Talking with Sue a True Story.


Her name is Sue and if you read some more you’ll know who she is.

Well first things first… this isn’t all of it and I hope to get the rest of it posted later but being a serial procrastinator I might never get this done.





Me: So, how do you feel about the roll..?

Sue: What roll?

Me: I mean the… (eyes roll of paper Sheng Wei handed her)

Sue: This? (the roll of paper with the post it notes of stuff we wrote about Sue)

Me: Yeah

Sue: I’m really touched, did wendy tell you guys to do that?

Me: No… (yea)

Sue: I’m really, really touched. (in the world of emoticons Sue was colon capital D)

(hard at work? or hardly working?)

Me: Is this the first time you’ve done a workshop like this?

Sue: I’ve done a lot of workshops for clients and I’ve done a workshop like this in japan for students but i think this is the first time that I’ve had this much time and and this much ownership over a workshop but this time I was solo so I guess this time I had much more freedom to craft it the way I want to teach you guys.

Me: what did you want to be when you were young?

Sue: when I was young I was always the type of person that has a lot of trouble answering those kind of questions because I liked a lot of things.

Me: so what was the main thing you wanted to be?

Sue: I think maybe it goes by phases, so one thing was a pediatric doctor cause I’ve always really liked kids so i thought that being able to work with kids and take care of kids would be really fun.

Me: So the pediatric doctor was like your main…

Sue: But I realised very quickly that I didn’t want to be a doctor.

Me: Why?

Sue: I’m not cut out for it, I’m too emotional maybe, like it would be hard for me to cut someone open and not feel anything and I think you have to deal with death and these really heavy topics on a daily basis and I think it takes a certain type of person with a certain type of emotion to be able to do those kind of jobs.

Me: What did you do after high school? (glee?)

Sue: My last year of high school I actually did it in Singapore. My father switched professions, he was a businessman and then he wanted to be a teacher so I had no choice I followed him back, even though it was like just one year before I’d go to university, so after I finished school here, I went back to Seattle.

Me: What major did you pick in Seattle?

Sue: At first I thought I was going to study biology  because all throughout high school that was kinda my focus in science. I had taken alot of biology and chemistry so I began as a science student but then you know like your gems you have to take elective courses right?

Me: yea (you sure know a lot about what we do here… very suspicious)

Sue: so all of my electives, as many as I could, I tried to do it in creative things so I took a lot of electives in art school so as I was wandering and spending more time in the art school I kind of was curious so (sue makes a surprised sound as she replays her days in college) actually what could you study in art school, fine arts was a little too like (sue makes a stumped sound as she doesn’t want to offend those who take fine arts) I mean I’m not an artist right?

Me: right (whose to say your not?)

Sue: I’m not really good at drawing but I love anything creative so I thought that maybe (an excited “hey” by sue) there is some more practical aspect of art and then I found either communications design like graphic design or industrial design and I couldn’t really measure myself dealing in just 2d now I know that it’s just not 2d, back then I didn’t understand so I thought hey industrial design is such a big mix of so many things like psychology, engineering,history, art and I was like hey this is really perfect for me because it combines all the things I’m really interested in. So I quickly switched last minute and I had to take summer school to get all my electives so that I could apply to get accepted in industrial design program.

(The Monte Carlo is my favourite biscuit)


Me: Your dad suddenly changed his job and moved your family to Singapore, how did you feel about that?

Sue: I think uh… I don’t know how it is here but in America your senior year which is like your last year of high school is like really socially precious it’s like you’ve gone through all this, you’ve slugged and then your finally tight with your friends and you can… (machine gun sound)

Me: yeah. (she really made a machine gun sound readers)

Sue: Socially it was a real bummer but at the end of the day I’m Chinese and the the cultural aspect is like a family sticks together it doesn’t matter if it’s your senior year, my friends even asked my parents like (whiny voice) “Sue can live with us… etc” but at the end of the day I understood the reason even though you know, it was difficult.

Me: was it hard to adapt?

Sue: Of course it’s hard. My parent’s were nice and they let me stay for home coming and then I left the next day, So I didn’t even start at the beginning of the school year. It’s always hard when your a kid right? and you have to make new friends and it’s really tough and I was in private school and I feel that the culture of private school students is even… (the sound of peeling of a band-aid slowly).

Me: (nods..)(are international students crazy and should I run if I see one?)

Sue: I went to an American School and I had grew up my whole life going to private schools.

Me: what was private school like for you in Singapore? (please tell us if we should be afraid of international school students)

Sue: I think you have kids who are always moving around. So I think you have the same dynamics but pumped up even more. But I’ve always been a pretty chilled person. So I think I try my best to take things in stride and I do believe that having that kind of disruption (referring to going to international school) actually helped me be way more open to risk, change then if I hadn’t gone through it. Which is why after school I can totally go to China and move to China as an adult and I can go places where I have no friends or family. It doesn’t scare me anymore. Because at an younger age I dealt with a change that most kids don’t deal with later in life.

Me: Is your dad still teaching?

Sue: Yeah, he is. What’s he teaching? hmm well last year he left Singapore to go back to America,  he’s a dean of a business school in the mid west now. He’s the first Chinese dean of a business school..

Wendy: in the whole US?

Sue: yeah, it’s pretty… (awesome) I forget sometimes.

Audience: wow.

Me: You’ve been basically everywhere so what country do you think is the best to work in?

Sue: I think that answer will always change because of  the dynamics of the world but right now I feel very lucky to be in china because its changing so fast and the rules china plays by completely breaks every rule that every country has i mean I’m speaking generally but it’s such a mystery and it’s really really hard to figure out so from a researchers stand point there’s so much that people don’t understand and also as someone who is completely Chinese I find it really meaningful to help the rest of the world understand china because i think that its a very misunderstood culture and country yet it has so much impact on the world today.

There is much more to this interview… and  I kind of like went overboard with this interview. So we fast forward to the last question!

Me: To work for Ideo what did you have to do?

Sue: it’s a long story… I never know if this story is boring to people… So I was studying teccchhhnoprreneurship and innovation, so one day at NTU there was a break or whatever and there’s like a Popular bookstore on campus so me and my friend were like dinking around and this book caught my eye cause it had the word innovation in it and because I was studying innovation, I thought maybe I should read this book and it was the book the ‘Art of Innovation’ so I picked it up and I was like what the and once I started reading it I was like hey I remember this company, I heard about it in school and all the while I was getting towards the end of this program and you have to start thinking of jobs bla bla bla and so then I think I was flying back to America and I was reading the book on the plane and by the time I finished the book I was like wo… I have to work here this is the only place where I can do what I really want and that would actually combine all the random experience of my life and I could actually find a purpose for combining them here. Like when I said not everyone appreciates when you have random things but I saw that Ideo not necessarily they would appreciate it but that I could able to combine all those interests there. Tom Kelly who is the the founder of Ideo’s brother who also writes a lot of Ideo books, he wrote that book and at the end of the book he actually has his email so I was like what the hell I have nothing to lose so I made up my mind and I already had my portfolio from being a design student and I had documented my research in China and I had some business plans from my program and I wrapped everything together and I wrote him, can’t remember the wording and I was like “Hey, I think I’m really unique and I think I could have something to offer and here is my work and I’m finishing this course bla bla bla…” and I was like oh whatever he might not read it and I was like who am I but amazingly he wrote me back and very quickly in like a day and I was like *********************************************** (seriously!) but it wasn’t like “we love you come over here” it was like “yeah your interesting I’ll pass you along to HR and good luck.” so he helped me out but it wasn’t like I’m gonna give you this job, at the same time he was seeing someone else and I looked into the background of the other person and I found out more about the person and found out more about Ideo projects. Time went by, like two weeks and I wrote someone in HR and I was like “hey any progress, anything?” so their feedback to me was like “You are interesting, the trouble is you can kind of fit in to different places so your not completely a industrial designer etc we’re having trouble finding a place you can fit in.” So I was like at least I tried and I was finishing my thesis and I applied for jobs in Singapore too and I nearly worked for a start up in Singapore but I was thinking like if I don’t do design after school I wouldn’t be able to do it, cause design is something that is hard to get in but easy to leave and I was like I should give design one more chance right because my other job would be in business strategy  so I didn’t take the job. So I took a trip home to Seattle to apply for another round of jobs in America and when I was there I booked a trip to San Fransisco because in Seattle there isn’t that many design opportunities and in San Fransisco there is so I booked the trip for a week and I decided to just right as many people as I can to see who would meet me to, just tell me about design strategy. The trouble was that most people who do design strategy are really old timers who worked as product designers then got more involved in business then they could do strategy at the end and that’s what I wanted to do but I was just fresh out of school and I wanted to talk to people who would share with me how I could get involved or get started so I found as many contacts from the internet from blogs and get as many contacts as I could in the world of design strategy which is a pretty small world anyways and I was like I just want to learn and would you be interested to meet me bla bla bla bla and then I decided to try Ideo again because this time I finished my thesis and I had new work to show them so I was like I might as well try again so I wrote Tom Kelly again and I wrote the person he cc the first time and I was like can anyone meet me I’ll be in San Fransisco these days bla bla bla. I didn’t hear back from Tom Kelly, amazingly I heard back from the other person and he was like actually I’m going to be in Seattle where I was for a project and I have half an hour I could meet you in my hotel and I was like omgggggggggg. Nobody else wrote me back surprisingly and Ideo was the only one who wrote me back, I didn’t think I was going for an interview but I prepared my portfolio and brought everything and as I was talking him through my work he was like “you know I think you would be a great fit for human factors” and I was like “oh, really!”, because I didn’t know I could do human factors because I didn’t study ergonomics etc but he was like “no actually at Ideo some people come from anthropology, sociology but there are a few people from design background.” So I was like “wow” cause that’s perfect for me I just didn’t know I could apply for that job so he said “so, let me see what I can do I’ll go back and talk to people in HR, I’ll see if I can set something up bla bla bla bla” So it was probably like the week before going to San Fransisco and I hadn’t heard back so I thought it’d be another sorry we couldn’t find a place for you thing but then they actually wrote me back and they said “we actually set up interviews for you so when you come for your interview here and here and meet these people” and by the end of the week I had a job offer so I had to meet many many rounds of people but within that one week they must have thought I was a good fit so I had the job offer after I left San Fransisco and that’s my very long winded story.

(And that how Sue got her Job at Ideo…)


(that, sure is a lot of post its…)


There is a moral to this story and they are Sue’s parting words, “Don’t be afraid, because when your a student you have nothing to lose and never ever think that aw I’m just a student aw I have to compete with other poly etc..” anyway basically it’s like you have nothing to lose, just put your money where your mouth is.

(Ella got bored…)

(the lighting is pretty good in this photo…)




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