentially in the end. Ultimately, you only have one lifetime to do something you care about. If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help build theirs.
I highly recommend Women in Tech by Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack. I saw it lying around the Forbes office, so I picked it up and recently finished it. One of the most stunning quotes from the book was the simple observation that when you do an image search for “CEO” on Google, the first woman who appears (about a hundred images down) is CEO Barbie.
In 2016, it’s time for this to change. We need to create a world where we recognize that a boardroom or VC office or startup founders’ den should be 50/50 male/female. We need to stop contributing to centuries of unconscious bias telling women what they can’t do, and start rewriting the script.
Many thanks to ReigningIt for taking the first step to making this a reality.