Interview with Vivian Fang
❤️ Heart set on Game Theory & Public Finance — a determined, disciplined dreamer in making Pareto Improvements. ❤️
Who are you?
I am Vivian Fang. I am a Taiwanese-Canadian citizen. I am an entrepreneur, consultant, teacher, and foodie. Most importantly, I am a true believer in making Pareto Improvements, and I hope to make positive contributions to the world.
I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. At age 15, I moved to Edmonton, Canada, to study. I moved to Vancouver in grade 12 and lived there for 10+ years.
I started my teaching career upon completing my bachelor’s degree in economics at Simon Fraser University (SFU). I was a teaching assistant for the Department of Economics at SFU as a graduate student. I was blessed to receive excellent student evaluations for many semesters. I was the recipient of the annual Best Teaching Award among about 60 teaching assistants in the department.
After obtaining a Master of Arts in Economics, I was very honored to stay at SFU as an instructor in the Department of Economics for years. Yes, all my colleagues were my professors. It was very challenging and stressful; I was mostly at school preparing lectures during that time.
The size of my classes varied from 30 to 350 students. In any given semester, I managed 1 to 7 teaching assistants and 60 to 400 students. At SFU, I was asked to be the facilitator for workshops helping and mentoring new teaching assistants in order to share my teaching experience and provide general guidance.
Courses I was involved in teaching included International Trade, International Finance, Public Finance, Canadian Microeconomic Policy, Canadian Macroeconomic Policy, Principles of Microeconomics, Principles of Macroeconomics, Labour Economics, Game Theory, and many more.
For personal reasons, I decided to move back to my hometown Taipei years ago. Instead of teaching economics, I wanted to explore private sectors. I went on adventures; vertical of my adventures include media, name brands, financial institutions, consulting, IT, consumer goods, and manufacturing. I took roles such as an analyst in think tanks, strategic marketing, business development, sales, and management. As for markets, I have left my footprints in the USA, Japan, Hong Kong, China, the Middle East, and India. Of course, I am also still a teacher.
My newest adventure is writing. I started on November 12, 2019. I remember the date vividly, as it was the day I turned down a potential book deal. I wanted to take baby steps.
It was also the day I decided to spend time putting my ideas and thoughts down on a regular basis. I hadn’t really written in Chinese in any format for over 20 years. Other than writing on Facebook and in emails, I hadn’t really been writing in English much since I left school. Writing is a skill that requires hard work and practice. Nowadays, I am doing exactly that.
Why write on Medium?
I write on Medium because I think it is a clean platform. The focus here is on the power of words. There are many great writers on Medium, and I enjoy reading them. It is a great platform as it gathers writers from around the globe to share their knowledge, experience, and opinions — I like this about Medium.
I choose to write on Medium because it is relatively easy to start my writing adventure here.
What are your writing interests?
Honestly, I don’t have a fixed set of writing interests. I have various interests, and they continue to evolve over time. I love to learn, and I love new challenges.
Considering my background, I also like to write about my personal stories and my opinions on particular events in the news. I enjoy sharing my knowledge; this could relate to something I am already good at or something new I just learned.
I love game theory and The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Anything that involves making decisions, strategies, or economic analysis I enjoy writing about and sharing.
What do you hope to accomplish by writing?
I started writing on Nov 12, 2019, on the same day I turned down the aforementioned book deal.
I made this decision because I hadn’t been in the habit of writing for many years; I preferred to spend the time to practice such a skill and see how it develops. Honestly, I did not come to Medium to write with a specific agenda or an ambitious goal.
I am not thinking about how many followers or how many “claps” or money I will get from this writing journey. I just do it.
On top of my other consulting services, since I am teaching game theory classes and other economic related courses now, it is good for me to keep a writing habit. It helps me to organize my thoughts and put together case studies for future reference. I think it is a helpful way to keep my head clear and to continue communicating with my readers, clients, and students — especially, of course, with myself.
As for what motivates me to write, I don’t really need the motivation to do so. I am big on sharing, just as any teacher would be. Whatever happens around me, whether it is an interesting, sad, or crazy story, I can always find its silver lining and put a positive spin on it to share in an article.
Can you share a highlight of your life?
I would like to share an early personal story. It happened during my time at SFU. As graduation approaches, most graduate students tend to apply for jobs online with an application through the government’s job website.
In my opinion, one of the best government jobs for economics majors — even for MBA students — is to work for Finance Canada. Unfortunately, I did not apply; I missed the deadline by accident.
My best friend in the graduate program did apply, however. She asked me to go with her when the Finance Canada representatives were at our campus giving a recruitment talk. At first, I did not want to go as I had not applied for a job at the company. But my best friend really wanted me to go with her; she even offered to treat me to a Starbucks coffee. Ultimately, I accompanied her, as I knew it meant a lot to her for me to be there.
After we all sat down, the interviewers came to the seminar room. They glared at us, a group of 80 graduate students. One of the interviewers pointed at me and asked if I was a graduate student. I turned my head, looking behind me, to make sure he was actually talking to me.
After confirmation, I answered, “Yes, I am a graduate student here.”
“Why didn’t you apply?” he further asked, surprised.
“Sorry, sir. I missed the deadline.” I told him the truth.
He gave me a time slot for the interview. I felt so lucky and blessed.
What followed was the most difficult interview I’ve ever had in life, even up until this point.
First came the written exam. I was asked to write a briefing of a long article — it was approximately 7 to 9-pages, double-sided, single-spaced article. I was given a blank A4 paper, a pen, and one hour to write. I hadn’t used a pen to write for years; I was used to typing. After I submitted the piece, I felt so defeated and embarrassed.
Right after that, it was time for the panel oral interview. I knew they would ask us to talk about our final course project in Applied Econometrics, one of the most difficult core courses that all graduate students in the business and economics departments have to complete. I was prepared for it. The second question of the interview asked about the name of the databank I used for the project. It was a long name. Typed out, it took up about one line, with many difficult words to pronounce. I had practiced it so many times at home, yet I still screwed it up at the interview. After I had to repeat the name twice, I felt that I had lost control of my tongue. I did not even feel certain that I could still speak English anymore. I thought to myself, “Great! I am a total loser today.”
Right then and there, I changed my attitude. I completely let go of any anxiety and was just myself. I started treating the interview as if I was talking to my friends. I remember that I even argued with the interviewer on “income effect” and “substitution effect” since he was wrong about the terms.
In the end, I was the only one who made Finance Canada’s second interview at Ottawa for SFU, UBC, and UNBC. It was a big deal for me.
It was a great honor, and I feel grateful that I did not quit when I encountered difficulties. I also think this experience helped me in terms of my confidence and in many other ways.
Share a few of your article links with us?
I would like to share the below articles with you.
Using Game Theory to Discuss Strategy Toward Covid-19
Let me illustrate why carefully contain the coronavirus is the best strategy for country like Taiwan
This is an article in which I use a simple 2x2 static game to illustrate how to use game theory to talk about a hypothetical situation and aim to draw some meaningful conclusions from it.
I picked this one because it is the most recent article I published on March 17, at 9 p.m. Taipei time. Also, the number of views of its Chinese version broke my personal record. Within 18 hours, it went over 10K views. Within 30 hours, it hit 20K views.
I think the article’s view count broke my personal record because of the following:
a) It is a topic that is closely related to our current situation.
b) I wrote this article because of a viral social media post in Taiwan that used game theory to talk about the strategies that the government took facing COVID-19. It did not use the game theory correctly. However, as many people already knew of the original viral FB post, it was being discussed widely. I thought it would be interesting for people to see my view on it.
c) With my permission, two media outlets in Taiwan published my article on March 18. The links are shared below, but they are in Chinese:
如何正確使用賽局理論來推導「防疫策略」？／Vivian Fang | 吐納商業評論 | Tuna Business Review
【武漢肺炎】如何用賽局理論決定最好的防疫策略？ - INSIDE
本文作者 Vivian Fang 方郁茗，加拿大公立西門菲莎大學 (Simon Fraser University) 教授經濟系課程 7 年，精通賽局理論 (Game Theory)，主攻關懷社會的公共經濟 (Public…
Three Strikes for Japan and Abenomics
Consumption tax hike, Typhoon Hagibis and Covid-19 hurt Japan’s economy for sure, but one of it was an unforced…
This is an article that talks about three serious threats Japan is facing: the 10% sales tax hike, Typhoon Hagibis, and COVID-19. I think if Abe government could have foreseen Typhoon Hagibis and the pandemic of COVID-19 beforehand, it probably would not have implemented this sales tax on Oct 1, 2019.
I wrote a long essay on the tough situation in Japan in my first year of graduate study; hence, I have some background knowledge in this area. Japan is very close to Taipei, and I travel there from time to time, so it is natural for me to care about this country’s situation. It is hard for me to see Japan remaining in a liquidity trap after so many years — this is due to deflation pressure and inefficient monetary policy. Like I said in the article, I can’t imagine how severe the damage would be for the economy of Japan if the Olympic and Paralympic Games were to be cancelled.
One thing worth mentioning is that this article was published in the Taiwanese media. It was my first publication in Chinese since I started to write. This differed from my English writing; my third Medium article in English was lucky enough to be chosen for publication. It took me a lot longer to make it into Chinese publishing; it was a real milestone for me. The link is included below.
「安倍經濟學」犯了什麼錯，慘遭三振出局？／Vivian Fang | 吐納商業評論 | Tuna Business Review
Zugzwang on Hong Kong Dollars?
How worry should we be about the pessimism economic outlook in Hong Kong with its currency?
I picked this article as it includes a lot of information about the situation in Hong Kong. It talks about the tough situation Hong Kong is facing regarding the trade war between the USA and China, the anti-extradition protests, and COVID-19. Hong Kong’s financial markets, goods markets, and currency peg of the Hong Kong dollar with the US dollar are discussed. In this article, I argued my case for why I think the Hong Kong dollar is solid in holding its value. People should have faith in it.
I have always had close ties to Hong Kong. In my days in Canada, I would say I grew up with people from Hong Kong; I hung out with them more than I hung out with my pals from Taiwan. I know the country and its culture well. My Cantonese is better than my English. Since moving back to Taipei, I travel to Hong Kong at least a few times every year. I even visited Hong Kong after the protest began in 2019. My personal attachment to Hong Kong definitely motivated me to want to write and share this article on Medium.
Do you write anywhere else?
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The latest Tweets from Vivian Fang (@viv_fang). Determined & Disciplined Dreamer - Always Is & Will Continue To Be
I write both in English and in Chinese. Usually, I write in English first; subsequently, I write in Chinese on the same topic.
I started both Medium and Vocus at the same time — Nov 12, 2019. It was more of an experiment for me.
Vocus is a writing platform in Taiwan. It did not take me long to find out no one is reading the English version on Vocus. Since then, I only published the Chinese version of my writing in Vocus.
I started on both Medium and Vocus at the same time, on Nov 12, 2019. It was more of an experiment for me.
Vocus is a writing platform in Taiwan. It did not take me long to find out that no one is reading the English version on Vocus. Since then, I have only published the Chinese version of my writing on Vocus.
I discovered another new platform, Matters, in late December 2019. It is a writing platform created in Hong Kong using IPFS technology. On this platform, you can find writers from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Sometimes it can get politically intense, as everyone has a different take. This is especially true after the anti-extradition protests started in Hong Kong in the summer of 2019.
Any big plans for 2020?
2020 is a tough year. Many plans that I had before have been postponed or are changing. The pandemic affects every one of us. All of my travel plans are canceled now. I really hope the pandemic can be resolved soon.
However, there are some newer developments in light of the COVID-19 situation. I am planning a potential book deal with a media outlet, and online teaching courses are also under discussion. I also plan to go back to school for a few new personal milestones that I want to complete within 3 years.
Obviously, I also plan to continue writing on Medium on regular basis. It may not seem like a big plan to others, but I am making it a big plan for me in 2020. 😊
Can you recommend other Medium authors?
I would recommend the following Medium authors. The order of the list is random and certainly does not reflect any sort of personal ranking.
- Tim Denning: He is the first author that jumped out to me on Medium. I love how he genuinely shares his experience and opinions. One article I read in my first month on Medium was “How to Get Started on Medium. Priority One: Race your way to 100 articles and don’t look back.” I also like his recent article about being the dumbest person in the meeting room.
- Nick Wignall: This author is so great. I believe he is a professional psychologist. His words are powerful and warm yet very clean. No fancy words nor pushy marketing litter his writing. It is absolutely wonderful and makes me feel refreshed to read his work.
- Shaunta Grimes: She is obviously a great teacher in writing. I read her articles on a regular basis. I don’t think I need to explain any further, as I am sure everyone knows of her.
- Sean Kernan: 1. Sean humbly puts “New to Medium” in his Medium profile, but I think he is a great writer. He is also the top writer from Quora.
- Fred Jame: Fred is the only writer that I recommend here who mostly writes in Chinese; he also writes English articles on occasion. He is one of the writers on Medium that had an influence on me early on. His writing was introduced to me by friends; I did not know him prior to joining Medium. I later found out that he is a well-known editor/publisher in Taiwan. People in this industry pay him great respect, and I think it is well deserved.