Alumni on the Move - December 2017

Dennis Lam Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Dennis Lam

Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

A few weeks ago in mid-November, I left Boeing to join Zillow Group as a Pricing Analyst. In this new role, I use contemporary data analytics methods to develop revenue growth strategies in the New York City region, as well as future products such as 3D real estate listings.

Since I left EDI in Nov 2016, I have made an effort to develop meaningful business relationships by reaching out to friends who I have met throughout the years. Listening to what others have to say about my career goals and expectations helped me clarify where my next career move should be. Perhaps more so than a decade or two ago and perhaps to satisfy the increasing productivity expectation from customers, companies, especially new tech startups, make an effort to hire only those who they see as the “best fit” of their professional requirements and company culture. To me, reaching out and conversing with people from a very diverse background helps me understand my strength and weakness, and understand how and where I can be a best fit.

Academically, since 2014, I had been working part-time on my master degree in physics at the University of Washington, and finally completed the degree this past summer of 2017. Working on my physics thesis was probably the toughest long-term project that I’ve ever accomplished. It has been a life-changing experience that I will be forever be thankful for.

In early 2016, my master advisers, Prof. Jeff Wilkes and Prof. Shih-Chieh Hsu, pushed me to work on developing a machine learning code base for a UW particle physics team. It was a very steep learning curve for me. I had no prior experience in machine learning, so I had spent many evenings and weekends sitting alone at my desk, trying to understand the math behind contemporary machine learning algorithms and practicing coding in Linux and Python, while working full-time in Boeing. I went through countless failures battling with gigabytes of data and meeting my professors' expectations. Nevertheless, with great challenge comes great reward. The thesis project opened my eyes and exposed me to contemporary thinking in quantitative analytics, artificial intelligence, and new professional opportunities in big data. During winter break of 2017, I had a chance to visit CERN, the European epicenter for particle physics, and worked side-by-side with some of the brightest minds. I studied physics out of pure curiosity to understand how the natural world works, but it turns out that the skills I learned in physics help land my opportunity in Zillow today.

My Takeways:

  • Don’t be afraid of challenges...they’re good for you! So listen to your heart, and actively immerse yourself in the right kind of challenges that stretch you WAY out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep picking up new skills and be flexible...this is the only way to stay relevant in this fast moving world.
  • Don’t burn bridges and keep networking to leave a good impression…you never know who you’re going to come across again in life
  • Try to shoot for having multiple sources of recurring income, so that you can be more financially flexible down the road.
  • Think about what you can offer and find opportunities to give back to society whenever you can.
  • Volunteer to meet with and reach out to people who lead very different lives from yours, (e.g., host students/travelers in your house!) Life is all about experience and good companies value and utilize people who have diverse life exposures!

Last but not least, I’d like to thank my family, friends, Boeing, EDI, and UW for their continued support of my journey such far. I'm excited to move fast, think big, and tackle new challenges in my next phase of life in Zillow.


Aimi Shukri Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

Aimi Shukri

Asian Discovery, Class of 2016

I recently accepted a position at Micronics, Inc. as a Manufacturing Engineer after six and a half years of working at Spacelabs Healthcare. In this new role, I will be overseeing manufacturing process qualification of Micronics product at the contract manufacturer, which is quite different from my previous role of performing those activities in our own factory. I look forward to working on a different type of medical device with Micronics, and exploring new possibilities with this company.

Shortly after graduating from EDI, I was looking into relocating to a different part of the world to support a contract manufacturer of my previous employer. However, after careful consideration,  I was unable to accept the relocation package. After deciding to stay, my previous employer went through a lot of organizational and management changes that allowed me to step up into a slightly different role. I took up project planning and tracking for a few critical projects that had high visibility from upper management. In addition, I was also guiding other colleagues on test system development and qualifications. After a few months in this role, I realized that in order for me to take my next leap, I had to leave my comfort zone at a place that I had been so familiar with.

It was a real challenge to juggle a full-time job, family, and finding new opportunities, but regardless, I continued my efforts. Eventually, I was contacted by a recruiter and within two days after the interview, I was offered a position at Micronics. I have to thank two individuals previously at Spacelabs. Firstly, Jan Heeg, who patiently coached me on project planning and tracking, making judgements, and how to communicate effectively to upper management. Secondly, Mike Brendel, who encouraged me to broaden my technical expertise and pursue leadership opportunities.

Attending EDI Leadership Discovery program motivated me to keep striving for growth in my career. In retrospect, I learned that no matter how challenging the situation is, being persistent and trusting my instincts were vital in making this career shift.