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“Stay Thirsty” - Letter from NTU Vice President for Academic Affairs Liang-Gee Chen

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NTU Academic Vice President Liang-Gee Chen encourages students to “stay thirsty” and work for a better future.

It was late in the evening of a working Tuesday that I was introduced to a special guest through Professor Shih-Wei Liao of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering. While I’ve heard about this guest and her many achievements, I was still thrilled by her petite figure and larger-than-life personality upon meeting her in person for the very first time. Ms Monica Lam, professor at Stanford University, many-fold entrepreneur, and a young female who could have easily been mistaken for one of our students, had just sold one of her latest entrepreneurial projects for USD 4 hundred million. Ms Lam, or Monica, rather, had traveled to Taiwan for the release of yet another one of her innovative projects, this time in collaboration with Taiwan’s IT heavyweight, ASUS.

During our talk in my office, Monica spoke about her latest project with great enthusiasm while pitching to me the idea that NTU is in the best position to contribute to the new world of Internet application:

“First of all, Asia is the biggest and fastest growing market in the world. Secondly, Taiwan is in possession of the world’s most comprehensive and accessible hardware Infrastructure. Thirdly, a number of the most talented people whom I have come in contact with are all from NTU!”

Maybe the last statement was a little flattering, but her words were imbued with such fervor it seemed her eyes were conveying great hopes that the whole of the university would take immediate action. I must admit that I was greatly moved.

Monica then spoke of the project that had brought her to Taiwan. The idea, she said, was simple. When users connect to social media applications such as Facebook or Line via their handheld devices, they need to pass their personal information to a faraway server owned by the service provider. In other words, users lose autonomy over their personal data when in fact, it should be the user who owns information, and further utilize it to form their own social groups and connect with their friends without the data going through a third party.

Okay, feel free to omit the “techy” part if you find Internet jargon hard to understand. What I would like to point out is, amidst the social media craze where apps are ubiquitous and quite frankly, taking over our lives, Monica is able return to the basics, the user, and contemplate where the current status is lacking and how it can be improved. This desire to “stay thirsty” is the true spirit of the entrepreneur, always thinking about innovative ways to make life better, and always believing that nothing is too good to be improved. This belief, this desire is the drive behind the countless ventures in Silicon Valley; it is also what is desperately needed in our society!

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Vice President Chen (left), Prof. Monica Lam (center), and Prof. Shih-Wei Liao (right).

The three of us continued to converse on various topics that evening, yet Monica kept going back to how she had high hopes for Taiwan’s youth and their role in the development of technology. This shocked me greatly. When I imagine that someone is looking over at Taiwan from across the globe and sees innumerable opportunities surrounding our island, it is hard not to feel a sense of inspiration and new-found confidence. This got me thinking that every individual in Taiwan, from entry-level employees to executive-level government officials, everyone should possess the desire to “stay thirsty” and reach for every single opportunity that is headed our way. Instead of complaining about our circumstances, we should look at the situation as an opportunity for us to improve our environment for a better future. We should take our futures into our own hands!

The future may sound somewhat vague, so I would like to add that Monica stressed the importance of having a set of professional tools to help us realize our dreams. For instance, if you have a great idea for an app, your coding abilities will become your greatest asset when you attempt to put your innovative ideas into action. Once you are equipped with the necessary skills, the drive to quench your thirst will push you to make a change for the betterment of yourself and for mankind.

This story was first posted in Vice President Chen’sFacebook page (04/11/2014).

Chinese version