My Career Journey

Being a business developer and an active member of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of a big city provided me a lot of exposure. You get to meet all walks of life – tech gurus, mad scientists, engineering consultants, government people, investors, etc.

I have been asked why I left my full-time stable job. After working as an entrepreneurial for the last few months, I want to share my brutally honest journey so far.

Unconventional career path

I was born and raised in China. My childhood goal was to achieve the highest academic training from a top University and set a precedent in my extended family. This may seem like an ordinary goal to most Americans, but wasn’t so much for average Chinese kids raised in the 80s. A large population of China at that time was farmers, so were my parents and their parents and siblings. They lived through the infamous Cultural Revolution. They worked day and night and they were still poor.

Many children chose to follow their parents' footsteps. Why made me to pursue my own path? My dad had a strong influence on me as I was growing up - he was an advocate of charting my own journey and paving my own path. He was so supportive and proud of every hard decision I made in my life and stood by me as far as pushing the boundaries in my life. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2006 due to cancer. To date, I still have the same mindset - embrace challenge and do things what others don't or won't.

Have you ever heard the quote from Jerry Rice?

Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.

In the same year 2006, Cornell University offered me full scholarship to their doctoral program in Civil Engineering with a focus on transportation systems and traffic engineering. After completing my PhD degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, I followed my husband to move to Minnesota and landed my first full-time job at the state Department of Transportation (MnDOT) as the work zone traffic analysis engineer. At that moment, I thought to myself – I have achieved almost everything I had wished for six years ago – advanced academic achievements, happy marriage, and stable job where I likely would never worry about getting fired.

Out of comfort zone and onto entrepreneurship

As it turns out, the so-called “comfort” zone was not really comforting to me – I was constantly looking for the next big challenge(s) in life, as evidenced by my childhood and education path. So, I decided to leave my “comfort” zone and test my limits through the entrepreneurial journey.

Through the full-time work at MnDOT in traffic engineering and part-time gigs in technical Chinese-English translations (economics, engineering, management, etc.), I learned how to work with all levels of people, how to do things right and, most of all, I learned the reasons that I wanted to set up my own business. In 2016, I founded Associated Consulting Services LLC to bring my expertise and knowledge into the world and to keep pushing my limits to higher grounds. It not only allows me to work on those exciting technological aspects of data analysis and traffic engineering, but also allows me to set my own limits and to keep learning.  I’m constantly learning and improving myself through various start-up challenges. My own time and overtime are now put to the best possible use.

Entrepreneurship offers the occasional high points of excitement. Like many business owners, I also have to move through a not very glamorous, prolonged state of pulse-pounding tension about whether their business will make it. I love every moment of my journey. There are good days and bad days, but it is important to stay humble and stay hungry. In the end, it is all extremely rewarding and I always learned something.