Joy Chen
Home Region

San Francisco, CA

Undergrad Education

Dartmouth College

Previous Experience

Udemy, Levi Strauss & Co., Fidelity Investments, International Rescue Committee

HBS Activities

Section A Community Values Rep, Tech Club, Harvard Innovation Labs Venture Incubation Program

“If you give me the opportunity, I promise I will change the world.”

As a very young child, Joy Chen lived with her parents in the small corner of a chemistry lab building where the roof often collapsed when it rained. Determined to do better, she forced her way into the provincial office of education and demanded access to school. “I said, ‘If you give me the opportunity, I promise I will change the world.’”At the time, Joy was five or six years old.

As childhood moved into adolescence and young adulthood, Joy seized every educational opportunity she could, first in China, and after age ten, in Canada and then the US. At age 16, she landed at Dartmouth, where she studied government and economics. “I wanted to manage organizations that changed people’s lives for the better.” While there, she cofounded local chapters of two nonprofits, in education and healthcare respectively.

“It solidified my interest in business,” Joy says. “On the other hand, in my experience with nonprofits, I felt that people often weren’t incentivized to create value in the most efficient way possible. The level of pay sometimes struggled to attract top talent, and there were lots of red tape. Ultimately, I wanted to explore for-profit business because it’s an environment in which I could learn from the best and potentially have more independent agency as a young person.”

Exploring opportunities, seeking inspiration

Joy’s business career took her from nonprofits to financial services (Fidelity Investments), the apparel industry (Levi’s), and back to education social impact within a startup, Udemy. For her, the motivation for an MBA was neither to pivot her career nor expand her skills per se, but to find inspiration. “I wanted to build new friendships with those who could inspire each other personally and professionally.”

HBS impressed Joy for attracting, “very diverse people in the way they think and what they aspire to. They’re the reason I’m here. They’re authentic and open to conversations that matter, to forming new emotional bonds and to growing themselves.”

Joy applied the resources of HBS to explore a startup idea that she pursued over the summer break of 2020. “It’s about using near-field communications technology to transmit contact information and social media profiles — think of it as a contact manager plus a business card. The goal is to get people to keep in touch more easily after interactions.”

In addition, she spent two months with Bessemer Venture Partners, a VC firm that invests globally. “I wanted to be involved in growing businesses that will have a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” Joy says. “For me, the question I would ask at every stage of my career is, ‘Is this a problem I’m passionate about and well-qualified to solve?’”