Running from my Problems: #PhillyLoveRun

I joke I have to pay to participate in a half-marathon because no one could pay me to do it otherwise. I went with some friends from Bryn Mawr, but we were in different flights. Here are some things I learned and thought as I ran through Philly in the 2018 Philly Love Run.

Post-run celebration with Stephanie Cao’18

  1. When your legs get tired, run with your heart. Long-distance running is very mental. The first two miles were so cold, I was thinking, “I can’t do this. I should have trained outside.” The next seven had me thinking, “I can do this.” The following two had me running for my grandmother who can’t run, and my old middle school teacher and coach who recently passed away. The thought of them kept me going.
  2. It was really neat to see people of all ages, backgrounds, and body sizes running or walking the half marathon. It was empowering and made me keep going when I wanted to stop.
  3. It’s all about goal-setting. The announcer near the starting line talked about runners from around the world and country, some of whom were trying to run a half-marathon in every state. That’s a new bucket list item of mine.
  4. Don’t chase the competition, chase the dream: It’s all about making yourself better. Everyone starts at different times even if you’re in the same flight, so when you pass someone or run past, it is unclear who is running faster. Instead, you must focus on yourself and yourself only: you are trying to get your best time.
  5. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. I paced myself slowly, worried that my legs would suddenly fail me. By the time I realized I had enough energy left in my tank, it was almost too late. I finished the last mile in roughly 9:27, sprinting past runners who had passed me a while ago because I had paced myself. Similarly post-run, I got all-you-can-eat-sushi with some other Bryn Mawr runners. In order to maximize our sushi consumption, we paced ourselves. See? Running is applicable to real-life situations!

I’m on a running high!

I’m still sore from the run, but I’m not sorry I did it: I set a PR (personal record) of 2:30:00, with a fairly consistent time for each mile, hovering around 11:26. I loved seeing parts of Philly I wouldn’t otherwise see (the Strawberry Mansion, one hill in Fairmount Park, and more), and ones I do sometimes see (Boathouse Row, Eakins Oval, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and more). This experience will only make me better and stronger both in school, in work, and in life. I’ll see you on the trails or running paths!

What’s Next?

For most of my high school and college career, I’ve always thought about what came next, and how what I was doing that day, that week, or that month contributed to what I wanted to achieve in the coming year or years. Tennis, student government, and tutoring were large parts of my middle and high school careers, so I wanted a college where I could pursue all of those. Though I haven’t stuck with two out of three of those activities, I still look ahead to the future constantly.

In college, I’ve worked on side projects to beef up my engineering resume. I’ve attended competitions and conferences to learn skills outside the classroom and to network. At the end of last summer, I had a return offer for my dream job at a dream company on a dream team (I do a field of tech called developer evangelism that involves coding demo applications to showcase possible use cases of technology, in addition to traveling, teaching, writing, judging competitions, public speaking, and serving different technical communities, among other tasks.) A question I asked a mentor and myself was, “What comes next? What if I get too comfortable? What can I possibly do after landing my dream job before I start my senior year of college if I don’t want to eventually become a manager?”

A fun app is still work: it shows realtime basketball statistics

I was genuinely curious and torn. And you know what my mentor/teammate/friend who had gone through the same dilemma said? He told me that it is not in our natures to be stationary. Once we achieve one goal, we push the next goal back. We constantly work, grind, and push ourselves.

These are traits I’ve found in classmates, teammates, professors, and alumnae I’ve met or worked with. Mawrtyrs constantly learn on the go or on the job, teaching themselves new skills unrelated to their major or field. That’s something our liberal arts background has prepared us for (me in particular: my coursework in philosophy, English, East Asian languages and cultures, sociology, math, and of course computer science, has prepared me for a job that works across disciplines.)

So what’s next? Starting in August, I’m fortunate to be paid to develop apps, travel the country and world attending and speaking at conferences and events, and write technical tutorials. I also plan on taking on an extern from Bryn Mawr or Haverford as soon as I can on Fall and Spring breaks and on training to be a tennis referee. After a few years (this goal timeline is purposefully left vague), I can see myself co-founding a tech company (inspired by my extern host, alumna Susan Morrow ’90) or becoming a Chief Technology Officer. I can also see myself quitting tech, coaching tennis, working as a line judge at professional tournaments, or helping run a professional tournament. Maybe I’ll go get an MBA, or go into animation, or become a yoga instructor.

A Bryn Mawr tech talk on animation at Pixar

Once I have my dream job, I’ll find a new dream job to work for. Though I don’t know what that will be, I do know I will live more in the moment, as I’m confident my experiences have prepared me to be prepared for anything that comes my way, and I will always be learning.

Exploring Chinatown

One of the perks of not being home in San Mateo, CA often is that my parents let me eat a lot of my favorite food when I am home. At home, there’s a wide range of ramen places to choose from, but in Philly, I had only found one: Terakawa Ramen, located in Chinatown, which always has a long line.

This past Spring Break, I spent a day in Chinatown with some of the tennis team. When Terakawa had an hour-long wait at 2:15pm, we found Megumi Ramen instead. We were seated immediately, but it would have been worth a slight wait! There was a wide variety of broths and different types of meat to choose from. It was rich and not too salty. Megumi also had vegetarian ramen, which is something my favorite ramen places in my hometown lack! The tennis team highly recommends this place in Chinatown, located at 915 Race St.

Chicken shio ramen


After eating, we walked around Chinatown. We shopped the Sanrio store for cute posters, pens, and socks, got some baozi (buns) at Saint Honore Pastries bakery (935 Race St.), and then stopped for boba tea at Tea Do before posing for a picture by the Chinatown Gate, shown below.

Teammates at Chinatown gate with our coach’s daughter

Next, we walked past Independence Hall, Declaration House, the Liberty Bell, and some other historical sites. We didn’t have practice that day, but I still got in my 15,000 steps!

I can’t wait to explore Philly again.

#BrandYou: Estee Lauder Companies Visit Bryn Mawr

On Monday, February 26, some Senior Vice Presidents of the Estee Lauder Companies visited Bryn Mawr. Many students crowded in the beautiful Rhoads Dining Hall for catered lunch and to hear from them about their experiences, jobs, and the art of branding ourselves. Here are some of my key takeaways from the great event, put on by LILAC (Leadership, Innovation, and Liberal Arts Center):

  1. “You are your own brand.” This could mean many things, but to me, it means everywhere you go, you represent a type of business: yourself. You must sell yourself and put your best self out there. What’s your brand? I know mine is tech, but also teaching, empathy, and, at times, something fun like Disney or table tennis.
  2. “Everything you touch has your name on it. Everything can be your job.” This means that you should take risks and do jobs that aren’t necessarily related to your role. SVP Lisa Napolione started out at the company as a 17-year-old intern who was studying chemical engineering. She went into research and development (R&D), and progressed upwards in the company by trying new things even if it wasn’t on her to-do list or in her job description. Everything she did or everyone she talked to helped represent who she was as a person, as an employee, and her reputation.
  3. “Your reputation is in the details.” SVP of Global Management Strategies and Chief of Staff to the President & CEO of Estee Lauder Companies, Phoebe Farrow Port, talked about frantically trying to find a lipstick freebie before an opening or product launch. Her hard work for that seemingly minute task did not go unnoticed as she helped the launch succeed and make customers happy.
  4. It’s more important to have learning agility than to know everything.” Be open to learning and growing rather than memorizing and already knowing, and don’t be intimidated by not knowing something!
  5. Companies and startups have board of directors that advise the CEO. We, as individuals, are CEOs of our own personal brand, and should have our own board of directors to mentor or advise us. You don’t need to tell them that they’re on your board of directors, of course!
  6. “Science and technology are like glue…we connect, we bond, and we join.” It was really interesting to learn about the company’s 80% women tech team, the history of the company, and what they’re doing in STEM. Yes, they have the typical team of chemists and biologists, but a growing number of software engineers to manage different online platforms and a 3D printer!