I WAS born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States with my family when I was 4. I spent most of my childhood in Chicago. My elementary school had no program in English as a second language, so I was placed in a class for students with speech impediments. It worked out well because we had to pronounce sounds over and over, and I’m told that I don’t have an accent today.
My father, a math professor in Hong Kong, worked as an electrical engineer here. My mother was an art teacher, but once we came to the United States, she went back to school and became certified as a special-education teacher.
The immigrant experience had a profound effect on me. It taught me the importance of hard work and the value of being entrepreneurial. I saw what a hard time my parents had upon arriving in this country. It takes time to understand a new system and the tacit rules of a new culture.
My high school, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, showed me that anything is possible and that you’re never too young to think big. At 15, I worked as a computer programmer at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab. After graduating, I attended Stanford for a degree in economics and computer science.