“All of the professors I have worked with here are exemplary researchers—best at their art in researching and publishing—yet humble and open to mentoring.”
I was born in Thailand, lived in Singapore for my youth, then to Santa Monica, California, for high school. I majored in Statistics at UC Berkeley and graduated with my bachelor's degree at 19. After college, I worked for a local health center, then went back to study Biostatistics at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
I got a job in consumer finance at FICO and during that time, I started to manage US sales for my family business of biotechnology in horticulture, agriculture, and forestry.
I went on to earn my MBA at Imperial College in London, and then worked at Barclays Bank in the strategy unit for two years. Then, HBS! I wanted an entrepreneurial environment where I could pursue my own questions, not those handed down to me by managers.
A common thread in my studies in public health and work in consumer finance and banking strategy is marketing: how to predict how people will act, how to decide which markets to enter, how to evaluate selling and marketing efforts. That led me to the Marketing program here. Why business and not other fields? I was at a Merrill Lynch event and a banker suggested that making money (for the bank) was cool. I hadn’t thought about business that way. I always felt that business was something you do, but never thought it was “cool”. But it’s true. If a firm can create something that generates buzz, that helps serve customers better, that really meets the needs of the customer, these are all very interesting and valuable things in society.
My research interests
I am interested in how consumrs are influenced by their peers in the digital space. Why do consumers make the choices they make relative to friends and relatives? How do social forces influence mobile app adoption, user generated content, and other decisions in the digital space?
A big problem in social network analysis is how to social influence separately from other confounding factors. Do we see friends behaving similarly because friends influence each other, or because they are similar to begin with, that's why they are friends and also choose similar things? The latter is called homophily, or "birds of a feather flock together". My research in mobile app adoptions corroborates with existing research that these two forces are severely confounded. Ignoring homophily would be a bad thing as it inflates estimates of social influence by 40% on average across different samples. In some samples, the bias is more than 100% of the social influence estimate. Although social influence remains a powerful factor in decision making, my research provides a way to separate homophily and social influence.
I am also working with Facebook to model user generated content and interactions between consumers in a social network.
The HBS Experience
All of the professors I have worked with here are exemplary researchers — best at their art in researching and publishing, yet humble and open to mentoring. I have seen what it takes to be a good professor and a good mentor.
At HBS, you are not just an RA or a doctoral student — you are a fellow researcher. I have been encouraged to interact with Fortune 500 companies and internet start-ups on research independently. It has truly been an amazing experience.
I would love to work at a research institution, hopefully somewhere warm and sunny!
Advice for prospective doctoral students
A professor once told me to really enjoy and make full use of my doctoral study, since it is the most intensive and, truthfully, indulgent period of study; there is no other opportunity like it. After this, you probably won’t get 5 years of pure “focus on me” time in which to learn, experiment, fail, trial, and think. Make full use of this time.