Written by Ange Winkle (HBS ’16), Women’s Student Association Co-President
It’s fair to say there are some pretty exceptional individuals at HBS, and not always, but often, they are too modest to volunteer stories of their world-beating successes. The WSA and The Harbus want to shine a spotlight on the geniuses in the coffee line. On the creative prodigies pretending they’re soaking up sun on Spangler lawn, while they’re really planning to disrupt [insert Goliath industry here]. On those quiet individuals who in their past life led teams through enormous difficulty to incredible success.
So, we introduce to you HBS’s version of Dumbledore’s Pensieve, full of stories of achievement and leadership. In The HBS Pensieve, we ask a current HBS student what his/her superpower is (a question inspired by the ever world-beating Youngme Moon). And, in the process of them answering, we sneakily draw out of them their incredible stories of achievement. Our first visitor to The HBS Pensieve, is Amelia Lin (Section A, Class of 2016).
Amelia’s superpower is Shapeshifting; she says, “I’ve transitioned between fields several times in my life. I enjoy learning new skills and exploring new worlds I don’t know anything about.”
Amelia’s current shape is as an early stage founder, focused on promoting other founders.
She is in the process of building Hollyberry, a platform designed to give women a stronger voice in what startups and products receive visibility. Think Product Hunt with a female community. If you’re curious, sign up at hollyberry.co or get in touch with Amelia to chat.
Amelia’s previous shape was as Optimizely’s Marketing Automation Specialist – a role that did not exist before she convinced them to create it for her. After working in more generalist, early-joiner positions in startups, Amelia had decided that she wanted to specialize in quantitative marketing, but most startups didn’t even have a name for such a role, much less were hiring for it. Undeterred, she identified companies she thought were cool and then went about pitching them on this role that they should create and then hire her for. There were a lot of nos, and Amelia had to get creative to get her foot in the door to get a company to hear her out, but eventually she swindled an introduction to the head of marketing at Optimizely, and convinced them they had to have her. Says Amelia, ‘We basically made the title up’
But before she was swayed by the allure of the Valley – a place she describes as a kooky relative; “it’s got issues, but I still really love it” – Amelia was a physics majoring, science researching, whizz kid. She was so driven that as a 9th grader she talked her way into a nanotechnology research lab at the University of Texas, Dallas. Her first assignment was with a visiting researcher who was rather perturbed at being stuck with an ‘assistant’ who had never even taken high-school chemistry or physics. Initially Amelia was trusted only to wash glassware, but, as a girl of steel at the time, she didn’t give up. She read every paper the researcher shared with her, and then went to Wikipedia on the topics she didn’t understand. Eventually she was entrusted to start using the expensive, delicate equipment, including the scanning tunneling microscope, which imaged the atomic structure of materials, and in Amelia’s words was ‘truly amazing’. Amelia’s talent and passion for science led to her presenting her work at national and international competitions, including the Siemens Competition Regional Finals, Intel Science Talent Search, and Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. In her final year of high-school, Amelia was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for “outstanding potential in science research”, which is particularly impressive given it is an award usually reserved for college undergraduates.
Ask Amelia her biggest success though and it’s not the college-level scholarships she was awarded in high-school, and it’s not that she was the top student out of 55,000 7th graders who took the SAT (as a 7th grader she was then asked to tutor high-schoolers on the SAT). Instead, Amelia is most proud of her success as director of the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter – Amelia’s leadership was so effective she increased the volunteer base by 44% and ended up having to turn away would-be volunteers. For her efforts she was awarded the Neil J. Houston Award for ‘moral leadership and extraordinary volunteer commitment.’
We think Amelia is pretty incredible, and thank her for allowing us to draw her shapeshifting stories into the Pensieve.