Cold Call with Diane Chang (NE)

Cold calls. Your professors love them. You fear them. Your ed rep crushes them. We think it’s about time that this HBS staple gets the rebranding it deserves. Each week, The Harbus will chat with a randomly-selected member of the student body. This week, C. Patrick Erker chatted with Diane Chang (NE) about Google, Gucci, and the highly-anticipated section flag ceremonies.  

CPE: You have the privilege of getting the cold call for the Harbus this week. Any cold calls in the classroom yet?

Diane: No I have not, I have been lucky enough to escape it.

CPE: Any rough ones for you classmates?

Diane: I think professors really started to see who hadn’t been talking and there was a handful of people who hadn’t said anything in a number of classes, so we had repeat cold call after cold call. So I think that’s been a little startling. But otherwise, people seem to be just taking it on the chin.

CPE: Where are you sitting for the semester?

Diane: If you’re facing the trifecta [new word for CPE], I’m on the right hand side, first row.

CPE: I was in the middle of the front, left seat! Do you like your seat?

Diane: I do; I never had really thought if I did or not, although when you start to talk to people who are in Skydeck, they’re like, it’s nice to meet you because I’ve only seen the back of your head, so then you start to think that there are advantages to new vantage points. It’s fine; people to my left and right are really nice.

CPE: How are you feeling a couple weeks into the whole HBS experience? Is it what you expected?

Diane: I didn’t really expect how long it would feel like I had been here, having been here for literally seven seconds. The funny thing is how quickly you get used to your classmates. Like with your discussion group, everyone has certain habits that you think you already know. [Details of such habits removed for the protection of, well, everyone.] I didn’t anticipate also how full-on it would be from the beginning, and to never have one minute to yourself, one minute of pause. You’re always scrambling or late for something.

CPE: Even when you have nothing to do…

Diane: I know—Oh my gosh, I’m so late for, hanging out! I’m so stressed out about this!

CPE: What did you do before HBS?

Diane: I worked for Google in London. [Extremely long and awkward pause as Diane decides if she wants to reveal more.] Why are you laughing?

CPE: Care to say more? [insert hysterical laughter] What did you like about it?

Diane: I really, really liked London. I moved to London, I’d say, 50% for the city, 50% for the job. And it was really cool to see what Google was like in a non-California bubble context. I liked working in an urban environment for Google and in an international office. I really liked the team that I was working with. I wanted business development experience, and it’s harder to get that in California.  But there was a position opening on the team, I went and did it for six months covering for someone on maternity leave, fell in love with the city and the team, and went back for two and a half years.

CPE: How many friends do you have on Google Plus?

Diane: I have no idea. It’s an embarrassingly small amount.

CPE: Yeah, too bad. I was pretty excited about it… You also worked at Gucci. Compare Gucci to Google for me.

Diane: They were completely opposite experiences. The reason I went from Gucci to Google is that I wanted the complete opposite of New York fashion. The opposite of New York is San Francisco, and the opposite of fashion is tech… kind of, in one plane of existence. I had worked for a smaller fashion designer when I was in college and absolutely loved it because they were small and totally excited about things like mentions in Vogue.

Gucci was a very different experience, just because it’s a very established brand, huge company, creative decisions were done in Italy so you never got to see them in New York. It was a good experience for me to have an understanding of what that aspect of fashion is like, but after awhile, it wasn’t quite right for the skills I wanted to develop. Google is zany, very much a meritocracy, in a “sure, you want to do that, do it!” kind of way, overlaid with this California, we’re a yes culture, anything and everything can get done. Moving from the East Coast, it’s a nice thing to experience.

CPE: Who’s your favorite HBS graduate?

Diane: My old boss, who is not very famous, but is super-awesome. His name is Doug Lucas. I met Doug when I first moved to London, and he was a totally different type of manager that I’d ever experienced, first of all because he’s an incredible deal maker. While he was super laid back, he was never ruffled in a negotiation. He had worked at EMI before, so he had the glam factor.

He was the first person to teach me that you can be a balanced person—you can work really hard and get things done, but you also need to acknowledge your tastes and preferences and not beat yourself up for them because they make you the kind of person you’ll grow into and the kind of business person you want to be.

CPE: Ok, let’s be a little silly. Island, three things, go.

Diane: My iPad, loaded with episodes of the West Wing, sunscreen because I’m absurdly terrified of being too tan, and an appallingly bad selection of music (I have terrible taste in music). I’m trying to think how you could go to an island without Karmin’s “Brokenhearted.” (You’re going to have to Spotify it.)

CPE: Wait, there’s a new music thing that I need to tell you about. Have you heard of Songza.com?

Diane: What does it do? [Slightly extended interview distraction ensues, new music found.]

CPE: So let’s talk politics. Section politics. Do you see yourself in a section leadership position this year?

Diane: Not section president; I’ve heard many a story of flag drama, which I do not have interest in.

CPE: Say more?

Diane: Everyone does the flag thing, great. Then the question comes up on what’s the order of the flags that you arrange in the room. Do you put the US in the middle and what does that say about our place in the world? Or do you do it because it’s an American school, and that is a fact, and we’re the host country, like the Olympics? While I can see a number of worthy and deep debates about it, that’s not where I really want to play.

CPE: Did I see you at the Beach Party last weekend?

Diane: I was there, though I don’t know if I saw you…

CPE: Good times?

Diane: It was a very good time, though there was a lot of commentary that that’s not what people wear to the beach! A girl in my section was saying that she really liked the beach party because everyone got off campus, and when you’re in RC year, everyone is serious about cases and not knowing what the pace is, and then the ECs get back and everyone is laid back.

CPE: You’re in Section E. How about E-Romances?

Diane: No, disappointingly so. In full disclosure, maybe I should be more with it at social events, as opposed to getting into my own dance party zone, and actually look for gossip. So, not yet; budding. Apparently I’m also told that secret section romances are the way to go. So, I guess all will be revealed next on Dawson’s Creek.

CPE: If you could dominate one summer Olympic event, which would that be?

Diane: Clearly women’s gymnastics! They’re so vibrant and jubilant and springy. They’re little spunky characters. I was in London for the Olympics and went to go watch it. It takes an incredible amount of concentration because, on NBC, with the sap factor of Bob Costas, you watch the girl on the balance beam and she seems like the only girl in the entire world, but actually all four events happen at the same time. So you’re on the balance beam while listening to somebody else’s floor music while somebody else is doing the vault. It’s impressive how much they concentrate.

CPE: As you may know, Katie Peek also does these Cold Calls. If you had a question for Katie to answer, what would that be?

Diane: If there was another person in her year who she could trade places with, who would it be?

September 11, 2012
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