Imagine. Initiate. Innovate.
Great stories should have a great start and ending, but ironically I have no idea where my ‘About Me’ should start or better yet end. Likewise, the impossible task of figuring out exactly who’s this new-toughened-up character occupying my skin; well… that’s enough for anyone to be perplexed. While my new-found-self is somewhat chronically short of ease, the relief comes from having to let go of what seems ‘now-ill-fitting’ labels. You know those kind of conveniently limiting descriptors that no longer carry much accuracy, but you’re still never entirely ready to be cleansed of all your unsettling experiences (no matter how much time has passed). So now it’s safe to say a story should be incredibly-heart-wrenching (at least somewhat), courageously presence (or not), and maybe even awfully bitter-sweet to tell. Well now that I got you going… I’ll try my best to incorporate all of those ideas.
I believe it’ll help you make the most sense out of me if I start with my instant impulse that are flowing through me right now. Hmm… well as data visual storyteller being inspired by Scott Murray’s ‘Whatever Happened to Augmenting Human Intellect’ webcast should spur the moment, but a sweeter message comes from a corner of a book by Steven Pressfield called Do the Work: “Stay primitive. The creative act is primitive.” On that note, I’ll do my very best to control my old atavistic reflex. Otherwise, please pardon the mental picture of me breaking into a romvong trance as I unravel the story of my career.
Let’s start with a few facts about me. Born in the middle of a jungle southeast of Thailand; I’m of Chinese (surnames Eng and Hua romanized as Var on maternal side) and Cambodian descent. My family escaped from Cambodia as survivors of what became known as “the Killing Fields.” After immigrating to the United States and adjusting to life in New York, eventually Massachusetts, and back again in NYC; I somehow managed to grow up within a family unit who survived torture, dislocation, and refugee plight.
Fixated on survival mode, no one really talks about after the Killing Fields. In fact, I think I just actually echoed those words out loud for the first time in my life. But all in all, it’s encouraging me to ‘data-reconcile’ or engage myself in a closer relationship with ‘all the sum parts of me!’ Just imagine the possibility of knitting the ‘whole-sum’ of Michaylah under 800 words! A little daunting, perhaps? Nevertheless, I must mention that my resilience to endure my family’s sadness (of which in hindsight seems like a long drawn out silent suffering) is probably what kick-started my career.
My precocious 8-year-old-self learn very early on how to shift the family’s focus to recovery. In fact, the fondest memory of my first business transactions is yelling out “3 t-shirts for $10!” at a local flea market outside of Boston, Mass. By helping my Dad’s small business (which grew to 3 stores by the time I was 12) and supporting his entrepreneurial spirit; much needed healing has begun to filter through. Contrary to the success of the 26-year-old-Michaylah as a management consultant, the feeling of a job well done or ‘pulling off a solution’ is unmatched!
So searching for my true role hasn’t been easy for someone like me who had the same job every day after school from an early age up till high school. Instead, college has led me down career paths I would never have imagined looking for. Yes, any other arbitrary step or turn, I would be elsewhere and someone different. After all, being born in the middle of a jungle where clothes and shoes are optional for infants, I realize now how grateful I am that I get to wake up every day to the sweet smell of freedom. Along with that humble privilege, I get to decide what I want to be. With that being said, I’m not a data scientist. Though, I tend to end up helping data scientists put data together and visually make sense of it all. If you haven’t noticed thus far, I’m first and foremost a data visual storyteller, next a management consultant and lately an architectural tech student.
These days, I’m reaping the benefit from momentum that never quite worked out but working in favor now. I guess the small sacrifice of helping my Dad all those years paid off. The ability to initiate, transform, and innovate are just some life-long survival skills that will carry me through the rest of my career. At the same time, armed with the relentless ‘management-consulting-style’ pursuit of leaving no stone unturned; I’m excited about the new surprising discoveries my career will take me next. Like the concept of BIG data, I’m keeping my options open to explore the possibility of making connections between seemingly unrelated matters (hiring a data architechie, anyone?) and learning to allow some ‘healthy statistical wrongness’ to keep things moving forward, whether that be for learning new and rediscovering old things or simply navigating life.
Data visually yours,