Fellow Profile — Lisa Huang
University: Barnard College, Columbia University
Major: Art History
Startup: Maintenance Assistant
Hometown: Hong Kong
What does your startup do?
Maintenance Assistant is a cloud-based asset management software that helps maintenance teams organize, track, and schedule maintenance activities. Instead of complicated and antiquated software that only professionally trained engineers can use, our software is simple enough that any technician can pick up their phone/laptop and start tracking their maintenance work.
Describe a typical day at your startup: (role, day-to-day)
As a Sales Development Representative, I am the first point of contact between potential customers and the company. I guide prospects through the 101 of CMMS (that’s Computerized Maintenance Management Software), assess their needs, and navigate them through the sales process. Sometimes I’ll get COOs of large corporations on the phone; other times I’ll get maintenance technicians who are fed up with existing processes and seeking a change from the ground up… I once even spoke to someone who I suspect is the maintenance manager at Area 51. I talk to contacts from India to Saudi Arabia, to the EU, to North America, and get to practice my language skills. I never know who is on the other line, but it’s fun, it’s exhilarating, and it’s extremely rewarding.
What do you love about working at a startup? (What are the benefits of working at a startup?)
Who ever imagined a 22 year old recent graduate would be given so much power? When you work at a startup, a part of the deal is that you’re going to question the status quo and challenge existing processes. Startups, after all, are meant to disrupt. Since I’ve started my role, we have already changed our approach to prospecting, our sales message, and our lead scoring.
They put a lot of trust in you, so it feels like you really have a stake in the company.
What’s a social issue that you are particularly passionate about?
Feminism. When we say that we live in a “man’s world,” we forget that we can create a new world that will far surpass what exists today. The most powerful tool women wield as a minority group is the ability to use their gender to their advantage.
At the end of the day, we’re all boxed and compartmentalized into whatever societal categorizations are imposed onto us, and so the only way to win is to stop seeing our gender as something that holds us back. We need to reclaim our disadvantages and use it to our advantage. As we said in college, we’re *bold* and *beautiful*, and the sooner we learn to use this to our advantage, the sooner it will stop being a man’s world.
If you could tell your third year university student self one piece of advice, it would be to….
Cut the fat. When I look back on my third year, I think about the time I spent on people that shouldn’t have mattered, and all the time I spent on activities I didn’t really enjoy. I ended up missing out on other activities that would have taught me a lot, and experiences that would have been unforgettable. University is a special time and it’s shorter than you think. Don’t waste your time doing something you don’t love; take the time to pursue something you have always dreamt of. Join the kayaking club!
What is the best part of being a Venture for Canada Fellow?
The community. It goes without saying that the 2016 cohort has 3 VFC living quarters scattered around Toronto. Our fellows are people I can count on for anything from professional advice to personal problems. Whether it is trying to start mini side-gigs, or getting after work drinks, I have found family in our community.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career?
To be a stellar entrepreneur, of course! I want to start a company that will change at least one part of the world for the better.
Why should someone apply to Venture for Canada?
As an art history major, I thought that graduation was the end of my days (remember when Obama basically said an art history degree was useless?) I saw issues with our world that I wanted to change, but I didn’t know how.
For those of us who didn’t know how to tackle these issues, Venture for Canada gives us the tools to do so. Entrepreneurship is extremely powerful weapon. Not only does Venture for Canada give us the education, the resources, and the network to succeed in the startup world, it also reinforces our drive to create a successful venture. Simply being around other fellows makes me want to launch something great.
What is the most important skill you gained as a fellow?
Having come from a liberal arts background (Art History nonetheless!) the most important skill I’ve gained is my business acumen. I learned more about the private sector than I ever thought I would, and I am still learning more every day. Let’s just say a year ago I didn’t know what SaaS was, and now I am working for a SaaS company.
What cause are you most passionate about?
As many have mentioned before me, education is an extremely important but often overlooked element of society. Beyond classroom education, however, I think we all need to start focusing on experiential education; we need to emphasize the empathy and open-mindedness that one learns outside of the classroom. To truly become “well educated” means becoming empathetic. One becomes a changemaker because one has learned to contextualize his or her own experiences within the lens of others.
Essentially, we are all plagued with this little thing I like to call Elitism. We believe that our alma maters give us certain knowledge about the world that enables us to decide its future. Yet, it blinds us from the realities beyond our own bubble and causes us to overlook certain things — what many experienced during the US election, for example.
There are simply some things that books can’t teach, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we can enable the younger generation to make actionable change. So, yes, a fancy degree will teach you about theory and give you the tools to make something successful. But until we learn to set aside our elitism and look at the world through the eyes and experiences of others, we will never make real change. Exposure starts young, and I think the best way to build empathy in our world is to enable kids to experience the realities of others.
What’s your favorite book?
It changes every day, but Americanah, by Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie. Talk about feminism, elitism, and open-mindedness all in one neat little package…
What qualities do you need to succeed in a startup?
The most successful entrepreneurs are the most driven people. Start ups are ruleless and boundless places. The more you are willing to push yourself beyond the expectations set out for you, the better you will do.
Describe your most memorable experience as a fellow.
Training camp for so many reasons. 1. Learning from the many speakers that would spend the day with us. 2. Learning from others fellows that shared their knowledge and experience at presentations. 3. Living in res with a bunch of awesome people, minus the stress of school. Need I say more?
What advice can you offer to future fellows?
Don’t measure yourself to the success of others around you. There are lot of fellows in this program, and many of them come from impressive backgrounds. It can be toxic to compare yourself to others. Not to be your mom, but, you are a star in your own ways ❤