2015: Change is Good

2015 was a year of change. The year I would transition out of college kid who always had a plan and had a general idea of what she was doing to who let me be an adult when I have no idea what I’m doing? I spent the majority of the first half of the year trying to take advantage of being a student, exploring cities without having to take paid time off, and pulling the student card to learn from professionals who were incredibly smart and humble.

While a lot has happened in 2015, I didn’t bother to document the majority of them on this blog because for one, I wanted to experience the events rather than feeling like I had to document each and every event. I have an insane habit of documenting everything on social media – I need to stop and smell the flowers instead of finding the right filter that would make them look good in a photo.

The Epic Road Trip

One of my main focuses for 2015 was to travel as much as possible because this would be the last year that I didn’t have to worry about how much vacation time I had to take from work in order to do so. I kicked off the year by flying to Atlanta, GA to meet with my long-time friend and brother from another mother, Stephen. A little background: Stephen and I met in the summer of 2013 when we were both interns at National Instruments – I was a marketing intern and he was a software engineering intern. Stephen is the type of friend that will always introduce me as his sister. His family wanted someone to drive with him to Austin, TX for his last round of co-oping with National Instruments, and I happily volunteered.


The road trip with Stephen gave met the opportunity to not only get to know his family – people I’m happy to consider family too, but also time to explore the beautiful landscapes of Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Unlike me (at the time), Stephen was outdoorsier and knew every mountain and hill that we needed to climb – I should’ve taken this into consideration because I definitely packed the worst shoes. Nevertheless, our epic road trip will go down in the books as one of my greatest adventures.

Ann Arbor Round II


My next adventure involved returning to Ann Arbor, MI – where I saw 5 ft. of packed snow that had been shoveled to the side during my visit. As most of you already know, Andrew and I survived 9 months of long distance in our now 1.5-year relationship. This was the second trip I made to the tundra and I enjoyed every minute. Unlike the first trip, where we focused on how many places he could show me and how many friends of his I could meet (all of which are wonderful people), we focused on the normal habits that a couple who lived in the same city would do. We studied together in the library, he went to office hours while I did homework, and we met his family for dinner – normal couple activities.

Long Distance was Hard

To say that surviving 9 months of long distance was hard would be the understatement of the year. And even though we’re finally in the same city, we still have a lot of room to grow. Since our transition to being in the same city, a few friends have transitioned to being long distance with their significant others and asking for our advice. I basically always say the same thing:

  1. Long distance is really hard and if someone tries to tell you otherwise, they’re lying through their teeth – prepare yoursel
  2. Make sure long distance is only temporary and that both of you are on the same page – the light at the end of the tunnel of knowing we’d be in the same city in less than a year was the main thing that kept us going
  3. Over communicate – your significant other cannot read your mind and what you think is described perfectly in a text isn’t always as obvious as you think
  4. Texting should not be your only form of communication. Your phone has this lovely function called a phone call, click on his/her name and give them a call. If you have an iPhone, there’s also this lovely thing called FaceTime – schedule some FaceTime dates
  5. Monitor flights like nobody’s business – I used SkyScanner and Hopper a lot. The best feeling in the world is being able to say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
  6. Remember that even after you are finally back in the same city again, there will be new problems and you will have to worth through them
  7. Bonus: I learned how long letters and packages would take to mail from Austin to Ann Arbor – this helped a ton when I was mailing holiday gifts or letters

At the end of the day, I’m glad we survived those 9 long months. I think it was worth it for someone I can honestly say I love.



My parents didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, so as a first-generation college graduate this goes down as one of the most memorable days. I loved college not just because I learned a lot, but also because of the people I met. I don’t remember 90% of the grade I received on exams and papers, but what I do remember are the long nights spent on group projects bonding with my partners, the PRSSA trips where I met driven students from all over the country, the warm hugs and support from everyone in my Communication Council family, and the professors who took the time to care for me as a human being rather than just a letter grade in one of their files. I loved being a student at the Moody College of Communication.


College allowed me to meet people who made it incredibly hard to say goodbye. I met friends who cared about me enough to listen to me rant about the ups and downs of my (when I was single) dating failures and successes, 4 a.m. phone calls crying, explore new restaurants and cool parts of Austin, and laugh over stupid inside jokes. I’ve had the privilege traveling down to Orange County to be reunited with my best friend, Minsu, and explore Disney together, the chance to go out in San Francisco with my long-time friend Essencejoy when she returned to SF for 3 weeks of training for her company, and Naman who was visiting the Bay Area for two weeks and joined me in SantaCon festivities. Three down, more to go – visit me, y’all.

The Mother Land

Two days after graduation I hopped on a plane for Vietnam. As many of you know, I was born in Vietnam and came to America in 1997. It was the first time I returned and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I traveled to Sagion/Ho Chi Minh City, Da Lat, Vung Tau, Ba Ria, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Cat Ba, and Ha Long Bay. Each city taught me something different and opened my eyes to a different world. I didn’t realize how accustomed I had become to an American lifestyle until I left America.


After returning from Vietnam, I realized that although I’m nowhere near wealthy, I had it pretty damn good compared to some of the scenes I saw while in Vietnam. It made me appreciate the little things like being able to drink tap water, the ability to flush toilet paper, and knowing that people won’t say “wow you’re really smart for a girl,” after graduating from college. Being in Vietnam taught me that even though there isn’t true equality stateside, at least the idea of a girl getting an education, working at an office job after college, and making a decent salary isn’t unfathomable.

Moving to San Francisco & Consulting Job

I loved San Francisco last summer. I loved it in a way where I thought it was worth the 1.5-hour commute each way to visit the city every weekend. When I first landed in SFO, the only thing I knew was 1) I didn’t have a permanent place yet 2) Christina was going to pick me up and house me for a week 3) Akshay would let me crash on his couch the following week 4) I owned zero furniture and needed to find a way to Ikea 5) I was still waiting for a permanent address, so my parents could send 5 boxes worth of stuff.


If it weren’t for the selfless friends who helped me in the beginning, I think I would’ve had to figure everything out myself. My parents were occupied with making sure my brother was prepped for moving out of his summer apartment and getting ready for the new school year, so I didn’t want to ask them for help. My first 3 weeks of surviving in SF were only because of people like Christina, Akshay, Ethan, and various Accenture co-workers that became instant friends.

Speaking of Accenture, I started my first full-time job in a position I had never done before. I didn’t know if the skills I had could even be used in this new role, but my interviewers must have thought I had enough to get hired. Now, 5 months into my job, I can honestly say that I’m still learning. I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a long way to go. My Excel skills have improved significantly and PowerPoint has become my best friend and worst enemy. I don’t write as much as I used to, which is the main activity I miss most.

Just the Beginning

While 2015 is coming to an end, I can honestly say this is only the beginning of my adult life and more adventures are on the way. I’m lucky to have the supportive people in my life that keep me wanting to experience more each day. I might have not been in some long list of most influential people, finished writing that book yet, or attempted to start a startup again, but I think life is pretty good from where I stand.

I booked a flight to Vietnam.

On Feb. 25, 2015, I booked a flight back to the motherland and it might be the scariest and most exciting thing I’ve done in a while. I haven’t been back to Vietnam, my place of birth, since 1997. Actually, I haven’t visited Vietnam since I came to America.

For the past year, I’ve been putting a little bit of everything I earned into a pocket of my savings account in hopes of affording a plane ticket, a visa, and spending money to venture to Vietnam after graduation. On May 26, 2015, I will finally head back to the place I once called home.

Why am I so scared?

I always tell the world that I’m fluent in Vietnamese. For those who have heard me speak Vietnamese, my theory doesn’t seem to be false. While my level of Vietnamese is above average for someone who has lived in the states for the majority of her life, it still does not compare to those who have lived in Vietnam.

Another concern is that I fly to Vietnam immediately after graduation. The university-wide commencement ceremony with all the fireworks is on May 23…I leave 3 short days after. The things I do to avoid high-season prices. There’s a huge fear that in the process of trying to move all of my stuff out fo my apartment and packing my belongings, I’m going to forget something important.

This is also the first international flight I’ve taken since coming to America. I’ve traveled a lot domestically in the past couple of years between PRSSA and visiting people I care about, but there’s a huge difference between a 3-hour flight and a 23-hour flight.

Communication is also another factor that comes with any international flight. Do I use my handy-dandy iPhone 6 or suck it up and use a vintage phone for local calls? Probably a combination of both. I’ve been hysterically asking my jetsetter friends who have ventured on their fair share of international trips for advice – every bit has helped.

But I’m also really excited!

I wanted to visit Vietnam right after graduation because it’s the last time I’ll have a long break without having to use vaction time off work. While I consider myself an American, I’m still Vietnamese and it’s important that I understand where I come from and where my roots are. I hope to improve my Vietnamese, learn more about the culture, and be reunited with relatives I haven’t seen since I was a 4 year old getting on a plane headed to America.

I’m spending a month traveling across the country starting at Saigon, slowly making myself north to see Ha Long Bay, venturing to visit relatives in Ha Noi, and then heading back down south to catch a flight back stateside.

I don’t exactly know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to every minute of it.

Follow my adventures!

I’m leaving from DFW on May 26 and returning on June 20. Send me suggestions on Vietnam and international travel in general. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog.

The Hyphenated American – Preface

A few weeks ago, I tweeted:

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 10.24.25 PM

I guess it’s not a secret anymore if I tweet it out to the social media world on my public Twitter account. To be honest, I don’t know if I should develop a full book on it because I still haven’t experienced full-time status and entered corporate America. My journey hasn’t peaked – it has only started.

However, I did start writing. I wrote a preface and the first page of my “book.” I haven’t touched it since the day after I tweeted the above tweet. However, today, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw my friends Dave Fontenot and Eva Zheng were attending HH Design Writing Day. While I’m not a Hackathon Hacker (HH), I do believe writing is one of the most important skills one can have. Actually, one of my goals for this year is to write even more than I did in 2014.

But this post isn’t about my love for writing, but about the tweet that publicly announced a secret desire I’ve been harboring for quite some time now – a book on how immigrating to America has affected my views on life. If you’re a friend of mine or have interacted with me at some point, you probably noticed I don’t have an accent when I speak English. If you’re one of my close friends, you’ve heard me speak Vietnamese to a family member on the phone at some point – without an American accent. So why is that? I immigrated to America when I was only 4 years old, so that explains why I don’t have an accent when I speak English. What that doesn’t explain is why I don’t have an accent when I speak Vietnamse.

This is because I consider myself a hyphenated American. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be fully American, but I will never be fully Vietnamese again. On paper, I have dual citizen, but in reality – I’m really neither. I’m a Vietnamese-American.

So what does this book have to do with anything and why am I even working on it?

1. It gives me an excuse to write something that’s my own, even if it only ends up being published online via WordPress/Medium or magically gets published digitally through a real publisher (maybe)

2. I want to share my story because in the back of my head, I believe there must be others out there that are somewhere in between east and west

3. When I was in elementary school, I used to write short stories and had a goal of writing a book by the time I was 30 – my 10 year old self would be proud of my 22 year old self for finally getting around to tackling that goal

I haven’t gotten far, but here is the preface in all its glory…


When I began writing this novel, I was unsure of what I wanted to call it. After throwing around a few title names, I landed on The Hyphenated American. As an Asian American immigrant from a traditional family, achieving success was not a dream – it was a necessity. However, as a Millennial who loved the innovation of the startup community and the wonders of the Bay Area with all its expensive amenities, I knew I had zero desire to remain in the stable environment my parents built. Instead of following the path laid out for me: do well in school, become a doctor, purchase a house, parents live in house, get married to a nice Vietnamese boy, have children – never leave the safety of the Dallas suburbs and my red brick house with an open yard and my Honda Accord.

As great as stability sounds, I didn’t want that. I was always the black sheep of the family. Instead of majoring in a STEM discipline, I chose public relations. Instead of staying in Texas, I always wanted to find ways to leave and to travel as often as I could. From traveling throughout college, even if it was merely domestic flights, I learned so much more than staying confined to the safe suburban sprawl. Don’t get me wrong. I fully support STEM STEAM education and financial stability, but I did not want to earn it following the outline set by my relatives.

Throughout my college years, my relatives would ask, “what the hell are you going to do with a public relations degree?” By my senior year, the question switched to “why are you moving to San Francisco after graduation?” I always smiled politely, but my responses always led back to one idea – I’m young, I’m curious and this is the best time for me to discover what is best for me and I appreciate your concern, but I would also like your support.

The Hyphenated American is my passionate oration from my first moments in America to a present-day 20-something headed to the Bay Area to pursue a new adventure. I do not claim to be an expert or a representation of the majority of Asian American immigrants. Rather, I’m sharing my story, what I have learned along the way and how my cultural background and upraising has had an effect on the choices I make and my views on life both personally and professionally.

Let’s go.

Cheers to 2015.

I kept going back and forth on whether I wanted to do a recap of 2014 post // a ringing in 2015 post. I really considered whether this post was meant for my personal journal of passionate orations, rather than a public announcement of my year.

So instead, I give you an abridged version that suitable for the mass public.

2014 – What I Planned

This past year was all kinds of confusion. I swore off guys and said I would focus on my career. I wanted to travel more and explore more cities. I’ve always been a fan of coffee and was dependent on it, but my goal for 2014 was to explore more local roasters. 2014 was the year I wanted to run away from everything; it was the year I developed a fondness of staying in with a candle lit and actually reading the books I purchased. I planned on exploring a lot outside of my comfort zone, but I also wanted more time to myself instead of spreading myself too thin.

2014 – What Actually Happened

I still focused on my career. I stepped outside of my “southern comfort zone,” and left Texas to pursue an internship in the Bay Area. I explored more local coffee shops in Austin and Dallas – roasters too. I traveled more than I have ever traveled, even if it was only domestic flights.

During this year alone, I have traveled to:

Charleston, SC
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
Scottsdale, AZ
Washington, D.C.
Ann Arbor, MI

And I plan on traveling even more soon; I’m flying to Atlanta, GA in 2 weeks to do my first epic road trip with a close friend (brother from another mother) to Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, TN.

I said I wasn’t going to pursue a love life, but instead, I found my first love. He’s pretty cool.

I held my close friends even closer. When I first started college, friendships to me meant hanging out with as many people as you could. Now, as a 22-year-old senior in college, I’ve learned that it’s about quality, not quantity. My 22nd birthday dinner consisted of a small group of friends that I have known since freshman year that I frequently spend time with.

I started to appreciate my family more. For the first time in a long time, I truly missed my family when I was at school. I went months without seeing them and it scared me that I almost made a mistake on accepting a full-time offer outside of Texas.

I networked more and discovered just how small the tech/startup community in Austin was. I have to give credit to my budding entrepreneur friends for all the intros given. I was able to finish up my term as a Career and Alumni Relations Chair for Communication Council with startup CEO speakers solely on intros from them. I also have to credit internal referrals for a lot of the internship offers and job interviews I had this year on people I’ve met – the generic job applications online weren’t as helpful. I learned that organic methods of applying for jobs in tandem with sending in required documents had a greater success rate.

In 2014, I had one of the best and one of the worst internships. If you know me well, you know which falls where. I learned to grow a thicker skin and think on my feet in a management environment. If I had to choose one main skill I learned in the internship world this year, it would be trusting your team. The concept of a team is drilled into our heads through group projects, but you don’t realize just how important it is until you experience it first hand. The teams I managed, the team I currently work with and the teams I will become a part of in the near future – trust and accountability are necessary.


I kicked off the new year with old and new friends at a small gathering that lasted until 4:00 am – it was lovely. Between glasses of champagne and laughter, I think it was worth the lack of sleep and tired eyes this morning – coffee will cure anything.

This will be the year that I will squeeze as much time as I can with my close friends and hopefully make a handful of new ones. I’m heading out to work full-time in San Francisco, CA in a position I have virtually no experience to the naked eye.

I plan on learning as much as I can because I’ve accepted that even though I will graduate from a top university, I still know very little about the real world. I still have way more to learn than what I have learned from past internships or coursework. After all, who I was at 18 entering college was completely different from who I am today.

2015 is supposed to be the year that I experience adulthood and the real world for the first time. This should be an interesting adventure, but I’m glad I have a support system to help me through it all.

Cheers to you, 2015 – here’s to more adventures.

Lucky 7: My Favorite Tools of 2014

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert of any sort, nor is this a sponsored post. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move forward with the point of this post. With a contractor/marketing intern-ish position that started off the year and an epic tech PR internship to end the year, 2014 led me to discover new tools and apps that I figured might be useful to others too.

While some of these tools are newbies, some are oldies, but goodies. This is in no particular order.

1. Slack

It comes as no surprise that Slack has made the cut. Listed as no. 1 by Mashable in its 10 Startups to Watch in 2015 list, I definitely agree that it is one of the most useful communication tools. As someone who has used a variety of internal communication platforms including Lotus Notes messenger and Outlook messenger, Slack brings a bright and entertaining method to communicate. From its Giphy extension that allows me to pull up puppy gifs to share with the rest of the office to its breakdown of channels for each account to communicate internally x2 (communication inception), this is a tool that every SMB should consider. Did I also mention it has a really sleek-looking iOS app?

2. Cision

Cision is a PR classic that reigns over the indusry. When I’m building a media list, Cision is the tool I venture to first before hunting down a reporter’s information directly. For the most part, the contact information and beat of each reporter/analyst is up-to-date. While there is still a lot of room for growth, I believe that Cision’s recent acquision of UK-based Gorkana and Visible Technologies and merger with Vocus, the PR software world can only get better.

3. Box

I was a Dropbox girl –  was. The first sharing platform I ever used was Dropbox – both for my freelance PR projects and internships. However, this year, I’m convinced that Box is my new love. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m on a business account or if I just like the overall design better, but I just prefer Box now. Whenever there’s a project that requires a deck or a plansbook, I save a copy to my personal Box account for easy access anywhere. And of course, my professors also love holding office hours during times when I should be interning, which causes me to send the immediate Slack message of “WFH today.” Thanks to Box, I can access all necessary files from my personal computer and not be labeled as the flakey intern – whew!

4. Sprout Social

I’ve always been a HootSuite girl by default because it’s the only platform that’s been used at previous internships. However, Sprout Social is on par, if not better at times. Like HootSuite, it allows you to schedule Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and recently, LinkedIn posts for all clients. One of the best features, in my opinion, is the queue option, which chooses the best time to post for that account, based on previous post engagements/impressions. I’m also a huge fan of the analytics portion.

5. Feedly 

I’m constantly looking for new platforms to read news. The best part about Feedly is the ability to break up news into categories. I currently have a personal Feedly with groups for tech, PR/marketing, business and top tier publications for general news.

6. theSkimm

I started using theSkimm during spring of my sophomore year and I’m so glad they’re finally taking advantage of college campuses. My entire newsfeed has at least a handful of student ambassadors who are promoting the easy-to-read email newsletter that breaks down the latest news in jargon-free language. When I’m riding the West Campus bus from my apartment to a class, I’ll open up my email and skim through the newsletter.

7. Canva

Have you ever wanted to make a quick graphic, but you don’t have time to sit there and layer images on Photoshop or mess with the vectors on Illustrator? Canva is here to save the day! I sound like an informercial because it’s that easy. For those of us who only know the basics of the Creative Suite or don’t know it at all, Canva is a quick and easy tool to develop graphics for simple flyers, Facebook banners, Twitter cover photos, and much more. The best part? They have already sized the image for you and most of the graphics to drag and drop are free. The ones that aren’t free are generally only $1. Woo!

Intersections: Why I chose a full-time consulting job.

I am a public relations major. I have never held a consulting internship. How does a public relations major end up accepting a full-time offer with a huge consulting firm?

You can ask anyone around me and they’ll tell you that being around me made them more nervous about the job hunt than they probably needed to be. Even while I was finishing up my internship with Amazon this summer, I was already reaching out to potential companies I could see myself working for. I started writing down what I wanted in a company culture, what benefits I needed, a salary range that was livable for the areas I wanted to move to, and the skills I could bring to the table.

I set up coffee meetings, drove to Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech companies to meet recruiters for coffee – I just wanted to know what I was getting myself into. I knew I wanted to pursue the tech industry, but I didn’t know when to apply or how to throw myself in for consideration. Never once did consulting actually cross my mind. I kept looking for “marketing specialist” or “public relations associate” positions.

Then, the school year started and job postings started to roll in the on the college career services website. I applied to anything I could get my hands on. I saw a posting for a full-time management consultant. I figured it couldn’t hurt to look. I read through the description and realized I had the skills listed. While it didn’t have the marketing/PR title I thought I wanted, it had what I wanted as far as development.

After long rounds of interviews, meet and greets, and “researching” my interviewers on LinkedIn – I got an offer. So now what?

I would be blantantly lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I’m incredibly nervous, scared out of my mind actually. There’s a part of me that still wonders if this is the right decision. Am I giving up the dream of eventually becoming a product marketing manager of an enterprise software company? Not entirely. Because my goal from the moment I started college was always to work with tech companies to some capacity and apply the skills I had as a non-technical within the technical word.

From the age of 18, I knew I wanted to play the role of being the intersection between technology and communication.

Upon utter panic of making the wrong decision, I spoke to my recruiter and found myself placed in the heart of technology – San Francisco, exactly where I wanted to be. Additionally, I discussed options on the types of projects. While there is no guarantee that I’ll be placed with my dream project, there’s a higher chance of communication, media and technology projects – woo!

The lesson of the story? Don’t confine yourself to what the title of a job. It sounds beyond cliche, but what I’ve learned from the job hunt is that the skills learned in one area can easily be applied to another.

To answer the question I’ll be asked throughout the holidays by my relatives: yes, I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, but I can’t wait for this new adventure.

Get Involved: PRSSA

As I sit here at my gate at the Austin-Bergstrom airport, waiting for my flight to my final PRSSA National Conference, I can’t help but look get a little sentimental. This will be my last national event with the organization that has impacted so much of my college career.

When I first stepped foot on the Forty Acres of The University of Texas at Austin, I had no idea what the hell public relations was. All I knew was that 1) I really liked to write, but concise writing 2) McCombs rejected me as a marketing major, so by default I was accepted into PR 3) I was determined to figure out what PR was.

So I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America – it sounded fancy enough, right?

Four years later, I’m President of the organization that gave so much to me when I was a deer-caught-in-headlights freshman. I’ve traveled to four different cities for conferences because of this organization. I know a smart PR/communication pre-professional from almost every state. Now, I can point on a cool city I want to visit and I can say, “I can crash on ____’s couch.”

I know this blog post might come across as nothing short of a shameless plug, but I’m so glad I’ve joined this organization. If you have the opportunity on your campus to join, please do. This year, UT PRSSA is restructuring our chapter to provide more resources, so members actually get their money’s worth. National writing opportunities, diverse types of PR/advertising agency tours, a strong mentorship program and as always, free food at as many events as possible.

While my next career move isn’t directly related to PR, I believe the skills I’ve learned through my classes, PRSSA and internships are still relevant.

Why You Should Start a Startup, even it doesn’t work out

With Austin Startup Week just around the corner, I figured it was time to put together another blog post. Plus, WordPress has been nagging me about how it’s been over 20 days since my last blog post. Okay, WordPress, I was just waiting for the right moment to blog – calm down.

From my resume and past work experience, you would probably never guess that I’m actually a huge supporter of startups and entrepreneurship. Apparently something about working for well-known billion dollar companies screams, “I hate startups and small businesses.” Plot twist: I love them.

In fact, I’m a huge supporter of starting a startup. Recently, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman designed a class called “How to Start a Startup,” and guess who is following along? Me. So why in the world do I even care about the startup community? Because I actually believe that attempting to start a business is probably one of the most useful experiences you can ever do during your professional career.

Whether or not your startup achieves an IPO, at least Series A funding, VC backings or completely flops – you still learn something along the way. I can honestly say that I fall under the last category.

That one time I started a business with some really smart guys

In the summer of 2013, my friend Clarke Rahrig messaged me, along with a few other guys about meeting up at the local Dog & Duck pub for some drinks and to throw ideas for a project. Little did I know that spending quality time with these guys would result in a potential business, lots of primary research for a business and a very odd naming of a company that didn’t flourish, but made us better people because it.

Alparka was the name, parking was our game. The concept was simple: you have a parking spot that you’re not using this weekend, let us be the Craig’s List to sell it out to someone who is in town for a Texas football game – simple enough considering Austin’s constant struggle for parking, especially during a game day.

The lessons

Four engineers, a sales guy and a PR girl apparently leads to one hell of an experience. We were the epitome of Austin Troll, LLC  – yes, that’s what we called ourselves and the Groupme still holds that title to this day. So what did I learn from these fellow trolls? I’ve worked on various group projects in my advertising and PR classes and I’ve worked with my fair share of engineers and computer scientists, so what made this experience any different?

1. Working on a diverse team: We each had our talents. Clarke had a knack for coming up with ideas for a startup / finding a way to start a startup to replace his Senior Design class for engineering majors. Farzad Yousefi was an electrical engineer who dabbled in student affairs on the side. Aazim Sitabkhan was a biomedical engineer who was a closeted computer scientist. Matt Dodson was a computer science and mechanical engineering double major who had an odd mix of talents in programming. And of course, your two non-technicals: me and Tyler Durman – the PR girl and the corporate communication major doing his victory lap with a talent for selling you basically anything. We somehow meshed together. Yes, the beers did help, but we also had a lot of help from white boards and Google Docs filled with ideas.

2. Use your resources: If I had a dollar for every time I played the, “but I’m a student and I just want to pick your brain” card with a local entrepreneur, I would be a well-off woman. We asked as many questions as we could to every connection we had. We wanted to understand the market, introduce our idea for feedback and tell everyone what we were doing to get some hype. We even had a website for others to review. Whenever there were Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) office hours for Brett Hurt, we picked his brain. We casually asked our friends about our business model. We did anything we could get our hands on.

3. Support: It sounds like such a simple concept, but many forget that when building a business, there is no way in hell you can do it on your own. Having the support of your team is what gets you anywhere. Even though Alparka didn’t flourish like we wanted to, I can honestly say I always had the support of the guys. They were always there to tell me when my ideas were great and when they had no relevance to the business model – better to hear critiques from your team members who want to see you succeed.

4. It’s okay to fail: I’ve mentioned it a few times throughout this post, but Alparka didn’t play out like we wanted it to. Three of the members of our team graduated and went off to work for cool companies and three of us are graduating in May 2015. Did we technically fail? Yes. Are we going to give up the idea of starting a business together? No. Nothing brings strangers and acquaintances together better than attempting to start a business together. Friendship was an added bonus at the end of the adventure.

Have an idea for a startup? Do it. The worse thing that can happen is it’s not currently the right idea or it’s not the right time. Eventually, however, you’ll get there. Just look at successful student startups like my friend Bradley Roofner and his partner Logan Brown‘s HatTee or my friend Sunny DasTexas Custom Apparel.

If you’re a student, start a startup. It will change your undergrad experience for the better.

The Other Minority: Asian Americans in Public Relations

photo: PRSSA

photo: PRSSA

Everyone in my family has either pursued engineering or the medical field to some capacity. And then there’s me: the public relations major, who “thank goodness chose to pursue the tech industry.”

As I entered my first lower-division public relations course, I couldn’t help but look around and notice that there were very few that looked like me. Yes, the classroom was about 95 percent female, but I couldn’t help but notice the low number of Asian Americans. I know that we should be color blind, but I couldn’t help it.

It’s almost a double standard. I have my purely Asian family asking, “what the hell is PR and why aren’t you pursuing engineering or medicine?” While the other half of the population says, “you’re Asian, you’ll be fine.”

But it’s not just my classrooms. As someone who has interned since her senior year of high school, there have been so many times where I have been the only Asian employee in the department or one of maybe five Asian American employees at most.

In 2013, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) established an initiative to increase diversity of in the field of public relations. However, I couldn’t help but notice the initiative targeted historically Black colleges and Hispanic Association of Colleges. As an advocate of the PRSA, I applaud them on their initiative, but I must acknowledge the red flag: where are the Asians?

At only 7.3 percent, Asian Americans are the lowest percentage of minorities in the field of public relations. So why hasn’t anything been done about this? As an Asian American in the field of public relations, I’m distraught that we still have not hit the double digits.

Nearly 15 million Asian Americans account for a segment of the U.S. population, representing about 5 percent of all Americans. That figure is expected to increase to nine percent by 2050. It’s estimated that by 2017, Asian Americans will have a purchasing power of $1.1 trillion, due to having higher incomes than other racial minority groups. So why, with so much potential, do we not motivate those who understand the Asian American market the best, to pursue the industry? In my personal opinion, it starts at a very young age with awareness of the existence of the field.

When I applied to college, I can honestly say I had no idea what public relations was or what the career path even entailed. No one told me about PR. Hell, even some job applications that have a list of majors don’t list PR as an option. If we want to see numbers grow, we need to start at a young age. In recent years, the promotion of STEM at a young age has increased significantly. I propose that a similar framework be used when promoting the field of public relations.

I’m not saying STEM is bad. STEM works in conjunction with my career objectives, so of course I support it. But for those who are strong writers and communicators, expose them to public relations as an option. This might not immediately increase the percentage, but it’s a start.

And then there’s the American Dream Factor. To the best of my understanding, one of the main components of achieving the Dream is financial stability. Let’s admit it, entry-level PR salary isn’t high at all. Actually, it’s quite low considering it’s basically a 24/7 job. So when I expressed the starting salary to my family, there was a slight look of concern. I’m entering an industry where you better love what you do because the pay isn’t why you’re doing it.

But to me, the American Dream should be focused on giving back to my parents, who sacrificed so much so I could have the life I currently live. I might not be able to buy them a house upon graduation, help pay for my brother’s college degree or anything that has a large price tag immediately. I can, however, try to give them the moon and back later down the line.

The number of Asian American public relations practitioners is low, but there is great potential in the coming years for it to increase, but there needs to be an understanding from the Asian American community that PR is a legitimate field to pursue and the American Dream isn’t lost if it is pursued.

Women in Tech: the non-technical.

A month ago, one of my friends sent me an article titled, “In Tech Marketing Jobs, Women’s Successes are Rarely Recognized.” Ever since then, I’ve been meaning to blog about it because it encompasses so much of what I have been feeling since my senior year of high school when I decided the tech industry was calling my name, but as a non-technical component.

Now, a month after the article was published, I’m finally blogging about it. Why did it take me so long? Simple: fear. Fear that the world will find this blog post to be nothing short of a whiney rant from some tech industry fan girl who can’t code to save her life.

Let’s rewind.

When I was in elementary and junior high school, I was the kid that camped out in her room on the computer browsing Xanga layout sites. Why? Because I wanted to learn how to build them. At the age of 12, I taught myself HTML + CSS  and PHP. I memorized Hex codes as a hobby and I thought it was cool to build layouts for my not-so-layout-literate friends. This isn’t so impressive compared to those who learned low-level languages from the age of 7, but I thought it was pretty cool. Rewind even farther to 4th grade. I competed in a district-wide academic decathlon of sort that had the theme of the history of computers. I learned about RAM and I could translate words into binary code and vice versa.

Fast forward.

Everyone told me I was a good writer. In 6th grade, I was named the third best writer in my entire school district – Dallas suburbs have very large school districts. I still liked math at that point.

Fast forward again.

I stopped focusing on math and science and moved my attention towards writing and public speaking. I liked joining organizations and becoming an officer. I worked in retail and got a kick out of communicating with a diverse group of people. I started to dislike math and science because I didn’t think I was good at it.

Senior year of high school.

I wanted to be a marketing major or a communications major. I didn’t really know what PR was, but I ranked it as a potential major anyway. I was accepted in the PR program at UT. I visited Cisco. I fell in love with every single innovation in the Richardson/Garland building of Cisco. I didn’t think I could be an engineer, so I declared silently that tech PR/marketing communication was what I wanted to do.


I’m a senior in college about to graduate in a few months and I think it’s safe to say that everyone and their mom knows that the tech industry is what I love. However, I can’t help but notice a few hings during my journey: the female population in the tech industry is low, marketing/PR is sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) seen as a joke in the company by the technical side and there are very few Asian-Americans in the marketing/PR department.

The main focus of this blog post will be public relations and marketing in the tech industry.

The only exception to the low population of women in tech are the marketing and public relations professionals. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an advocate of promoting STEM from a young age. However, I still believe there needs to be some recognition of the women who work hard in the industry to help share the story of all the innovations the technical end makes.

The Public Relations Society of America reports that 70 percent of PR professionals are women. That is clearly evident in my major-specific courses and at the companies where I’ve worked. I once interned for a company where the entire marketing floor housed probably 70 percent of the female population (not exact number, just an estimate).

Deborah Jackson said it best, “It’s absolutely mission critical [marketing and public relations],” she says, “just as important as the technology. You really need both pieces in order for a company to be successful.”

While I want to see more women coding – believe me, I’ve tried learning myself, I would also like to see a little credit given to the other half of the industry.