By: Nina Rakic
There is something so exciting about packing your bags and embarking to a new world. It is as exciting as it is nerve wracking-the uncertainty that follows such a shift is fundamental. Though with a vision, strategy and diligent execution the international lifestyle can be a rewarding and transformational experience, influencing how a person conducts themselves in business.
Born in Beijing and raised in Vancouver, Lucy learned early on that identity is contextual. She braided together social psychology, cultural anthropology and urban geography in understanding the power of the individual experience. She has applied this lesson to to entrepreneurship and innovation as she evolved in her marketing and tech career.
Q: Tell us about your background and your career so far.
My career has been diverse, that’s for sure. I started off marketing in various fields touching on areas from consumer packaged goods to forensic consulting. Forensic consulting, by the way, is kind of like CSI … except the accident scenes don’t look like they do on TV. Though, the lawyers and the cops are very similar. After that I started volunteering with Out On Bay Street which definitely inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship and a whirlwind of travel. I moved to Beijing where I completed a MBA program, then to Massachusetts for an MSc at MIT and eventually found myself in San Francisco working in Silicon Valley. Initially, life outside of work didn’t exist – I worked 18 hour days with little sleep or exercise. Luckily, my start up became profitable within a year and a half and life balanced itself out again. The growth of the company was addictive and being the only marketing person gave me a serious sense of agency. My hard work paid off and I was able to build my own international team in India. Soon, I found myself on the hunt for more adventure and moved to Berlin with my girlfriend where we both currently work in the tech space. Though, Toronto is exploding and I might find myself back in Canada.
Q: In learning about your past, I noticed that you started your career off in Marketing and Retail. What motivated you to make the transition into tech?
The opportunity of problem solving. Sure, emerging technology is invaluable but there is a lot of already existing tech that can solve many problems and I wanted to be involved with communicating that. Now I’m back in marketing, and I have plans to start another start up. But stay tuned for that… I can’t give away all of my cards.
Q: Your career has been very international so far, having worked in Canada, the US, and China. How has this influenced you and how you do business?
Toronto, Beijing, San Fran, Berlin, Boston, Bangalore.
Now that I’ve gotten a taste of all of these different cultures and work settings, the importance of intrapersonal relationships has definitely been underscored. So is transparency – it’s important to be in a place where you can create transparency of business or it already exists. A strong legal system is so important. Copyright infringement, patent infringement or good old fashioned plagiarism can completely derail your business plans. In places like China you can’t really sue for stuff like that and it’s kind of difficult for you to say that you’re the first one that did it and for the government to back you.
Q: What was it about the US market that motivated you to transition from the Canadian market?
I really wanted to go to MIT because of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists on campus. MIT is so vibrant and the business school there is so supportive of entrepreneurship which helped in building my network. Moving to San Francisco was also a very specific move. The startup revival was coming up again and I wanted a piece of that pie. The amount of venture capital money being thrown around was unprecedented – who could resist that temptation?
Q: What advice do you wish you had when you were finishing your first of three degrees?
After UofT? I’d say, “don’t stress about your major.” I was a psychology major and took courses that I just wanted to… it ended up working to my favour and diversifying my portfolio. That said, if you want to become a doctor or something, prerequisites are important. If you’re going into business, keep taking classes that expand your perspective because you can always make up for knowledge gaps in other ways… embrace being a student forever, outside or inside the classroom.
Diversity wise.. I was very out when I was in Toronto and when I moved to Beijing I was really reluctant to be out. After the second semester everyone I knew I was gay and no one cared which is great. Same as in India. Same as in San Francisco. I mean, Berlin is the most open place. Ever. I’ve been really lucky with that, because there are people that have lived in the same places that have been really negatively affected by their queerness.
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This has been an Out On Bay Street Sneak Peek into the Speaker Series for the 2017 conference. If you’d like to learn more about Lucy and her international career click here and buy your ticket now. Lucy will be speaking at the Networking Lunch on Saturday September 16th.