Gen XYZ: Jennifer Chang, 29, Global Technology Resources Inc.
Jennifer Chang has been honing her leadership skills since she was a high school student in California. That's when she became involved with Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership. The Westlake Village, Calif.-based organization provides leadership training for students who are nominated by their schools. Chang was selected to attend a seminar where topics included world hunger and other issues.
"It was life changing for me," she says. "I learned the world is bigger than high school, that there is more out there."
She also learned that she can help, and that she can lead other people to help, too. When she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, she founded Project V.I.P., a mentoring program for at-risk middle school kids.
Chang holds a B.A. and M.A. from UC Berkeley, a graduate certificate in engineering management from Drexel University, and an M.B.A. from the University of Colorado Denver. She worked for Lockheed Martin and was accepted into its Operations Leadership Development Program. She chaired the Space Systems Recruiting Committee and traveled to different colleges to recruit. She also led the Lockheed Martin Women's Network.
She now works for GTRI (Global Technology Resources Inc.), a Denver-based technology consultant provider. As a federal account executive, Chang markets GTRI programs to defense program managers.
Chang is a young Asian-American woman succeeding in an industry that historically attracted mostly white men. Nikki Brown, a UC Berkeley classmate and longtime friend, nominated Chang for the ColoradoBiz Top Gen XYZ Most Influential Young Professionals. When she needed to gather biographical information, Brown told Chang it was for a case study about successful women and she wanted to include a nonwhite young woman. (This was true; Brown is taking classes and plans to begin a doctorate program in January.)
"Jen leads by example," Brown says. "You influence others when you are constantly trying to improve yourself to become more successful."
Chang says being determined and passionate and also being humble and having flexibility are important skills in both volunteer work and in the workplace. Today she mentors high school students and helps them handle the college application process. The students ask the usual questions about how to get into certain schools, and they sometimes ask bigger questions.
"A common theme that comes up is, can one person really make a difference," Chang says. "They want to know, does it matter if I try hard, and who really is going to be affected?"
She says her role is to encourage them to focus on helping even one person. "I met with my mentor, and she said the same thing, that if she is able to touch one person, she knows she has succeeded."
Brown, who now volunteers with Hugh O'Brian Youth, says Chang also sets an example by seizing opportunities instead of waiting for things to happen. "Her attitude is, I am at a great company; I have been given a great opportunity; let me use it as much as possible," Brown says. "She has master's degrees and certificates, but she does not sit back and think she is owed anything."