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Q&A with Alumni: Julie Choi

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September 23, 2019

Meet Julie Choi, MS&E alumnus and VP in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Products Group and General Manager of Products and Research Marketing at Intel Corporation.

Julie is responsible for leading Intel’s AI marketing effort, including product marketing, sales enablement, and ecosystem engagement. She graduated from Stanford with a master’s degree in Management Science & Engineering (’06) and received a bachelor’s degree from MIT in Management Science. Julie’s area of concentration was Technology Entrepreneurship Management (TEM) while in the MS&E program.

“What has helped me become successful in my career is the ability to deeply connect with the people that I work with. I view the person across the table as the most important person in my career at that moment. Relational presence, a willingness to learn from others and value their opinions matter more than my own domain expertise. Success is about all of us working together to achieve something more significant than we could individually.”

Why did you choose MS&E?

I chose Management Science and Engineering because it provided a unique interdisciplinary program for people who wanted to become leaders in technology. It was more than a general business advanced degree, but an opportunity to grow with people who would become CTOs and engineering leaders - to learn how to partner with them and lead. MS&E also appealed to me because it was very connected to both established and emerging tech companies. MS&E is an excellent educational path for those who want to lead tech companies.

What does it mean to be an MS&E alum?

I am very proud of being an MS&E alum. The access to Stanford and the MS&E alumni has been so valuable throughout my career in the silicon valley. MS&E has been a powerful launching point for relationships that have led to innovation and collaboration.

How did your time at Stanford impact what you do now?

If it weren’t for my time at Stanford, I would not be able to do what I’m doing today. As a company officer at one of the largest technology and engineering companies in the world, my MS&E education formed the foundation for so much that I engage in. Additionally, my time in MS&E was an “aha” moment that helped me realize what I wanted to become “when I grew up” in my career - aligning my strengths as a connector to my passion for building great technology.

Was there a particular class or professor that really stuck with you?

One course, in particular, laid the foundation for my career, MS&E 273: Technology Venture Formation. It was taught by a team of successful entrepreneurs and investors. Each instructor had years of industry experience and a wealth of knowledge. In that class, we simulated startups, in teams of 3-4 students who took on operating roles. That experience helped me understand that you need to pick a function within a company that you’re going to lead—I realized that I was naturally drawn to the marketing and sales function (CMO), as well as the CEO roles. MS&E 273 provided an intense crash course on how to run technology companies from conception to something valuable, and it showed me how I could play a meaningful part in that process of growth. I remember it being extremely powerful.

There were so many other professors that I enjoyed learning from, such as Adjunct Professor Tom Kosnik. I took his global entrepreneurial marketing class, MS&E 271. The class was a lot of fun and provided a global perspective, which is very important for all of us working in technology right now.

I also really enjoyed Kathy Eisenhardt’s class, MS&E 270: Strategy in Technology-Based Companies. That was an incredible deep dive into what elements need to be considered when ultimately achieving strategic success. Asking questions like, how do you deal with failure? What are some strategies that went awry?

Can you tell me more about the work you're doing now?

At Intel, I am leading the team that is shaping the message and go-to-market story for Intel’s artificial intelligence products. So, whatever you read, hear, or see about Intel AI has probably been created, informed, or reviewed by the organization I created. It’s comparable to being the CMO for the AI business unit. I’ve been in this role for almost 3 years and it has been a fantastic growth experience.

What inspires you most about this company?

I’m inspired at Intel by the depth of technical expertise that I see, and also the maturity. Intel just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year - this is the company that created the microprocessor that would power so many of the digital products we depend on today - our laptops, phones, iPads, servers, clouds. There is an incredible depth of engineering expertise that makes up the DNA of Intel.

Furthermore, I would say grit and perseverance inspires me. Many people at Intel have a certain tenacity that comes from within and beyond just being good at their jobs—it’s a willingness to see things through even if you disagree with the plan, which I’ve not seen before in other organizations. It’s very unique. The engineering is off the charts in terms of the innovation happening in hardware, electrical engineering, material science, using photonics to create new types of chips, and of course AI. It’s kind of a playground where a multitude of science and math disciplines converges. We start with sand and end up with silicon wafers with trillions of transistors - how cool is that!

And it’s also an incredible business - a fortune 50 company with one of the most valuable market caps and brands in the world. We have experienced business leaders running this company, and it’s an exceptionally well-managed company. Intel provides an excellent opportunity for me to learn from industry veterans and successful entrepreneurs alike.

If there are one or two things that have made you successful in your career, what would they be?

Something that enabled me to become successful is the way that I grew up. Being first-generation and coming from an immigrant family, I grew up watching my mom and dad work hard to achieve their dreams with very little. If I had to think of one or two words to describe their legacy to me, they would be grit and ambition.

Also, intrinsic to my personality, I’m a very relational person. What has helped me become successful is the ability to connect with people that I work with. The person across the table is the most important person in my career at that moment. It’s that relational presence, and it’s the ability to learn from other people and value their opinions. It’s about all of us working together to achieve something more significant than we could individually. That’s the fun part of working, and many times, it leads to great friendships as well.

What advice would you give to a current MS&E student?

Make the most of the opportunity to build relationships. Friends that you meet at school could end up becoming colleagues in the future or contacts for you to work with and learn from. Even if you’re an introvert, work on becoming a little more extroverted, because that’s the best way to build those connections. Not just with your peers, but also your professors.

Also, listen to what your heart tells you, not just your head. Notice and think about those things that make you lose track of time. While you’re at Stanford, you need to recognize the moments where you get lost in joy about what you’re learning or what you’re doing; it’s a great signal. If you take note of those times and make those connections, it can form a path to what you should be doing with most of your time. We spend the vast majority of our time at work. So, I’d say to listen to your heart and be your authentic self in your job and career choices.

When you attended Stanford, did you explore multiple verticals, or did you gravitate towards one naturally?

I took a little bit of everything. I explored the technology path before coming here, and was a consultant at a large consulting firm. As a technology consultant with expertise in security—fairly narrow. MS&E allowed me to explore a variety of things, and I especially gravitated toward tech venture formation.

At work, I am a technically oriented business person that collaborates exceptionally well with pure technologists. I have created a path where I partner directly with engineers as much as possible. An engineer can often get lost building their product, but they might not want to think about how to market and sell it. I work well with engineers who know that I will represent them accurately and often in a more positive light than they thought was possible.

Can you offer some words of wisdom for MS&E alumni and students interested in pursuing a career similar to your own?

I would say don’t look at your career progression like it’s a ladder; look at it more as if it’s one of those geodesic domes. Ladders are just rung by rung, step by step. I arrived at a different model, where you kind of go around this sphere—sometimes you go to the side, sometimes down, sometimes up—and eventually you just make your own path. I think it’s really about finding which experiences unlock your creativity and help you connect to the value that you can deliver. You have to figure out what your superpower is, and you can’t learn what that is from a book. It’s something unique to you, informed by all the experiences and knowledge that you’ve gained.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It can take a while before you figure stuff out, but figuring it out is kind of the fun of it. It’s the journey, not the destination. Stanford can be very result-oriented, achievement-oriented. But I would say optimize for having fun on the journey and eventually you will figure it out.