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2021-09-20

The man Google couldn't keep: optoelectronics  alumus Hsu Chih-chun (許智鈞)

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For most jobseekers, it would be a dream to work at Google. This dream became a reality for Hsu Chih-chun (許智鈞), National Chi Nan University (NCNU) alumnus who graduated from the Department of Applied Materials and Optoelectronic Engineering. Yet after years of fulfilling work, he chose to leave this formidable corporation — not for another better-paying company but for another objective.

Taipei City Employment Services Office statistics show that one-third of 15- to 29-year-olds surveyed in 2016 were underprepared for the future, especially when it came to planning out their careers. Yet Hsu, who studied in Australia as part of a high school exchange program, elected from an early age to pursue higher education abroad in seek of different environs and broader opportunities. "I knew by high school, really, that I would leave Taiwan after finishing university, perhaps even earlier than that." The gifted pathfinder always knew his way.

Objectives and routines

Routine and good habits are what ground him, hitting the gym included. Hsu says he was a skinny freshman, but the watercraft activities at NCNU piqued his interest in fitness and dietary health, leading to a lifelong dedication to working out. "It helps with stamina, better work focus, and since I often backpack overseas, physical strength matters."

Applying this same set of sensibilities to preparing for overseas enrollment, Hsu identified electives and campus activities as the two main areas of development and exploration during his undergraduate years in Puli. For both, he prioritized variety, especially for electives outside his academic focus on optoelectronics, such as French language classes, archery, and rowing.

He did not neglect his studies either. "I am particularly grateful to my mentor, Professor Chen Hsiang (陳祥), who provided clear instructions and feedback regarding thesis writing, lab experimentation, and publishing. It was a mentorship that influenced my academic and career paths."

His extracurricular pursuits led him to frequent labs in Taichung and Taipei, including joining bacteria-growing experiments at National Taiwan University. Between studying and exploring, Hsu also published five articles around that time, which helped with securing his graduate track.

Variety and dedication

He found himself right at home upon arriving at Duke, with its campus as green and airy as NCNU's. "It's not like New York or LA or those big American cities," Hsu explains. "It's rather like NCNU, really — big campus, essential stores only. Maybe it's not easy for city folks to adapt, but I found this routine familiar and enjoyed campus life immensely."

The differences were equally welcomed, like the variety in instructional styles or how his classmates approached course selection. Hsu's focus was engineering management, but he also enrolled in many undergraduate and business programs to expand his interdisciplinary knowledge and break free from linear thinking and one-sided perspectives. More input, better results, he says.

His two cents? Experience and motivation are far more important than grades, especially in the eyes of admission officials. "They're more interested in why you want to study at their university, why you chose a particular major, and your life and aspirations outside of school."

Passion and momentum

He then switched campus, from Duke to Google, upon graduating. Ample pay and a workplace ("open space that facilitate networking among personnel from different departments") staffed with dedicated chefs, free meals, snacks, gyms, swimming pools, nap areas, and other perks — including free vaccinations against COVID-19. He found the swift implementation of company-wide shots a true measure of Google's corporate efficiency.

"I just quit a week ago." Hsu admits that company welfare and treatment were fair, and he had no particular reason to leave, or to stay. But the conclusion was already reached when he asked himself: "Is this the life I want?" The idea of over-reliance on a single corporation drove him to move forward, to meet the new challenges of entrepreneurship.

Will and drive

His race car hobbies and entrepreneurial dreams are inspired by Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and CEO of Tesla. Entranced by the vision of an electric vehicle running on a fossil fuel-less planet like Mars, he looks forward to the day when he buys the next car upon achieving a new milestone on this entrepreneurial track.

中文

English text by Min Chao

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