Qualified professional engineer, former professor, deeply religious, BS-MS-MBA-PhD, CEO Of Citigroup, Vikram Pandit

18 09 2008

Vikram Pandit is CEO of Citigroup, the world’s largest bank, and employs 358,000 people around the world in 100 countries. He was formerly President and COO at Morgan Stanley from 2000 to 2005. He is a former board member of the NASDAQ.

Vikram was born in India to a moderately affluent family. He moved to the US to attend Columbia University where he received a BS (electrical engineering), MS (electrical engineering), MBA, and Ph.D. in finance. Vikram is also a trustee at Columbia University.

After obtaining his multiple degrees in succession, Vikram became a professor at Indiana University Bloomington before joining Morgan Stanley’s institutional securities division. He was responsible for building their prime brokerage services. Afterward, he started his own hedge fund called “Old Lane,” which was later purchased by Citigroup, at which point Vikram was offered a job. When he was appointed to CEO, his father was quoted as saying,

He was a brilliant boy. In school, he always stood first in his class. He is very astute and focused. I saw him rise. Vikram has stood to my expectations.

Got to love ’em Asian parents!

Vikram’s dad goes on to note,

His citizenship is American. But childhood impacts are very Indian. He was brought up in a very traditional Maharashtrian manner. He speaks Marathi always. And Gujarati, English, Hindi […] He is a very simple person at heart.

Vikram is deeply religious and visits the shrine of Gajanan Maharaj during his annual visits to India. (Gajanan is regarded by some Hindus as a saint.) There is a room bearing Vikram’s name in the shrine’s lodges. In New York, he is known to go to the Ganesh temple in Flushing.

He and his wife Swati live with their two children in an $18m apartment at Central Park West and 81st Street. (Not outrageous given his status; fun fact–Jerry Seinfeld also lives in the same building.)

He insists on avoiding excesses, never having been golfing, not engaging in conspicuous consumption of art or wine, and prefers reading a books on topics like Stephen Hawking’s Big Bang theory or Tarla Dalal’s cooking book. Vikram Pandit is also know to enjoy photography–picking a particular theme, like vendors on the roadside, and concentrates on cobblers and vegetable man. He did some photography on windows and noting that, “the type of window signifies the culture of the country.”

Earlier this year in March, Vikram went to inspect his far-flung empire: traveling to branch offices in London, Mexico City, Warsaw, Istanbul, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul.

He has talked about re-orienting the company to focus on customer needs.



95th most viewed Youtube entertainer, R&B flavor, Sharon Tseung

18 09 2008

17 year old Sharon Tseung was recently ranked as Youtube’s 95th most viewed musician. Take a look at her singing What Hurts the Most or Rihanna’s Umbrella there are more examples on her Youtube or Myspace page.

Asian Heroes ambassador Ami recently had the opportunity to interview her. Sharon reflects,

I want to make a difference in the world […] There are many great artists out there. It’s difficult to get into that business. I will try and seize opportunities and see where that gets me.

In her spare time, Sharon continues to choreograph, write, perform, and, of course, share them on Youtube. She goes on to say that she hopes there will be more Asian American leaders in 10 years. She notes,

I want to see them stepping it up, following their dreams, and impacting the world. Hopefully there will be more Asian Americans putting their names out there.


Internet icon, technologist, entrepreneur, Yahoo’s Jerry Yang

18 09 2008

Jerry Yang is co-founder and CEO of Yahoo! Inc. He is worth an estimated US$2.3 billion and ranked 524th among the richest people in the world. Mastering the English language in only three years during his high school years, Jerry was soon placed in an AP English class. He went on to Stanford University where he graduated with a B.S. and M.S. degree in electrical engineering.

Jerry has been a leading force in the Internet media industry for as long as anyone can remember. He has built Yahoo! into a destination network of sites that attracts 3.4 billion views per day. Yahoo! remains the world’s most highly trafficked website–beating Google–and is one of the world’s most recognized brands.

Yahoo was originally started in 1994 when Jerry was a PhD student. He jokes, “Really, we’d do anything to keep from working on our theses.”
To fight boredom, Jerry began surfing the then-nascent World Wide Web. He started by putting up a site that consisted of his name in Chinese characters, his golf scores, and a list of his favorite internet sites. He cleverly called it, “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.”

Jerry recalls,

It was a really gradual thing, but we’d find ourselves spending more and more time on it. It was getting to be a burden.

The big leap came when Jerry and his fellow phD student David Filo, hacked code that would sort hyperlinks into hierarchies. At some point, they started to share it with fellow students and without any advertising, the number of visitors to akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo doubled every month. Stanford had to deal with overtaxed bandwidth and finally told them to stop crashing their systems and move it off campus.

…And that’s how Yahoo! was born. You can still see the earlier version here.

Fun fact?
The name Yahoo! is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,” but Jerry and Dave insist they selected the name because they like the general definition of a yahoo: “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.” Yahoo! itself first resided on Jerry’s student workstation, “Akebono” and Dave’ s “Konishiki” — both legendary sumo wrestlers.

We were the first in this business to build a credible, sustainable, and likeable brand. If you believe the Internet is the next big medium, and if you realize every medium has had a brand associated with it-like CNN with cable-then it’s conceivable that Yahoo! will become one of those brands.

A job well done, Jerry. Today, Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet communications, commerce and media company that offers a comprehensive branded network of services to more than 345 million individuals each month worldwide.




TV personality, Advertising entrepreneur, Gurbaksh “G” Singh Chahal

18 09 2008

g1Gurbaksh Singh Chahal, known to his friends as “G,” is an award winning American entrepreneur who has created companies worth over $340 million. He is the Founder & CEO of two advertising companies which were sold for over $340 million.

G grew up as a Sikh in California, the religion that requires wearing a turban. He recalls,

Once when I was 10, I went to the local elementary school to play basketball. While I was playing, two kids were saying derogatory things to me. One said, “Come here.” He pulled a knife on me and told me to take my blue turban off.

I untied it, handed it to him and ran for my life. I was more or less in shock.

Yet that only made G more determined to succeed. At the age of 16, Gurbaksh noticed a called DoubleClick was providing Internet ad services. He figured that they would need to track visits online at some point and found a developer who was selling that technology for $30,000.

G and his 19 year old brother didn’t have money but made arrangements to pay the software engineer $30,000 in 90 days after testing the software.

He then went online and incorporated the company for $99.

In 3 months, he made $100,000 and realized he had a business, ClickAgents. When Gurbaksh showed his father his bank account, his dad asked, ““Is this legal?”

His dad supported G and he soon dropped out of high school growing his business until he was making a $1 million a month in revenue–ultimately selling the company 2 years later for $40 million.

In 2004, he started BlueLithium, an advertising network, that was named Top Innovator by AlwaysOn. What made it different? G was able to serve highly targeted ads on the Web by monitoring everyone’s clickstream. In October of last year, Yahoo bought the company for $300 million cash.

G was 25 years old at the time. Gurbaksh Singh Chahal is now working on his next start-up gWallet, a new prime-time network show, “Secret Millionaire” on Fox premiering December 3rd, 2008, and releasing his book, “The Dream” 5 days later.

Guys, G is going to have an incredible career, let’s follow along by reading his blog: http://blog.chahal.com/

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurbaksh_Chahal

Asian Heroes Project moves to its new, bigger home

8 09 2008

Team – I’ve got big news!

The Asian Heroes Project will now be hosted at http://asianheroes.ningin.com/. Thanks to you and your interest in learning more about Asian heroes and role models, we’ve been afforded the opportunity to share our vision with Ningin.com.

Ningin is a community-based social news site that offers users the ability to discover new and interesting Asian content through a single portal. They are growing very, very rapidly and the Asian Heroes Project is proud to be able to ride this tidal wave. Hoc Poeng, co-founder of Mixr Media, “There’s a lot of talent out there and we think Ningin will help showcase that talent.”

I think he’s referring to us!

Check out the new site by clicking on the image below or going to: http://asianheroes.ningin.com. We’ll be updating to that site from now on!

(Though we’ll likely continue posting here for a little bit to remind you to move over to Ningin.com. )

Long live the vision:

We hope people will read this blog, be introduced to titans of the world, be inspired to go out and innovate, and lastly, to discover the great potential of being someone else’s hero.

The Asian Heroes Project

Stephen Chen

Anything is possible: U.S. Veteran Air Force Colonel, Astronaut Ellison Onizuka

8 09 2008


Ellison S. Onizuka made the ultimate sacrifice and lost his life in
service to his nation and the international space community on January
28, 1986 at 39 years of age.

Ellison was 15 where the Mercury mission put an American astronaut in space for the first time. His mother said,

Ellison always had it in his mind to become an astronaut but was too embarrassed to tell anyone […] When he was growing up, there were no Asian astronauts, no black astronauts, just white ones. His dream seemed too big.

Ellison Onizuka (I’m starting to use full names so reinforced that you can name names. Ellison Onizuka. Ellison Onizuka. Ellison Onizuka) liked to visit the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to look through its immense telescope at the heavens. A well–rounded student, he was a good athlete, an Eagle Scout, and practicing Buddhist which linked him to his Japanese heritage.

Ellison was a member of the Air Force ROTC and Triangle Fraternity at the University of Colorado (Boulder) and received a BA and Masters in aerospace engineering. He got married the same month he graduated with his undergraduate degree to Lorna Yoshida.

The next year in 1970, Ellison entered the U.S. Air Force and worked as a aerospace flight test engineer. His projects included devising ways to salvage American military aircraft that had been downed in the Vietnam War. Four years later, he attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and became a test pilot in 1975 where he logged more than 1,700 flight hours.

Ellison completed the astronaut evaluation and training program in August 1979 with a class of 35 astronauts. Speaking to the 1980 graduating class of Konawaena High School, his alma mater, he told them that it was their duty to pursue science past the known boundaries. He said,

Many things that you take for granted were considered unrealistic dreams by  previous generations. If you accept these past accomplishments as commonplace then think of the new horizons that you can explore.

His first space mission was a historic one–the first space shuttle mission for the Department of Defense on January 24, 1985 in Space Shuttle Discovery. The Discovery circled the Earth 48 times; he spent 3 days, 1 hour, 33 minutes in space.

Ellison Onizuka was awed,

You’re really aware that you’re on top of a monster, you’re totally at the mercy of the vehicle […] I still pinch myself to convince myself that the dream came true.

About a year later, Lieutenant Colonel Ellison Onizuka, father of two daughters, died at 11:38 am on Space Shuttle Challenger at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. At first, it appeared to be a successful launch, traveling at 1,900 miles per hour.

At 73 seconds after takeoff, a flash of orange near the fuel tank was seen  and soon turned into a fireball. All 7 crew members were killed as  onlookers watched in horror in what became the worst accident in the history of the U.S. space program to date.

At his funeral, Bishop Seigen Yamoaka told the newspaper

As a test pilot and an astronaut, [Ellison Onizuka] had to deal with life and death […] As long as death is seen as the enemy, you fight it, and become more attached to life. In time, he came to the realization that death is not an enemy to defeat, but a compassionate friend.

Ellison was promoted to the rank of Colonel and awarded the Purple Heart medal after the accident. Google “Astronaut Ellison Onizuka” to learn more.



Remember those who came before you…

Jazz and folk singer songwriter, Taiwanese-American, Cynthia Lin

4 09 2008


Singer songwriter, Cynthia Lin has been busy touring nationally and sharing stages with major acts including Vienna Teng and Emm Gryner. She was featured on NPR’s Open Mic series and AsiaXpress.com named her one of the “Top 5 Asian American albums of 2007.”

Joe Nguyen, from AsiaXpress.com, calls her lighthearted song, “Skipping In NYC,”
Simple, whimsical guitar strums accompany her bright vocals. Subtle horns add depth as high electronic piano notes gently carry it to its ending.

Curious to hear her music?
Click here to hear it. I enjoy her music as much I do Vienna Teng’s Harbor song. Inspired by Ani DiFranco’s entrepreneurial spirit, Ella Fitzgerald’s art of interpretation, and Joni Mitchell’s bittersweet, poetic, and emotionally complex lyrics, Cynthia Lin is an inspirational artist who we are sure will continue to grow.


For this artist, the path began with her 1st award-winning performance at 6 years old with the Mandarin rendition of Are you Sleeping?

Life doesn’t always take the direct path
In an interview she gave to Boston Progress Radio, Cynthia notes,

I always loved performing, but I never considered it as a career. I sang in an acappella group and performed occasionally in theatre and musical theatre. I took classes in politics, philosophy, French lit, etc, before finally choosing economics.
Cynthia actually worked for 3 years as a software designer in Washington DC after graduating from Princeton in 1999.  Unlike her coworkers, she picked up a guitar and snuck off to auditions whenever she could. When she finally left her job, she notes,
I realized that my personal happiness comes from following my passion. I want to give the world something. I felt like for the first time in my life, I was choosing my own path. What’s the point of money if you’re not happy with yourself.
She soon returned to the stage with a batch of original songs and with her loyal fanbase (myself included), garnered recognition and airplay from the Washingtonpost.com and the radio station Z104. A fixture on the Asian American college scene, Cynthia encourages students to follow their passions. Cynthia Lin released her second EP Doppelganger independently in 2007.
Keep up with her career and send her an email at hello@cynthialin.com.