Alumni Highlight – Benny Du

Benny wearing a Google Glass during a tech conference in San Francisco when Benny was working at MasterCard Labs--focusing on payment innovation
Benny wearing a Google Glass during a tech conference in San Francisco when Benny was working at MasterCard Labs–focusing on payment innovation

Benny Du
IT Solutions Provider
Chouinard & Myhre, Inc. (CMI)

Tell us about yourself. 

I was born in Taiwan and moved to the United States in 1995. I grew up in LA with my family and attended UCLA for undergrad. Majored in International Economics and Political Science. I’ve always been fascinated with public service and the political process, as a result of being exposed to that in Taiwan from a young age. Experiencing Washington, D.C. and politics was always something I wanted to do.

In 2005, I had my first D.C. internship at U.S. Attorney’s office. It was a great experience. I met a lot of great people, built networks, and it left me wanting more. In 2006 I interned at the White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders, as well as the Minority Business Development Agency with Chiling. I was actually not a Civic Fellow, but because of Chiling, I got to experience ILF and CAPAL.

This summer really jump-started my career. I met an IBM recruiter at one of the events and through him, learned about the world of consulting. I came back from that summer with a job offer from IBM Global Business Services. I ended up doing public sector consulting for 4 years in San Diego. I wanted exposure to other industries and functions and knew I wanted to do an MBA. I went to the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. It was an amazing experience and I got to travel, see a lot, and meet a lot of brilliant people. I went on to MasterCard Labs–focusing on payment innovation for a few years and now I’m in the enterprise IT space.

I’m currently working at Chouinard & Myhre, Inc. (CMI), an innovative IT solutions provider based in the San Francisco Bay Area, focusing on business development, sales, and marketing. I build new customer relationships and help the company grow. IT is a very interesting space to be in right now because of cloud, security, and companies are trying to figure out how to make sense of that. CMI helps them build an IT infrastructure that can help companies keep up with industry demands.

How did you get involved in the ILF?

I met Chiling and some other Fellows who were working at the MBDA in the summer of 2006. I thought it was very refreshing to see very driven and eager Asian Americans being at the center of the political universe and wanting to make a difference and wanting to lead. I consider myself very ambitious, eager, and driven and ILF gave me a chance to connect with like-minded individuals.

How has the ILF influenced your career path and professional goals?

ILF board of directors are  all very impactful individuals. They use their time and resources in a way that really makes a difference. That’s what really inspired me. Whatever I do has to be impactful and that mindset has definitely carried on over to my career.

What challenges have you faced our of /after the ILF when you practice leadership and others you learned from ILF and how did you overcome them?
I think the best thing you can do when trying to overcome challenges is to keep an open-mind and always have a positive attitude. It has helped me overcome a lot of challenges and adversities. Once you enter the working world, you’ll meet a lot of people you didn’t even know existed – the good, bad, the ugly. Chiling’s always said she saw a lot of potential in me because of my positive attitude. Having Chiling validate that and continue to mentor me on that has been really helpful.

Where do you see yourself in the next 2 to 5 years?

I still see myself in the SF-Bay area. There is so much to learn in Silicon Valley. I’ve been here since 2011 and I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are so many interesting tech-startups and established well-known companies like Google and Facebook. There is so much talent and energy and potential here. I hope to continue to grow as a business leader in the IT space. CMI has a great work culture and I love working there.

What advice would you give to incoming Fellows in general or those who specifically want to work in the field where you are now? 

Like I said earlier, keep a positive attitude and stay open-minded. Treat each day as a precious resource. Treat each day at the internship as a job interview. No task is too small. If you have to make copies, be the best Xerox person you can be. D.C. is such a dynamic place; get out of your comfort zone and experience everything. Make the most of it and enjoy everything you can in those 8-10 weeks. Meet people and build up your network. Remember to stay humble.

For those interested in getting in the tech field, my advice is to read a lot. There are a lot of tech blogs and publications. Silicon Valley is extremely dynamic and fast-moving. Keep up with the latest developments. See what’s out there and what the companies do. Remember that technology in itself doesn’t solve the world’s problems. People have to come up with a way to tie technology to humanities to make a real impact. Don’t just get into the field because you think it’d be cool, but think of how you can use technology to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Also, learn how to code. It doesn’t matter what language, but learn the basics of coding. It will serve you well. There is always a need for people who can code. Even if you are in business, you need to have some technical expertise so that clients feel confident in what you are talking about.

Anything else you would like to share with ILF advisors, alumni, and fellows or promote? 

As you can see, I’m enthusiastic about staying involved with ILF because I believe in the mission. I hope that alumni can stay engaged with ILF and continue to mentor incoming Fellows. To the Fellows, really cherish the experience and use it as a resource to help you achieve your goals.

Benny’s Definition of Leadership 

A great leader should embody these four defining principles: question the status quo; confidence without attitude; student always; and beyond yourself. He/she must be someone who inspires—someone who demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, empathy, decisiveness, and accountability.