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"You make your own luck. Luck is the residue of design."| Princeton Alum on Exceptional Programs

We had the opportunity of interviewing RY, an alumni of Princeton University about: Exceptional Programs

In high school, RY was:

  • President of the New Jersey Association of Student councils,

  • President of the Senate of New Jersey State student body,

  • Student body president of her high school student government

  • President of her local FBLA chapter, which expanded to the biggest chapter in South Jersey

  • A nationally-rated fencer at Princeton

In college, RY:

  • Was a nationally-rated fencer at Princeton

  • Studied sociology and entrepreneurship

  • Served as student body president

  • Helped to launch the Company of Female Founders.

Post-graduate, RY:

  • Has contributed to launching the end to end operations of a captive corporate venture capital fund along with the founders of True Platform

  • Works in Strategy under the Office of the CEO for True Platform

  • And is helping to launch our Corporate Social Responsibility and Women's Leadership initiatives

Key points RY shares:

  • "I felt like through that service, and being in the practice of doing something that is completely out of your comfort zone, the more you practice it, the easier and more natural it will become."

  • "I would say it was mostly passion. Out of this entire list, there was nothing that I felt required to do. If you ask me about piano and Chinese school, that's a different question. But for all of these things, I was definitely very passionate and excited to be able to build something and to see it grow."

  • "I would say start small. You have to start small because you can't do the big things if you can't start with the small things."

Q: Diving deep into some of these exceptional programs you were part of, we wanted to focus a bit more on the NJ Girls State. Can you describe for us and our readers what that is and how you became interested?

A: It's run by the American Legion Auxiliary, and every summer girls from all participating high schools -- we all met on a college campus -- were divided into different counties to replicate what a state government would look like. We got into towns, and we had a mayor. We also had a board of freeholders. It went all the way up to, well, I served as President of the Senate. So we had the senate elections and elections for governor.

This was trying to teach girls in high school about the civic engagement program to hopefully one day prepare us if we ever were to run for real office as adults. We would already have a taste of what that would look like.

Q: How has the NJ Girls State benefited you (besides communication skills in your current day-to-day life and job)?

A: The main takeaway was actually building my confidence, and learning how to clearly communicate to people that I have not met before. That was a skill I was not very comfortable with. In high school (my high school was relatively small enough where I basically knew most of my classmates before running for any kind of election or talking to them), we all had a shared common knowledge of, "Hey, these are the common issues in our high school". That was pretty much agreed upon. But I think that with Girls State, you come in with a completely different group of girls, and it's only a week long. So learning how to communicate very articulately builds trust in a short amount of time. Those kinds of foundational skill sets you're going to use, whether you end up in business, or in medicine, are all about people skills. I think that that was a very, very clear, and honestly expedited way of building those skill sets.

Q: In college, you were very involved in the student life as the President of the Student Council. Not only that, but you were an intern for a couple organizations. We wanted to know, what is the benefit of taking on these roles and what are the challenges?

A: In college, you're going to have a lot of unstructured time. Classes which will primarily, even with a full full course load, probably only take about one third of your day. The rest of your day is up to you to decide how you're going to structure that time. For me, I realized that having a lot of things going on at once actually made me a lot more efficient with my time. I realized that if you give me four hours to do an assignment, I'm going to take four hours to do the assignment. If I have two hours to do the same assignment, I will do the assignment in two hours. If I was able to keep myself constantly motivated by structuring my time to keep myself accountable to other people by having to show up to different clubs, or different events, actually helped me to be a lot more efficient and not waste a lot of time in college. That sounds a little bit counterintuitive, but I realized that it helps, as someone who tends to be a little bit more social. If it was up to me, I would just talk to people all day, so in order to get my work done, it was better to have a little bit more responsibility and a little bit more structure.

Q: What have these roles taught you and how have they helped you in your life and career?

A: I think that, specifically when I served as student body president of Princeton, I learned how to communicate with different stakeholders that all had different objectives in mind, and also to be able to foster communication between a lot of different groups of people that want to different things and help them to work towards a goal. And I think that that kind of teamwork and consensus building is something that I would not have been able to learn in any of my classes.

Q: Did these opportunities come to you, or did you have to look for them?

A: I would say both. I believe that there is an element of luck and timing. But I also believe that it's possible to create your own luck. And what I mean by creating your own luck, is that if you are genuinely curious and authentic, and you reach out to people, you will find that doors and opportunities will open up to you. That that is something that I didn't learn until very late in my college career, I didn't realize that the old adage "it's not necessarily always about what you know, it's who you know" sometimes rings true. These opportunities are a little bit serendipitous, and it's not always going to be something that you can control. But I do think that the more opportunities that you lay the groundwork to potentially have, the more chances that you will be able to walk through those doors when they open up.

Q: Did you set yourself a goal for what you would accomplish, learn, or impact in each of these roles whether high school or college?

A: I am a relatively goal-oriented person. I feel that this mindset allows you to give yourself a North Star. That doesn't mean that it is a failure if you don't reach that goal but that if you know what you're working towards, and keep your eyes very focused, it makes it so much easier for you not to get distracted.

This interview originally took place in an audio format. However, we have converted it to text to avoid sound quality issues. To ensure coherency, we have slightly modified the wording.


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