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Taking the Shot

News Story

Chan (Sammy) Thai '19 is an advertising and integrated marketing major on the NYC Campus. She's the co-founder and President of the International Students Club, a business intern at Fast Company, and a photography enthusiast—with strong opinions on iPhone Portrait Mode.

Advertising and Integrated Marketing major Chan (Sammy) Thai '19 knows what she wants and doesn't hesitate to take the shot. She's the head of social media for the Pace Advertising Club, co-founder and president of the International Student Club, photographer for Pace Spoon University, and International Student Ambassador. A former Global Ambassador for the Education Abroad Network, Thai is currently interning for Fast Company where she brainstorms for executives and helps organize events with a guest list spanning anywhere from 10 attendees to 8,000. Whew!

If that wasn't enough, Thai is a first-generation student and the first in her family to learn English as well as to pursue higher education. She devotes all of her time and energy in the projects she feels passionate about, and there are a lot of them. We were super excited to sit down with Thai to learn more about her experiences as a Lubin student!

Why did you end up choosing Pace? What set Pace apart from other universities?
The fact that Pace is located in the heart of where most business in North America takes place is exciting. It does not require much to feel motivated; a walk down Wall Street or a quick coffee in Starbucks can inspire me.

When I was debating between Pace and other well-respected schools, I asked myself what goals I had and what I was looking for. My main goal was (and is) to become a successful business student. It was not only an excellent education that I was looking for, but a school that offered as many internship opportunities as possible and helped students become career professionals. That is why I chose Pace. I was assured that not only would I gain knowledge from inside, but also transferrable skill sets from outside the classroom that would turn me into a well-rounded business student. That is why Pace is special: having Wall Street as my school playground, I know that every person that I meet and every conversation that I have is a new opportunity. Watching people in business attire rushing through the streets makes me feel purposeful.

How did you hear about Career Services? Were you referred by a professor or a student?
I first heard of Career Services my freshman year during UNV101 when a representative presented what the office had to offer and encouraged us to come to their workshops. At the time, a friend of mine was in their junior or senior year, and they shared a lot of information about finding internships and building my career portfolio. However, I could not understand what they were telling me and I did not fully comprehend the information that they shared because all of the terms sounded so foreign. I was very overwhelmed and feared that I was already behind my classmates, so I went to a Career Services workshop as soon as I was permitted.

Who worked with you?
I have worked with various advisors in the Career Services office, but my main advisor is Rumena Uddin. From the four or five advisors that I have spoken and worked with, I can tell that they are all very patient and attentive. They always look through what I have first, then add in suggestions rather than telling me that something does not work and I have to redo everything, which can be very discouraging.

I remember my first time in Career Services: I brought in a resume template that I found on Microsoft Word which was completely wrong from the standard requirements, but the advisor from that resume workshop patiently sat down with me and helped me fix it. Uddin is incredible! Although I only meet her when I update major parts in my resume or have an interview soon, she is always there to help out and very responsive to my emails whenever I cannot come in as well.

What was the preparation process like?
The preparation was definitely not a one-day or one-week process. My preparation process started two years ago when I first attended the Getting Started with Career Services workshop. Writing a resume is 10 times harder than writing any essay because it never ends. It is like a life-long construction project that I have to keep fixing and editing to make it look better and add more value to it. I attended all of the Career Services workshops, and every time I went, I brought with me my most recent updated resume for the advisor to take a look at. Not only that, I got to meet up with friends who were interning or working to ask for advice and feedback on my resume and LinkedIn profile.

In my experience, the hardest parts are the 30-second elevator pitch and interview. It can be the hardest part to execute because the situation and the questions are never the same. The only way to improve those two skills is through practicing. I also had coffee talks with various professionals who I met during a guest speaker event and at career fairs. They were all very eye-opening because I got to learn about the companies, how the hiring process works, and what employers are for looking for when they are recruiting.

Of all your employment positions, which did you like the best? What was a defining moment for you while working there?
When I was working in the Pace International Office, it felt like I was working for the United Nations. The most exciting part was getting to meet students from all over the place. This broadened my horizons and enhanced my knowledge of different cultures and languages. However, I love my current position at Fast Company as a business intern. Although I am interning in an office setting, every day in the office is a new experience. It is not what I do that makes me love my internship—it is the people who I am working with. They have taught me so much; from the basis of pitching to a client to how to work professionally.

The most defining moment at Fast Company so far was the week that I assisted in executing a 10,000-attendee event with more than 250 CEOs from all over the country including CEOs from Ford, Starbucks, Blue Apron, and Foursquare, just to name a few. It was overwhelming, yet exciting. It was a lot of pressure, but exhilarating. It was tough, but also a life's worth of lessons in one week. I have gained the ability to work under pressure, think on my feet, be independent, and stay organized.

What motivates you?
I get asked this question a lot! Enrolling with 18 credits and interning 17 hours a week and being a student leader for two organizations while volunteering during the weekend is not something that you hear from a student every day. What motivates me the most are my parents. I am the first in my family to learn English and to go to a university. I know that they have worked endlessly to get me to where I am today, and they taught me to be the person that I am now. I want to do whatever I can to make them proud and pay them back.

Besides that, it is the rewarding outcome that motivates and excites me to do what I do. I am goal-driven, so once my goal is set, I devote 150% of my energy and 200% of my efforts to achieve that goal. However, I am aware that sometimes a goal takes a longer time to achieve than others, so I keep telling myself every day to do whatever I can now. The only thing I will regret later is the thing that I did not get to do.

You're the co-founder and president of the International Students Club. What inspired you to start it? How has that leadership experience shaped you professionally?
Pace University is a melting pot with students from more than 110 countries, yet I could not believe it when I found out there was no student organization or association for international students. The idea hit me when I was hanging out with my group of international friends who are also Pace students. They suggested that we should have a student group where all international students can meet and hang out and minimize the national cliques throughout Pace. When I looked around, I saw a group of Chinese students, a group of Indian students, and a group of Mexican students. For me, it was sad and upsetting to see because we are here to experience a new culture, meet new friends, and learn English, yet none of the groups were speaking English except mine since we always have at least three nationalities in my group. I knew that this had to change. Pace International Students Club was born out of that idea: bringing the Pace international community closer, and to break down cultural barriers.

I have learned so much as the president of International Students Club. I have learned now to work together with my team to better the club members' experience with our events and better organize everything. Moreover, I have learned to listen and developed the skills to be flexible and solve problems on my feet. The most valuable skill set that I got to master is being considerate and the ability to think before I speak. At this age, we tend to generalize a lot of things and mindlessly speak using words that could be very offensive in other cultures. As the president, I had to make sure that all behaviors and language were appropriate for everyone and that no one felt excluded or belittled.

We hear you're involved with photography on campus! What interests you about the subject? Have you always been a photographer? (Bonus round: what are your thoughts on the iPhone Portrait mode? Just curious!)
I have taken a couple photography classes at Pace and before I came to Pace. But I am more of a food photographer than anything else. Moreover, it is a hobby that me and my dad share so it means a lot. We usually take photos together whenever we travel and compare to see who takes better photos. Sometimes, by capturing the moment makes me value the moment more because I know it would never be the same. I would call myself more of a moment-capturer rather than photographer because I do not think my photographs are good but I have more than 12,000 photos of my moments through life.

iPhone Portrait mode is God when you look good and a true self-destroyer when you are not prepared for a photo to be taken. The setting makes normal people like me feel like a model once in a while. It is illusive and it enhances the focus of the subject by blurring the surrounding. Whenever I feel lazy carrying my camera around (which is most of the time), I use iPhone Portrait to take a photo of food, which always makes the dish look at least three times better than when using a normal camera setting. The key is good lighting.

Tell us fun fact about you! What's something most people don't know?
I have alone-phobia (I made up this word myself, but I am sure there is a word for it somewhere). Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like: I am afraid of being alone. Not sure how it is a real fear, but I abhor and get petrified whenever I am alone for too long. It is not that I am overly attached or dependant on others, I just hate the feeling of being alone in a room (however, I do go shopping alone once in a while to destress). Because of this fear, I am always outside doing things rather than staying home. I am usually home from 10:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., then I am back outside. Being rushed and busy makes me feel alive and I think it is also the reason why I do a lot of things and always have a full plate.

Note: Thank you Pace Pulse team for this great opportunity to share my experience. Although it is not as exciting as I think it should be, I hope this can motivate my fellow classmates to just do it. I am aware that a lot of us tend to hesitate, including myself, whenever we face a new challenge and always think of the negative outcome. My advice to you is to be optimistic and everything will be fine. It takes time to get there. You just have to be patient! #LubinLife #ThisIsMyPace