From Passion to Career


Imagine waking up every day and doing what you love. That is the life of 26 year old Michelle Phan, a YouTube sensation, who has really developed her career based around her passion, makeup. She started her YouTube channel, MichellePhan, in 2006 at the age of 19 and uploaded simple “how-to” makeup tutorials. Right from the start, she knew she wanted to help girls and young women feel and look their best.

Fast forward to 2013, she amassed over 4.1 million subscribers and was dubbed “the accidental millionaire” by Insider Magazine. With a reported net worth of $1.6 million1, it is no surprise that she was able to take her passion and turn it into a lucrative and successful career. So how did she get there? What is her secret?

Unfortunately, there is no one secret that defined her success. Although there are two key factors that led to her there.

1. Right Place at the Right Time

She saw opportunity in an underserved market on a platform that was gaining popularity in her target demographic. Prior to YouTube, Michelle already had a blog where she talked about beauty and provided makeup tips; this merely served to function as an extension to her growing blog. As her YouTube channel grew, so did her aspirations. Today, she has her own jewelry line, Ever Eden coming out, as well; she is the co-founder of The main take away from this is that Michelle actively looked out for opportunities to begin her next chapter, the thing that would heighten her career to new levels. As a leading lady, that is admirable because she always has her big picture in focus and takes measurable steps in order to reach those dreams.

2.  Constant Self-Improvement and Growth

Since the inception of her channel, Michelle has constantly improved her video quality through better voiceovers, graphics, and descriptions. This improvement and professionalism presented in her videos can be credited to her success as becoming a YouTube partner, spokesperson for Lancôme, as well as starting FAWN Inc, a media company dedicated to creating innovating content for their audience. The latter has been Michelle’s own creation as she has always wanted young girls to feel and look their best. This essentially is her passion and she is able to do that through her makeup tutorials. From this, we can learn that self reflection is vital to find areas of improvement, as well as narrow down our true passion which leads to focused search for those opportunities.

So you’re probably wondering…What does this have to do with me?

When Michelle started her YouTube channel, she was around the same age as many of us undergrads today. Even though we are in school and are constantly busy with assignments, extracurriculars, and life in general, it is very easy to get sidetracked from the big picture, our big dream. That’s why we need to actively seek opportunities and take it if the right one comes along.

So what are you waiting for? Turn your passion into a meaningful career.


Mariam Azhar

University of Waterloo


For Further Reading/Viewing:




The Chinese Real Estate Mogul Who Had No “Dream”

Jane Li Blogpost

As I look outside the window of my apartment in the Chaoyang district of Beijing, I no longer see the old-fashioned brick buildings I recollect from my childhood memories, rather, I am surrounded with highly futuristic architecture with bold curves that has dominated a significant piece of the Beijing skyline. Interestingly, these enormous building complexes all have one thing in common – the same real estate developer, SOHO China, constructed them all.

SOHO China is China’s largest office real-estate developer and was founded by a power couple, Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi. Zhang Xin, a self-made billionaire, is ranked top 50 on the list for Forbe’s world’s most powerful women. Little did we know, in her teenage years, Xin worked as a sweatshop girl assembling machinery parts for years in a factory in Hong Kong. When asked about whether she had a dream at the time during CBS’s interview, Xin responded quickly with a baffled look on her face “No, I wanted to just escape. I knew this wasn’t the life I wanted”. When she had saved up enough money, Xin purchased a one-way ticket to England and left her family to start a new life. After years of self-discipline and hard work in England, Xin managed to receive a masters degree in Economics from Cambridge University. After graduation, Xin moved to the states and worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs on Wall Street.

But the life of an investment banker was short lived for Xin as she changed her mind when she came back to China in the late 90’s. During one visit to a construction site managed by her soon-to-be husband, she was absolutely blown away by its scale and magnitude, “I had never seen a hole so big in the ground in my life!”. Xin soon turned her absolute fascination with the world of real estate into her passion and career focus, and she made it big. SOHO China now has built more buildings in Beijing than any Chinese emperor in history and has become synonymous with the new face of Beijing.

Very often, making monumental achievements does not necessarily require having big and ambitious dreams; rather it is driven by having a purpose in life, such as the desire for change in Xin’s case. Furthermore, it means having the courage to leave behind an old chapter in life to pursue something new, something you have always wanted, even if you will be in it alone. But most importantly, it takes years of hard work and determination to pursue something that truly intrigues and fascinates you in its nature and not just monetary worth. As cliché as it may sound, everything is easier said than done.


Jane Li

University of California, Berkeley


Link to Zhang Xin’s Interview:

Secrets of No. 5


There once was an orphan girl who lived in Aubazine, a convent abbey in southwestern France. She spent her days with her two sisters, reading novels about romance of ladies and gentlemen in high society. The girls of the abbey were to become nuns when they came of age at 18, but this girl longed to live in Paris. Unknown to her at that time, she would create an iconic perfume that would achieve worldwide recognition. Her name is Gabrielle Chanel.

Upon moving to Paris, Gabrielle’s wish was to become a famous showgirl actress. She acquired the name Coco through the two songs that came to be her signature numbers, “Qui qu’a vu Coco” and “Ko Ko Ri Ko”. However she was not particularly talented in her singing so instead, she became a mistress of Etienne Balsan, a rich officer. At the apex of the Etienne’s mistress hierarchy was a courtesan by the name of Emilienne. Coco admired Emilienne, who “never smelled like a courtesan”. There was a clear distinction between the scents of call girls and high class ladies. The former used aromas such as jasmine and musk, which were strongly sensual, while the latter preferred clean and gentle scents such as roses.

Coco knew she could never survive as a mere mistress and requested that Etienne allow her to open a hat shop, which was almost an instant success. Though he wouldn’t finance the expansion of her store, Etienne’s friend, Arthur “Boy” Capel, was willing. With the expansion of her store, Coco was making a name for herself in high society. By the time Boy had died in a tragic accident, Coco had experienced enough success to live comfortably. But Coco was ambitious. She envisioned creating a signature perfume to blur the lines of call girls and proper ladies – something clean but also sensual. Since she had no experience with creating perfume, she turned to books for understanding of the way scents are created and hired Ernest Beaux to bring her vision to life.

He placed 10 vials in front of her based on her instruction. As she smelled each one in turn, she pulled the fifth one aside. That was the one she wanted! She showed it off with her new collection and it became an instant success. Today, Chanel No. 5 is the world’s bestselling perfume and arguably the most coveted product of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Ambition was Coco’s best friend. She once said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” If she decided to follow the norm, Chanel No. 5 would never have been created and she would have lived and died as a peasant girl. No one could’ve foreseen the distance Gabrielle has gone to become Coco. It all started when Gabrielle went to Paris. It all started with a dream.

 Roseanna Chu
Boston College

What’s Holding Women Back?


I recently read an article called “The #1 Thing Holding Women Back in Business.”  I was immediately intrigued by the title and was curious as to what this “#1 thing” might be. I am sure we are all familiar with the whole “women can’t have it all” argument as well as the importance of finding balance in our personal and professional lives. This article, however, took a slightly different approach. Written by Victor Cheng of, a website designed to help people ace management consulting interviews, the article declared that the single most important thing holding women back from achieving their full potential in the business world is their lack of confidence in their abilities. He spends a lot of time discussing the gap between self-perception and ability that women seem to face on a daily basis. He talks about how women fail to take on “stretch” opportunities that challenge their abilities and help them to grow because they are not confident in their ability to perform well in such situations. The fear of failure prevents them from taking such opportunities and as a result holds them back from receiving promotions, especially in comparison to their male counterparts who are much more likely to take on a project or role that they may not necessarily be qualified for.

Cheng feels that women are chronic under-estimators of their abilities, and unfortunately I think I would have to agree with him. I think that the root cause of this underestimation is a lack of confidence, yet I can’t truly say that I know where this lack of confidence stems from. Perhaps it is a result of societal conditioning, whereby women have grown up with few role models in senior positions to look up to throughout their lives, and have thus come to believe over time that males are somehow better suited or more qualified for these positions. How do we reverse this trend as emerging female businesswomen and leaders? How can we instill a sense of confidence in women around the world so that they feel more capable and are more willing to accept challenges and senior positions? I think one solution ties back to the “lean in” movement and ultimately having a strong support system in your life. In order to feel confident, I think you need to have experienced failure, and most importantly how to recover from it and move on. The best way to do so, I believe, is to have an extremely strong support system around you, and I believe that the “lean in” movement can help facilitate such an environment for emerging female businesswomen. We need to work together to let one another know that it is OK to try something and not succeed right away. In this sense I think in a way failure helps to breed confidence.  What do you think? Check out the article below and let me know your thoughts!


Hailey Vasyliw

University of Toronto


Further Reading: An Inspiring Story

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” – Pamela Vaull Starr

In today’s society, women have a limited presence in the tech industry, making up less than 10% of the venture capitalist pool. In spite of being outnumbered, however, there are tech-savvy female entrepreneurs that are contributing great work to the technical industry. An example of such a tech-savvy female entrepreneur is Kellee Khalil, the founder of is an online search engine for weddings that first launched in 2011. At first glance, the New York City based company looks like a Pinterest for weddings. However, there is a great difference – on more than mere ideas are discovered, users can also find items to buy and people to hire. The bridal industry is a multibillion dollar industry; more than $50 billion is spent on weddings annually in the U.S alone. Furthermore, planning a wedding can become very chaotic and stressful, and wedding preparations sometimes turn brides into Bridezillas.  The goal of is to stop this bridal insanity and to instead transform wedding planning into a more relaxing and joyful experience. Similar to Pinterest, users can search for highly specific combinations, but aims to be “the intersection of inspiration and transaction” by encouraging users to purchase the items they find.

The birth of began as a family affair. In 2010, the Khalil’s sister got engaged and named Khalil as her Maid of Honor. Answering to her brand-new responsibilities as a Maid of Honor, Khalil was occupied with the wedding planning all day and night long. During her search for the perfect items for the wedding Khalil got frustrated, as conducting basic web searches was turning out to be a challenging task. There were many sites that the sisters had to search before they could find certain items of interest, and out of these difficulties Khalil found an idea: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could search for ideas and things to buy all in one place?”

In August of 2010, shortly after her 26th birthday and one month after her sister had gotten married, Khalil decided to start up her own venture and took everything she had to invest into her dream of building a platform that connects brides with vendors, retailers and brands. Khalil made the decision to invest $75,000 of her own money into her idea. Furthermore, she found an agency that could provide her assistance with building the prototype, which was completed in June 2011. Ultimately, Khalil was able raise another $500,000 in funding and launched on Valentine’s Day of 2012.

Today, is doing more than well – the company indexes photos for 35 wedding blogs that generate 2.5 million unique visitors per month and traffic alone is up about 75% for the year to 30 million images on the website every month.

Nonetheless, Khalil had to show great determination in the pursuit of her dream to launch Approximately one week from the launch, Khalil was approached by a top wedding site that tried to scare her. During the coffee invitation, the business strategist of the top bridal site made a not-so-subtle threat: “We have $70 million to buy competitors just so we can shut them down.”  However, it did not discourage Khalil and she continued to build her wedding blog empire.


Armina Khezri

Erasmus University


Emirati Women: Dreaming, Believing and Leading

Middle East has always been punching bag for feminists around the world. It is a popular notion that women in the Middle East are subjected to harsh Islamic practices, deprived of basic women’s rights, and have very limited access to pursue their dreams. However, in the midst of all the speculation and debate from the West and the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates stood at the forefront of the fight against injustices against women and paved the way for the rest of the Arab world to follow.

Why does the U.A.E, and it’s most popular city, Dubai stand on a completely different stance on this matter?

There are several reasons but perhaps the most significant one is the leadership and vision of its ruler HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The U.A.E ranks highest amongst the Middle Eastern countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2012 by The World Economic Forum.  Women in the U.A.E have the right to vote, and hold public office as per a decree passed in 2007. It took U.A.E only 35 years to achieve suffrage because it’s founding father, HH  Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan- a pioneer of women’s rights, and it’s current rulers dared to dream big! It was only a matter of time before the daughters of the land followed.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, U.A.E Minister of Foreign Trade is the U.A.E’s first female minister having been appointed after her successful stint as CEO of Tejari, the Middle East’s first business-to-business online service. She holds the first position on the  100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2012’s list and 67th on Forbes Power Women ranking not just for her vital ministerial position but she also sits on the board of directors at the Dubai Chamber for Commerce and Industry, and at the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce. 

Hind Seddiqi is the Vice President of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the largest retailer of Swiss Brand watches in the Middle East. The company, established in 1950, is owned and managed by the Seddiqi family. Hind became the first female member of the family to pursue her dreams of joining the family business; in doing so she became a role-model for many young Emirati women in the society who have similar aspirations.

Another woman who dared to dream big is 24 year old Salma Al Baloushi, who became the first Emirati women to be appointed First Officer and earned her place in The 100 Greatest Women in Aviation, a book that applauds women’s contribution to the aviation industry. She said, “It was such an honor to be awarded with the rank of First Officer. I can only hope my accomplishment encourages many of my Emirati sisters and brothers to push the boundaries and reach their goals.” Indeed her accomplishments sent out a strong message to the Arab women- dare to dream big.

There are several passionate and hardworking women like Sheikha Lubna, Hind Seddiqi and Salma Al Baloushi who are carving a name for themselves in the corporate, political and philanthropic spheres in the U.A.E. I’m sure there are countless women with similar aspirations all around the Middle East and the rest of the world. To them I’d like to say through the words of Madonna, “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” Dare to speak out and acknowledge your dreams and then have the courage to fulfill them!

Krisha Mehta

American University in Dubai

Related links:

The Business of Unpaid Internships: Responsible for Increasing the Gap between Rich and Poor (But not for long)


The stressful process of applying to internships comes upon students during midterm season and adds an extra layer of weight to already frail shoulders. What makes the process even more stressful is the choice of whether to apply to paid or unpaid internships. The idea of an unpaid internship seems like cruel punishment. The idea of “voluntary slavery” comes to mind when an intern is doing their job well, but no monetary benefits are offered except “experience.”  The word “experience” is gold to employees and is why they are able to have hundreds of educated, eager college students put in hours after hours of hard work for no pay.  Educated college students are willing to endure zero salary jobs in order to gain experience that will enable them to get paying jobs in the future. 

For low-income students, however, the opportunity cost of experience is too high to endure. Those who cannot afford to not be paid during a summer are locked out of unpaid internships. Their resumes become perpetually light as a result. Later on, all of the real paying jobs are only given to those who can afford to gain experience for free. This keeps the poorer students from getting the jobs and careers they deserve. The economy is still in shambles, and according to The New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse, the country is, “Confronting the worst job market in decades, many college graduates who expected to land paid jobs are turning to unpaid internships to try to get a foot in an employer’s door” (

Despite the problem of locking out the poorer students from gaining necessary experience, some of the experience that unpaid interns get may not even produce workers who have more knowledge than those who don’t take part in these internships. According to Greenhouse, “though many internships provide valuable experience, some unpaid interns complain that they do menial work and learn little, raising questions about whether these positions violate federal rules governing such programs.” But recent job reports have shown that there is no alternative for those interns: “job growth is weak, and the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was 13.2 percent in April”(Greenhouse). Thus the unpaid internship plague is spreading to all job areas, and “they have recently spread to fashion houses, book and magazine publishers, marketing companies, public relations firms, art galleries, talent agencies — even to some law firms.” The Labor Department says that if employers do not pay their interns, the internships, “must resemble vocational education, the interns must work under close supervision, their work cannot be used as a substitute for regular employees and their work cannot be of immediate benefit to the employer.” Despite these rules, employers still take advantage of other interns with impunity.

As employers continue to take advantage of their workers, the amount of unpaid internships continues to rise. While no one keeps statistics on the amount of unpaid internships, according to an article in USA Today by Paul Davidson, it has been estimated that “there are about 1.5 million internships in the U.S. each year, and nearly half are unpaid” (

 However, there has been a recent development in the unpaid internship scandal that adds a new dimension to this situation.  A Federal District Court judge in New York City ruled this month, that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated Federal and New York minimum wage laws. Specifically, two interns who had worked on the film, Black Swan, sued Fox and stated that they should have been paid based off of their experience and the amount of important work they did for the production. The court ruled in their favor and this sets the precedent that affects businesses not just in New York City, but also around the country. According to the Judge, William H. Pauley III, Fox Searchlight “should have paid two interns on the movie ‘Black Swan’ because they were essentially regular employees. This recent court case sets the groundbreaking precedent that unpaid interns cannot be abused in businesses without consequence. (

Due to lawsuits against employees stating that employees should have been paid for their work, such as the “Black Swan” case, many companies are determined not to run the risk of being sued and are decreasing their use of hiring unpaid interns. According to Al Robinsion, a Washington, D.C. lawyer and former acting administrator of the Labor Department’s wage and hour unit, companies are saying, “We’re not going to run the risk,””(USA Today). As stated above, unpaid internships are only legal if they meet specific criteria. Programs must provide training and benefits to interns. Thus some businesses are modifying programs by rotating inters among several departments according to Brian Dixon a labor lawyer (USA Today).


If internships continue to take advantage of their workers, continue to offer no pay and thus making the opportunity cost of experience too high to endure for some students, the gap between the poorer students and those that can afford to not be paid is made larger. The terrible economy is not just stopping people from getting jobs now, but preventing poorer students from getting jobs in the future.  Thus unpaid internships are an issue because the economy is weak. During and after the recession, there was an increase of unpaid internships due to employer’s tight budgets. However, due to the new and legitimate concern for business to hire unpaid interns with caution, as seen in the recent Black Swan case, it seems that the use of unpaid interns starting this year will be decreasing. There is hope to decrease this unfair gap between the rich and the poor and to decrease the abuse unpaid students face. Ironically, the future for young interns looks brighter and happier, thanks to the dark horror movie, Black Swan.


Sarah Weber

Brandeis University

OgilvyOne China


I was introduced to as an intern in OgilvyOne China this summer, which is an exceptionally useful site to understand current marketing industry. For people who only know about Shanghai and Beijing, this specific article reviews one of the most important market opportunities in the world (though controversially) – China’s second to fourth tier cities with 200 million households consumers. It is interesting how Ogilvy&Mather dives into the Eastern World as an American advertising agency in the first place, has developed so many insights about the consumer markets in China, from their western perspectives – and I have to say everything described in this article is authentic and objective. Compared with consulting groups’ analysis (eg. Monitor), this article focuses more on specific consuming services and products, thus it is being more down to the ground and help to explain the situation in those cities better, with conclusion of practical strategies and implications.

As the world is becoming more globalized, learn about China’s and how other developing countries’ catch up those developed countries should be a must for an ambitious businesswoman, and every developing country have their own way to step forward. For those who are curious about China, and want to find more about the career track to work in China, read this to see if it scars you or excites you.

Yijia (Sophie) Wang

Tufts University

Link to article:

Defining Ourselves #inspirationfromhillary


Hillary Clinton joined Twitter last week and made waves with her bio: “Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…”

Most sources reporting on the story speculate about Hillary’s “TBD…”. Perhaps a subtle nod at Clinton 2016? Not to mention Warren Buffet’s tweet @hillaryclinton welcoming her to Twitter and ending with “#45”. Coincidentally, Hillary would be the 45th president of the US should she win in 2016.


Though perhaps even more interesting is the way in which Hillary defines herself. She begins with “Wife, mom,” then buries “US Senator, SecState” in the middle, and ends with “TBD” (not to mention the humorously true “hair icon” and “pantsuit aficionado”).

Critics, however, like the Washington Post, think Hillary should “start her bio with anything but ‘wife, mom,’” because “to have U.S. Senator and Secretary of State at Nos. 7 and 8 pretty much gives the shaft to the whole notion of ‘leaning in.’” But doesn’t it speak volumes to Hillary’s character that making family her first priority did not diminish the power of her lean-in?

Hillary has excelled career-wise and, like the bio says, cracked glass ceilings in ways women haven’t ever before, all as a family-woman. We should be celebrating this as the highest form of leaning in.

Further, we should draw the inspiration to define ourselves in limited space as an exercise in understanding what really matters in our lives. 140 characters leave little room for accomplishments like “middle school Spelling Bee champ” and “Harvard Model UN Best Delegate.” As a result, we must reconcile our resumes with our diaries to describe ourselves the way we genuinely want to be known.

If we really want to lean into the business world, let’s begin by leaning into ourselves (and, of course, all end with “TBD”).

Nicole Bleuel

Columbia University

The Female Bias: Why We Like Howard Better Than Heidi

Steph Blogpost

This past week, as I read through The New York Times, I found several headlines declaring Yahoo had bought Tumblr for the immense sum of $1.1 billion. This wouldn’t have been the first time Yahoo has been featured in a major publication within the past few months. Its new CEO, Marissa Mayer, has been a topic of considerable discussion in the business world since her appointment while six-months pregnant. To feminists, this was the high-profile publicity they applauded: a successful businesswoman demonstrating it was possible to take on a major billion-dollar corporation while starting a family. Moreover, it signaled that women could be more forthcoming to their bosses and employees about their pregnancy instead of fearing the implications it might have on their employment status and treatment by colleagues.

However, in February 2013, when Mayer made the decision to ban at-home-work within the company, it created major controversy and public outcry. A memo sent to Yahoo employees explained that face-to-face interaction fostered greater collaboration, an approach to business Mayer learned through her experience at Google. While some studies show that at-home-work leads to greater productivity but less innovation, critics argue that the policy change undermines the ability of employees, especially those caring for young children, to successfully balance their career and personal lives. Ruth Rosen, a professor emerita of Women’s History at the University of California, commented that Mayer “has broken the glass ceiling, but seems unwilling for other women to lead a balanced life in which they care for their families and still concentrate on developing their skills and career.”

A response to Rosen’s assertion can be found in the Heidi and Howard study, described in Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Participants in the study were asked to review two cases, half analyzing Heidi and the other half commenting on Howard. Both groups thought Heidi and Howard were equally competent, but felt Heidi was less trustworthy and only out for herself while Howard seemed like a great guy they’d want to hangout with. It turns out the Heidi and Howard case studies were exactly the same – the only difference was the name change from Heidi to Howard. As Sandberg writes, “If a woman is competent, she does not seem nice enough. If a woman seems really nice, she’s considered more nice than competent. Since people want to hire and promote those who are both competent and nice, this creates a huge stumbling block for women.” Based on this knowledge, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we tend to be more critical of women’s business decisions. In the case of Yahoo, if a male CEO issued the at-home policy ban, it may not have garnered the same attention as when Mayer issued the policy. But because a woman, let alone one who had just been seen as the hallmark for the feminist movement, was responsible for the new policy, the business world and public cried foul. If we fail to recognize these biases, especially if women continue to criticize other women, paving the way for females in the business community will continue to be a challenge.


Stephanie Ostroff

Washington University in St. Louis