My values (updated)

shaved ice

As I start settling into my career and life a bit after college, some values and perspectives popped up

  1. I’d like to solve simple problems that are manageable to solve within my control while maintaining my work life balance, based on what you are good at. 
  2. I’d like to live a life where I am constantly learning about different cultures through art, music, food, and design.
  3. I’d eventually want to have a location-independent career where I have flexible hours (i.e. have my own small business). The profession matters less than whether I can choose a career/path that gives me this option.
  4. Relationships and being close to friends and family, with experiences, matter a lot to me more than competing in a rat race. 

Point 1:

I studied urban planning in school, and loved what I’ve studied. However, changing the way cities work and making them more sustainable is a very challenging task.

Note the way I communicated impact. “Making a city more sustainable” is a very abstract phrase and problem that I would only save for mission statements or introducing your major purpose in life.

However, the actual problems I want to solve have to be manageable based on my given skill level. I don’t want to be overambitious and create an extremely high expectation that I cannot reach at that moment in time (granted, skill improves over time and the types of problems you can solve get more interesting as you get older).

For example, instead of “trying to make a city more sustainable,” a more simpler task would be to “plant a vegetable garden in your backyard.”

Point 2:

Learning about different cultures is a big part of my life and would like to integrate more heavily in my life.  Away from focusing on making a living, I’d say cultural bridges represent at least 65% of who I am.

I’ve previously studied Chinese on my free time, and Korean for a little bit  (한국어  잘  못해요) . I’m challenging myself by learning Portuguese, because I’d like to be able to communicate and meet new friends in Brazil someday 🙂

I believe the simple act of learning a language allows you to be able to aspire for more interesting experiences in life. 

Point 3:

Given the unpredictably of the economy, I’d like to reach some level of financial independence that isn’t dependent on a particular company, but rather my own ability to be able to create something of value other people can use.

Point 4:

I think the rat race and the fight to get the highest salary and promotion, after a while, can become unhealthy. Measurable and tangible impact matters more than what job title you have.

Turning 22

Solvang, California

I’ll be turning twenty-two in about a few hours. Some thoughts that popped up now that I’m older.

  • Relationships, and people that you hang out with are connect with well are much more important than career building. Your career will influence your quality of life, so prioritize quality of life and experience over what career you end up trying to do.
  • Being young is an awesome time to make mistakes, so don’t be too worried about awkward situations.
  • Soft skills are much more important than hard skills. Without the soft skills, the hard skills will not go anywhere.


A great designer is

What can a great designer do?

A great designer is a great storyteller; by telling a great story, she can create a vision and guide the direction of a product, a lifestyle, that improves the way we live, work, and play.

A great designer is a great communicator, who knows how to speaks and interacts across different sectors, cultures, and demographics.

A great designer is patient, and is empathetic to a person’s needs and concerns. She places herself in the user’s shoes, and constantly places the user in the steering wheel, observing how he/she interacts with the environment, what are her strengths and constraints.

She knows what makes the person tick, and how to make that person tick; by understanding how he or she ticks, she is able to design the product, the service, based on the user’s perspective. Thus,a great designer constantly takes in feedback, critiques, and observations from the user.

She iterates, redesigns, and is a problem-solver. She focuses and simplifies to the core problem, and is obsessed with the way the problem and solution is communicated. A great designer knows that solving a problem comes with a good story that people can relate to. Connecting to her audience is key.

A great designer is comfortable with the techniques that she has learned that help him build and test his idea. She constantly is trying out new material, looking at existing material and what has been already designed, and plays with the material, tweaks with it, and tests it out in a new environment.

Thus, a great designer is a problem solver. She guides, she builds, she makes mistakes, she always asks for feedback, she tests. She connects with her audience, and she aims to make the world a better place.

Why learning languages matter to me

Aside from the business reasons, language learning for me is to learn about other cultures, and to share these cultures to the rest of the world. It’s a way to make new friends, have fun, and experience a different sort of lifestyle that’s different from how I grew up.

I have a lot of side passions that I like to cultivate in my free time away from my work. One of my dreams is to be a freelance translator/interpreter (in addition to other hobbies) in the three East Asian languages (Chinese/Korean/Japanese) because I get excitement in being able to bridge different cultures together.

When I listen to a song or watch a television series in a different language, and see the translation in English, I am always excited in knowing that what they are talking/singing about is almost very similar to how we think. We’re really all the same people, and we all want the same things in life. The difference is the language we speak, and how people from different cultures experience those needs, or live life.

Learning a new language bridges that gap, and bridges cultures together. Bridges different people together. Especially in a planet that will be facing a lot of global climate change and sustainability problems, it’s really important that we as a society know how to be empathetic, know how to relate to each other, establish trust. By establishing that trust, we can work together to solve these problems.

It gives me true pleasure to be able to be part of bridging people together through language. I can establish friendships, trust, and eventually co-effective collaboration.


Mapping Morsels | A Day In the Life of Linda

Mapping Morsels Draft Map

One of the pieces I’m working on right now is creating a map highlighting how food businesses (grocery stores/restaurants/cafes) create destinations where people come and bring communities together. The above is a draft of a map I’m working on right now,

Through Mapping Morsels, I visualize these themes through the context of Oakland Chinatown. Our main character is Linda, who runs Phnom Penh House Restaurant in Oakland Chinatown.

Every day, to stock up on vegetables and meat, as well as other sauces and herbs, to cook for her customers, she makes a daily grocery trip throughout Chinatown!

For example, one dish is composed of several ingredients purchased from one, two, or three grocery stores throughout Chinatown. Linda has kindly allowed me to map out which stores she goes to as well as which ingredients make up the dishes she buys.

In other words:

Let’s map the ingredients and stores she goes throughout this map:

By showing these connections, viewers/readers will begin to see how food is an integral part of bringing people together. Without these places to purchase or eat food, there is one less place in a city for people to come together, meet up. In fact, I argue restaurants/cafes/grocery stores contribute to a unique identity to a community, as well as bringing economic vitality to a community.

If you think about it, you have to go to a grocery store to purchase your weekly groceries. You go to a cafe or restaurant to bond in an informal setting with your friends and family. These atmospheres are places where you can get away from the daily grind of work. What I wish to accomplish is that we should value these sort of places.

As I work more on these future projects, I hope to create a portfolio of work that bridges the public participation process between government agencies and local community members.

Why do Chinese parents consider doctor, lawyer and accountant to be the “default” career for their children?

Answer by Francis Chen:

Having made the switch from engineering to urban planning in the past, I can heavily relate to this question as a 1st generation born Chinese-American. I’ll try to speak from my personal experience.

I’ve divided my story by:

  • My process of picking a “stable” major and why I switched.
  • How the Chinese mindset of choosing a major is different than in the US due to the poverty/competition in Asia
  • How choosing a liberal arts major made me a much more active, entrepreneurial job hunter than if I stuck with engineering.
  • My personal examples of how one can be entrepreneurial with job hunting as a liberal arts major.
  • How this entrepreneurial mindset is almost completely new to my parents, and how I conveyed it to my parents
  • My advice to those who are deciding between a “stable career” versus a “liberal arts path” in college.

Continue reading “Why do Chinese parents consider doctor, lawyer and accountant to be the “default” career for their children?”

Building a New China Dream

April 29, 2013 — Today China has over 300 million middle class consumers – but that number is expected to grow to more than 800 million by 2025. These changes will put unprecedented pressure on our Earth’s limited natural resources. In this thought-provoking presentation, Peggy Liu, co-founder of the Shanghai-based nonprofit organization JUCCCE and a Time magazine Hero for the Environment, explores efforts she’s leading to re-imagine prosperity and reshape consumerism in China by building a new “China Dream” that preserves resources such as energy, food, land and water for future generations. She also discusses how myth-creation, mass media and collaboration will be keys to transforming lifestyles in China, and around the world.


Peggy Liu is one of my biggest role models in the world, and is doing so much in the environment, in sustainability, in trying to create a vision for the China Dream.

The key thing she uses is that language, how we communicate, tell the story about sustainability is sooo important. You can’t expect to change sustainability own your own: you need to leverage the skillsets, the personalities, and motivations of every person in order to change the way we live our lives.

I’ll edit this post to write a review of some key points she said later in this week.