Students Explore Career Possibilities and Gather Advice at Career Day

Feb 7, 2020

View Video: Tony Yi’s Reflections on Career Day 

Juniors and seniors spent a good part of their day on Friday exploring potential career paths and gaining insight from alumni and parents from a wide variety of professional fields at the school’s annual Career Day.

Keynote speaker Tony Yi ’91 highlighted a diverse list of alumni, parents, and trustees who offered sessions for students related to their areas of expertise. Career fields represented this year included: art/graphic design, computer science, engineering, fashion, food science/business, law, medicine, psychology, and sports management. In addition, four “Life Hack” presentations were offered: “Developing Your Personal Brand,” “Exploring Career Possibilities Through Internships,” “Personal Money and Management Skills,” and “Sharpening Your Negotiating Skills.”

After Tony Yi’s keynote remarks and a reception, students dispersed throughout the school for three consecutive sessions led by guest presenters.

Tony’s remarks summarized three MFS life lessons that have served him well. Enjoy the transcript below:

Hi everyone – my name is Tony Yi. Class of 1991. Varsity Soccer and Lacrosse (first team at MFS). And a proud member of the Chess Team, Boys State Rep, Spanish Club and Choir – the very worst Choir singer in MFS history. It’s a minor miracle I was allowed to sing – anywhere. That’s extreme inclusion.

I am proud to be back on campus where I had so many wonderful memories and feel that my story this year will be very different from recent years but relevant to you in that I will share my experiences from MFS and how I applied and appreciated them throughout my career. My story is further differentiated from the past 2 years of keynotes in that I have not (yet) founded a $250B corporation (Julian Brodsky who co-founded Comcast and is one of the most considerate people I know). Nor am I the Chairman of a global media giant like NBCU (Matt Strauss, again who I consider a friend and we had some good laughs a couple weeks ago in NYC about my stress in speaking after him. And that’s when I found out he spoke after Julian). Standing on the shoulders of giants. Lucky me.

POSITIVE BELIEF. Let’s start out with what I do today. I am SVP of Corporate Strategy for a leading venture backed company in advertising tech globally. What does that mean? I work with Google/Youtube, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter on the platform side. And we develop data science solutions for the agency/brands who want to reach consumers on digital video in North America, EMEA and APAC. Last but not least I partner with the big media company content distribution strategies. This company like many others only exists because of innovative entrepreneurs, investors with a stomach for risky ventures and crazy people like me who enjoy the roller coaster ride of these unproven venture backed companies. At the end of the day, people who operate startups believe and know that the next unicorn billion dollar company will start out as a scrappy startup. It’s this hope and belief in myself and my colleagues and my industry that is a direct part of my positive experience at MFS. This consistent strength underpins my biggest asset. MFS life lesson #1 – positive belief and listening to my inner light. Trust me, I have needed it. A lot.

So how did I get here to this career on this path? 

My parents immigrated here from South Korea when I was 3 years old. My father started out teaching karate very humbly and eventually expanded his schools locally, then in a couple additional states and now a couple additional countries. He left the house at 7am and did not come home until 9pm six days a week. He wanted the best for me and never wanted me in a small business let alone the karate business. As in many immigrant families, he wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer. Since I wanted (and still want) to make my dad happy, I applied early decision to Johns Hopkins to major in Chemistry/Pre-med. But no matter how hard I tried, the classes I understood best and excelled at were in finance, economics and management. In fact, I joined a global consulting firm leaving a graduate school early during an exciting time – the Internet bubble. After a few years, I joined Internet software companies and other related venture capital fueled companies. But shortly after I experienced the boom of the bubble. It popped. 2001.

RESILIENCE – My positive belief in myself was challenged as I started to recall all the lectures from my parents on the stability of medicine and law. But here’s where the 2nd learning from MFS really helped me out and has helped me throughout my career. It’s resilience. I learned this MFS life lesson #2 of resilience from the competitive MFS sports, challenging academics, choir, and the supportive MFS environment. Where many colleagues struggled in these trying times and volatile companies, I have always found a center from both myself and for my colleagues. My companies have been acquired by Oracle (twice), IBM and WPP. The value of the transactions is north of $2B. But I have also had several flops, bankruptcies and fire sales. I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture of the startup life. It can be really challenging especially when you read about Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Google – it’s easy to lose sight of the millions of other companies over the years that don’t IPO.

INDEPENDENT THINKING. Here’s the final lesson that I learned. You are surrounded by very successful families/classmates, alumni and members of a very special network/community. But don’t get disillusioned – what defines success is individually defined. It’s not about being a billion dollar hedge fund manager or even managing a team of scrappy startup executives who has an exit to Oracle. It’s about setting goals both professionally and personally that are achievable and give you satisfaction one step at a time – MFS life lesson #3, independent thinking. I remember Intensive Learning and Senior Projects and the gentle push for this type of introspection. For me, it means traveling 4 days/week to NYC or SF or internationally but making sure that I still coach my 4 son’s lacrosse teams 2 days/week or having dinner with my wife to make sure they know my priority is on them, consistently without question. Some weeks I fail but more often than not, I make it work. It’s about building the quality of life for my family and spending the time with them that I cannot buy back later in life. It’s about being grounded in family and community first. And successfully helping grow companies a distant second. MFS has taught me to think for myself. Positively believe in myself. Work hard personally and professionally. And best of all, to define my own success and to live my life with happiness. 

I hope each of you finds happiness in philanthropy, the arts, community service, teaching, journalism or wherever your careers take you. I am confident you have a world class education, valuable MFS life lessons and an alumni network/community to support your quest for career success and personal happiness. Good luck to you all. We will be rooting for you.

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