I Am Generation T: Michelle Sun
After graduating from the University of Chicago, Michelle Sun began her career working as an equity analyst at Goldman Sachs. But it was a coding boot camp in Silicon Valley that changed her path forever.
Inspired by her experience, Sun was determined to empower the next generation to become creators with technology. In 2013, she founded First Code Academy, an education startup aimed at teaching children between the ages of four and 18 how to code.
Sun believes that every person should be empowered to use technology to be able to express themselves and bring their ideas to life. Her work throughout Asia has allowed children to learn what Sun describes as “a third language". "[Coding] expands their perspective of the world,” she says.
Name three things that every female leader needs to be armed with.
I would say firstly believe in yourself. I think a lot of the time when you are the ‘minority’ in an industry there is a lot of confirmation bias in reverse. Let’s say the company is 90 percent male. It’s sometimes weird to feel like you are the only female engineer there. But just trust that you know your stuff, and people will be able to tell over the long-term.
Secondly, invest in your network to build a community that can support your growth. I think that’s something women tend to do quite naturally, and I think that helps us leverage our career as we navigate more life-stages as well.
Finally, you need a growth mindset. I think nowadays we change jobs, even change careers potentially multiple times. There was an article I read about how this generation of graduates changes jobs [on average] three times in the first 10 years. A growth mindset is to embrace challenges as an opportunity to grow—that helps us develop more resilience.
Was there a particular challenge in your life that taught you this?
I think I am being reminded of the growth mindset continuously, because as an entrepreneur every six months my job changes. Like, ‘Oh this six months I am doing hiring, this six months I am doing training.’ It’s constant adjusting and learning.
What does Gen.T mean to you?
The word innovator comes to mind when I think of Gen.T. Innovators and ambitious people.
What advice would you give yourself when first starting out, if you could go back?
I would say start small and just embrace the journey.
Any productivity hacks that you swear by?
Meditate first thing in the morning, just for three to five minutes. I love fitness, so if I don’t go to the gym everyday I feel weird, because it makes me happy. You know, nothing crazy but it puts me in a good mindset.
Who was your mentor growing up and why?
I would say my mum. I have always looked up to her because she had a career yet was still very involved in our education and she set a great example to us, being someone who could really juggle both and still do well. I remember seeing her come back from work and immediately change her hat—her figurative hat! So yeah, that was definitely one of my childhood mentors, and even still now.
What do you see as the next disruptor in your industry?
I would say virtual reality and augmented reality are very interesting in the education space. It’s just a matter of time until operators like us are able to leverage these technologies to reach more students, especially the younger age groups. Having VR and AR technologies will help teachers engage students better as well engage more students at a time.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I am a huge bookworm, so I just love asking friends what books they’ve been reading recently. I have a system where I note down the key things I’ve learnt and revisit them from time to time. I generally read a lot of startup and management related books, but I like reading fiction as well. I guess fiction is inspiration too as it transports me to a different place.