Communication is the most high-impact skill in a knowledge-based economy – Grace Chang, Founder and Principal Software Engineer at KintsugiFeaturedhttps://www.kintsugihello.com
In the past few weeks, we interviewed our community managers. Starting this week, we're kicking off a new, ongoing series of interviews with Elpha members. If you'd like to nominate a member, let us know via DM.What’s your name and your current role? If you’re a student, what are you studying?Grace Chang, Founder/CEO and Principal Software Engineer at Kintsugi.Where’s the place of your origin?I immigrated from Taiwan, grew up in Denver, and went to grad and undergrad in Los Angeles. Today, I’m based in San Francisco. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to live, study, and travel internationally - it’s definitely shaped my world views.How do you define tech? Innovation through scientific inquiry. Every generation, we have an opportunity to reshape industry as we discover new, better infrastructure. If AI is the new electricity, I often think about how buildings, neighborhoods, farming, highways, education, finance, healthcare, climate, government, and connection will evolve.How many years have you been in tech? Many - over two decades. 😅What's the most technical aspect of your job?How to enable rapid discovery: how fast can I learn a new language, framework, or model to validate a set of hypotheses? For example, in my previous role as the Head of Product for a machine learning startup, we utilized signal processing from mobile phones and wearables to authenticate users. Though similar to the signal processing for voice in my current startup, our application relies much more heavily on the state-of-the-art for natural language processing. From 0 to 1, much depends on finding experts in the field and forcing yourself to immerse in the new and challenging. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much on transformers, tokenization, masking, and distillation. But today, I have a working grasp of the latest and a technical team of engineers including myself and clinicians, who are building new features to test our understanding every day with real users across 250 international cities. We are using sensors to create objective measurements, algorithms to scale the doctor, and developing novel therapies that do not include pharma in an emerging category of digital therapeutics. What is the one skill you find yourself using every day?Communication. Even though English is not my first language, I constantly find myself refining my writing, listening, speaking, connecting, and storytelling skills. Growing up in Colorado was really hard as a kid. I had lower-income parents who struggled to speak English and navigating awkward teenage years as a shy, minority woman at a 92% caucasian, National Blue Ribbon public high school was isolating. I excelled in math, computers, drawing, reading, and debate, but largely felt like an outcast, emo, and anti-authority--maybe the perfect recipe for how I ended up in so many entrepreneurial endeavors! It was okay to have a non-conformist point of view :)During my career, I’ve learned that communication is the most high-impact skill in a largely knowledge-based economy. Whether it’s having tough conversations with people you care about, creating compelling narratives to funnel people into your ecosystem, building worthwhile products with users to fuel the health of our collective future, learning storytelling from experts outside my industry, or taking time for myself in indulging in a great read, as strong as I’ve become as an individual contributor across disciplines and truly full-stack, teams power change. Communication fuels scale.What’s something that you’ve done that you’re proud of?Having the courage to start something new again. Surprisingly, life has a lot of unintended restarts. For me, that has been in career across industries, education across disciplines, and relationships in marriage and divorce. At the time, I felt were moments of true despair, all recovered and then some in the roller coaster we call life!Tell us about someone who has inspired you a great deal. Who was it and how did they inspire you?Most recently, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Hedy Lamarr, two incredibly badass women with very fun documentaries that showcase their genius. Over my lifetime, Warren Buffett has played an instrumental role in how I view the long game: relationships matter, values-based thinking matters, generating long-term wealth matters, and how you conduct yourself in business matters. In college, I became obsessed with equities investing and Jim Cramer’s Mad Money, an outlandish but engaging radio broadcast, introduced me to Benjamin Graham’s Intelligent Investor and Warren Buffett’s Security Analysis and his essays, seminal works in value investing. For someone like myself, raised in a socioeconomically challenged immigrant household, these people made a financial and material impact on my livelihood. Twenty years of investing and a little bit of luck have provided the financial freedom to explore entrepreneurial endeavors I would not be privy to had it not been for them sharing their wisdom and my parents’ emphasis on the value of a lifetime of learning.What do you do when you aren't working or studying?Celebrating the small wins! I’ve been researching the benefits of developing habits around celebration, and part of the delight in meditation is being very connected with the present and feeling grateful for the ordinary. I’ve always felt a strong connection to nature and nothing is more decadent than spending an afternoon hiking or cycling through a forest. You may have heard of Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” which grew in popularity in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone for preventative health care and healing in Japanese medicine. I love spending time with wonderful people in nature. It is spiritually nourishing. What is one piece of advice that you’d share with the Elpha community?You are a powerhouse! Despite our trials and tribulations, women are stronger for all of our struggles. Our authentic friendships, empathic intelligence, and unbridled care for our collective well-being are what makes each one of us so special. Thank you for keeping on!Grace Chang is the Founder/CEO of Kintsugi Mindful Wellness. Kintsugi is a smart voice journaling platform for mental health. We use voice biomarkers to measure and predict well-being. Grace was previously in technical leadership roles at several startups including a machine learning company specializing in signal processing for authentication. Grace was a past winner at TechCrunch Disrupt, RSA Innovation Sandbox, and SXSW.