“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, moved to Singapore when I was 4, then to Santa Monica when I was 12.
I went to Berkeley at 16 and graduated at 19 in Statistics. I went on to earn a Master’s in Public Health at 20 (the youngest person in the entry class), then switched to Biostatistics because it was more academically focused and it dealt with really interesting problems.
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 intrigued by the massive amounts of data made available by modern day computing. Because of all this tracking, firms can peer into how customers behave, and can try to use this to serve customers better.
For example, one of my projects looks at how customers decide to cancel their subscription to services over time. You would imagine that people give the company a grace period to prove their stuff, and indeed, I find this is the case. Also, I show that customer engagement is always important, even during this early grace period.
Another project I am working on is to understand how people influence each other. Almost no one believes that they are influenced by advertising, yet companies spend about as much on advertising as they do on R&D. How do external factors (e.g., advertising) affect how people interact and pass along word-of-mouth? I am interested in teasing out the effects of social influence from these other factors.
About the Marketing program
The Marketing program here deals with really interesting problems that are relevant to real world issues. The people are warm and welcoming, including the faculty who are available for close mentoring. And, HBS has access to Harvard and MIT economics and statistics programs… some of the best programs in the country. This is critical because methodology is very important to quant marketing.
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.