By Katherine Qiao
Tell me about yourself.
Back stiff and straight, I sat in business attire across the narrow table from the interviewer as he asked me one of the most standard questions in any job interview – this particular one for Oracle’s technology consulting role.
I paused, fully prepared to state my reasons “why” I wanted this job in the carefully worded elevator pitch I’d toiled over ages ago. But I stopped with a flash – instead of orchestrated words, what if I could prove to them my reasons?
I pulled Blueprint Issue 7 (which really should’ve not been on my priorities of essential items for a final round interview trip) out of my bag, placing it out of sight on my lap. Distinctly I was aware of the interviewer quirking an eyebrow in slight confusion at my shuffling, and I tried to swallow the nervous thoughts that a stunt like this might fail, and focused on rapidly reorganizing the words to fit the new story I wanted to tell, entirely ad hoc.
“Hi, I’m Katherine, senior at University of Michigan’s Ross Business School. I’m a business major, with double minors in Writing and Statistics. In my career, I want to intersect creativity and analytics – and I can show you.”
I placed the book in front of the interviewer, and told him how much I’d loved art and writing since I was a child. I told him about LHSP and Blueprint Literary Magazine, the numerous creative journals I’d published and contributed to, and freelance design opportunities I’d found in extracurriculars and companies. Then, I gestured to the book: “This is one of those intersections.” Flipping through the pages like a portfolio presentation, I told him how I’d joined Blueprint, UM’s College of Engineering’s literary magazine organization, by teaching myself Adobe InDesign – how tech was integral to my artist identity, where I strived to understand not just the colorful foreground but also behind-the-scenes analytics, coding, and software.
I finished off my answer with, “Instead of being siloed, I want to incorporate technical and qualitative skills with my love of creating and storytelling – like this book – wield dual interests in business. I want to tell these stories end-to-end for products that carry high complexity and technical undertones – where the skillsets are the multifaceted abilities I treasure, and the products are ones impacting broader audiences I believe in. I believe that I can achieve my goals best in tech and this job, and so I’m very happy to speak with you today.”
I remember this being the most memorable professional experience I’ve had across my interviews, and being sold that this job was a place where my identity of being creative and a business professional are equally accepted together.
Post-graduation from Michigan’s Ross Business School with a BBA and minors in Writing and Applied Statistics, I’m at this job today. I work in technology implementation consulting at the computer technology company Oracle in Los Angeles, implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, a hybrid role echoing aspects of business and engineering. Outside of work, I pursue traditional/digital art and writing (https://katherineqiao.com). Recently, I’ve gotten into website design and photography, as well as attended Adobe’s MAX Creativity Conference. I’ve spent years practicing sketching, ink, Chinese painting, graphic design, creative writing – to name a few. Today, creative outlets remain the best ways to satisfy my voracious need to build things.
However, I did not prioritize my creative roots at the start of college the way I do now, where I can echo the same faith and gratefulness to the role creativity plays in my passions, both professionally and personally.
I’d joined LHSP (now LSWA) freshman year to make sure that need to create never died, but only hoped to keep it alive in occasional hobbies at best. But I joined LHSP’s Arts & Literary Journal, where I was immediately enthralled by publication and spotlighting others’ creative works by evaluating what made a work attractive to an audience. LHSP gave me the catalyst to venture into more creative hubs around campus thereafter. I stayed on a second year as a Student Assistant, leading the Digital Media Club. My other activities included running the College of Engineering’s Blueprint Literary Magazine. From the advertising, call for submissions, editing and design process, printing, hosting galleries, to sales, I loved running a creative process start to finish – akin to a business.
Not only did LHSP offer multifaceted creative outlets that fit mine, it nurtured the laughter in the Lloyd Hall hallways. The community encouraged us to fight the stress that comes with not knowing what you’re doing post-college. From Tina Kokoris, Paul Barron (LHSP’s director at the time), Mark Tucker (if he’s not amassing his army of FestiFool puppets) and the rest of the staff, you’ll find the most supportive and remarkable individuals who helm this incredible community. I remember whining to Paul about how worried I was of getting rejected from the Writing Minor, even after he already devoted quite some time to my LHSP 230 paper. I remember sitting amongst Mark’s many knick-knacks in his cubicle after his Creative Communities class. These experiences put together with the time I had at Ross (sometimes a balancing act of two vastly different worlds within one campus) were the sentiments I carried into my interview.
There’s a degree of societal pressure to gain a pretty career title, but LHSP proves to you a space does exist where you can create your own reality, one both professionally and emotionally satisfying. If I hadn’t been in LHSP, I don’t think I would’ve believed that – by my own admission, I can easily feel self-conscious about my belonging in creativity, because by surface trade, I’m labeled as someone who’s not. Am I enough of an artist? But I know now that creativity doesn’t discriminate between professional fields, it bridges them – so today I aim to be the kind of creative businessperson who connects stories with people, the kind of person who blurs lines for a living instead of abiding by them.
Today, I know the answer to those questions is a resounding, confident, yes.
All photos courtesy of Katherine Qiao.