October 24, 2016
Student Profile: Michelle Yung (MSSM '17)
By Chris Zeise
A couple years ago, Michelle Yung was thinking about her career trajectory and was trying to decide what her next step should be. Although she had years of experience working in a tech startup, she did not have an academic background in a technical field. She thought about pursuing a computer science degree and investigated MBA options, but neither was quite what she was looking for. Then, she heard about the Master of Science in Software Management part-time program and attended an information session on campus. According to Yung, "I was intrigued by the integrated program, which combined technology and business. It was important to me to continue working while continuing my education, so it was great to learn that the program could be completed part time by working professionals. I decided to apply and was delighted when I learned I had been admitted in fall 2015."
Enrollment in the program provided Yung with more confidence. Yung says, "In Catherine Fang’s Cloud Computing course, I was able to improve my knowledge of the technical language necessary to best contribute in software companies. I became very interested program management after taking the Metrics for Software Managers course taught by Sheryl Root.” Yung decided to reach out to Brian Drummond, a prominent former CMU associate professor working at LinkedIn, for a chance to meet a current program manager and learn about the role. Yung adds, “Brian graciously agreed to meet with me and offered insight into his experience at the company and how the program manager role was structured. During this meeting, to my great surprise, Drummond inquired about my employment interests!"
Work/Life Balance Requires Support
Yung was concerned about taking on a new role while still completing her master’s degree. "I explained to Brian that it was very important for me to complete the program. He has been very supportive and knows, first hand, the benefit of a CMU education." Yung adds, "The flexibility of the SM program has been invaluable, and in many ways it parallels real life work experience. I was not expecting to start a new job during my studies. Now, in addition to a new job and school, I find the need to rely on the support of my teammates. The team synergy and honesty has been extremely useful to having successful meetings. Everyone is busy, so we’ve learned that being honest and efficient with our time, while still remaining flexible, leads to more successful meetings and thus, a better outcome for our team and project."
Gaining Perspective to Be An Effective Leader
Yung has only been with LinkedIn since mid September, however, her coursework in the Software Management program is already proving its value. Yung explains, “Working as a technical program manager, I find myself collaborating with both engineering managers and product managers to help drive a new product to market. Using the applied learning structure from the Software Management program helps me to approach the product with a holistic vision. I am responsible for coordinating between various teams and keeping meetings effective.” Yung continues, “At LinkedIn, the environment welcomes cross-functional teams, and there is harmony between solid architecture and productive engineering in projects. They understand that there has to be an investment in all aspects of a product’s development before you can make it a success.”
At her previous position, Yung worked with teams in Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States. She explains, “Being able to understand the differing regulations and restrictions in these countries and how they will affect the U.S. company overall was crucial to the success of the product.” In her new role as a technical program manager, Yung uses this previous experience to understand the multiple perspectives of various teams involved in the project. Therefore, she believes this will definitely assist in her trajectory to understanding and becoming a better program manager in the future. She offers, “You need to go into meetings with the expectation of absorbing all of the ideas being discussed. Before offering up your own ideas, you should have a deeper understanding of the different perspectives. This will help you become a better leader.”
Yung says one of the most valuable lessons that she has gained from the SM program is how you should approach a high level project. "When you are first assigned a project, it may seem intimidating and difficult to manage all of the varying aspects involved. However, by tackling individual tasks, completing the project is more malleable. This is something I learned fairly quickly in the Software Management program. Approaching a project outcome through smaller, more manageable tasks and deliverables, makes measuring success easier and allows for steady progress throughout the project."
"One of the things that attracted me to the SM program was the dynamic curriculum. The faculty members in the program ensure that the topics in class are the same as the topics trending in the industry. Additionally, they are terrific mentors. It is through their guidance that I was able to gain confidence and approach (Brian) at LinkedIn to discuss the program management role. There are so many opportunities out there if you just keep an open mind and take the initiative to explore them."
Michelle Yung completed her Bachelor of Science in Managerial Economics, with a minor in Communications, at University of California, Davis in 2009. After graduating, Yung worked at a finance company for two years, after which she transitioned to a startup where she initially managed accounting and HR, but her role evolved into advising diverse teams and managing both internal and external company communication. She will graduate from the Integrated Innovation Institute's Master of Science in Software Management part-time program in August 2017.