Take a quick look at T.J. Wey’s schedule and the first question that comes to mind is “how does she do it?” Top students at ASU are fully engaged, but even by Barrett Honors College standards, T.J. is busy. She graduates this month with a major in computer information systems and a minor in applied psychology, but academics are only part of what she learned at the W. P. Carey School.
T.J. gained leadership experience through her involvement in a number of school organizations, and professional experience through internships. She was involved with the China Honors Study Abroad Program and became director of fundraising for Camp Sparky – a student organization that works with underprivileged fifth graders in the Phoenix metro area. As a sophomore, while she was completing her honors thesis early, she served as the director of information technology for the Asian Business Leaders Association while also taking on additional leadership positions with the Department of Information Systems Club (DISC). And, during her tenure as an undergraduate student, she worked at three separate internships with large, national corporations as well as one with ASU’s IT Department.
For all of this, she was named the Spring 2013 Outstanding Graduating Senior by the Department of Information Systems.
“I can attest to T.J.’s academic performance, leadership and demonstrated service to the W. P. Carey School and the broader community,” says Michael Goul, chair of the Department of Information Systems. “What amazes me most about T. J. is her ability to organize and prioritize her time and activities which allows her to balance academics, leadership development and service. And she performs at an outstanding level in ALL that she does.”
Finding a home in CIS
T.J. grew up in Silicon Valley, surrounded by engineers. At times she thought about careers that involved computers, or math, or something in the sciences, but one by one she crossed them off her list. By process of elimination, she settled on business school. Eventually, however, she found herself drawn to Computer Information Systems, where her former interests, to some extent, intersected with business.
“The summer camp where I crossed biology off of my list, I learned that I meshed well with programmers and other engineers. I didn't need to be as tech savvy as they were or be able to decode their encrypted riddles, I just needed to be able to communicate with them,” she explains. She formed lifelong friendships with those students, and began to dabble in programming.
When it came time for college, the National Merit Scholarship recipient chose Arizona State University -- largely because of the W. P. Carey School, and specifically because of the CIS program.
“What attracted me to ASU was the honors college and how W. P. Carey allows you to start your core business courses right away,” says Wey. “With my dad an engineer and surrounded by many other engineers, I felt that I would do well in something related to engineering, but not necessarily in the engineering school. So, I thought I would give computer information systems a try. And once I started the program, I never found a reason to leave; I’ve been having so much fun.”
A lot of that fun has revolved around DISC.
Wey says that she immersed herself in DISC because membership in the club was helpful when she was adjusting to life at the university: learning about career possibilities from company presentations, going to upperclassman for “great advice,” and getting involved on business competition teams.
“I started getting involved in leadership positions because I wanted to give back to the community,” she says. This past year as DISC president was a learning experience: “We underwent a lot of changes in leadership, but we have had a strong end of the year and have been doing really well with the team that we have put together as a result of all those changes.”
There are many national and regional competitions for information systems students and Wey enjoyed participating in those as well. She was part of a team that recently placed third for the 2012-2013 International AIS Student Competition for IT Risk Identification. She also participated in the Avnet Tech Games, an annual college technology competition that provides students with an opportunity to apply what they learn in school to real-world scenarios.
But, for Wey, her Department of Information Systems has become more than clubs and competition. It has become a home away from home.
“I’m very close to many of the faculty I met through the CIS program and DISC,” she says. “I can walk through the hallways and talk to anyone, and I just really feel at home. They have all been extremely supportive.”
T.J. spent most of her college summers at internships all over the country.
In the summer of 2011, she moved to Milwaukee to be a project management intern in General Electric’s Healthcare Information Technology Leadership Program. She was involved in projects that had direct corporate impact and her experience included presenting and organizing round tables engaging the CTO and CIO of GE Healthcare.
“It was a wonderful experience working with them,” says Wey. “I also worked for KPMG in Santa Clara, California, and now work part-time at Avnet in the GIS Program Management Office.”
As much as Wey enjoys information systems, she also is drawn to community service and inspiring others.
“I believe education is the one thing that drives positive change in the world. The process of teaching someone not only benefits the person you have taught, but also yourself, and people in the future who will go on to share that knowledge,” she says. “It's a pay-it forward model that you can continue to contribute to and from which you can observe real results.”
One of the most rewarding service commitments Wey has participated in was Camp Sparky, an ASU student-run organization created to inspire youth to love learning and have confidence in their future success.
“We visit Title I elementary schools and take over the 5th grade classrooms for a day to conduct day camps with them to make learning fun. We do fun subjects with them and talk to them about college in general, their career goals and really explain to them that college isn’t just for the rich kids,” says Wey. “We have literally gone into classrooms and asked the students, ‘What is college?’ and they would respond, ‘Isn’t that just for the rich kids?’ We explain to them that most of us are on scholarship.
“So we dispel the college myths and talk about getting through college and discuss majors that may not be as well known. I, for example, talked about CIS which most of them didn’t know about.”
Wey began her participation with Camp Sparky her freshman year.
“I discovered that I really liked the people who were volunteering in the program,” she says. “We were all there to help the kids and enjoy giving back. And then I also discovered that I liked the teaching aspect and finding different ways to explain subjects -- and watching kids light up when they realize, ‘oh, that’s how that works.’ It’s really gratifying.”
T. J. is aware that she’s chosen a field that is somewhat notorious for its low numbers of women. In 2011, she was involved in the founding of a new student organization, WIT (Women in Technology), which focuses on the issue of gender balance in the technology field [WIT has since renamed itself Women in STEM].
She says that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” has started the discussion about stagnation in the growth of female leadership. “Sandberg's proposition that having more females in leadership will champion women's issues in the work place is a strong and valid point,” she says.
T.J. herself may emerge as one of those women leaders. “Professionally, I would like to make it to the CIO-level one day,” she says.
To start, she has accepted a position in Arizona as project manager with Avnet. “I also intend to stay involved with the academic community as much as possible,” she says. “I want to continue to give back to the community that has offered me so much.” And, she hopes to write a science fiction novel.
If she tackles her career and her personal goals with the energy and focus that she brought to the W. P. Carey School, we’ll soon be profiling her as one of the new generation of leaders.
“T.J. juggled many tasks efficiently and well, and her efforts resulted in one of the most impressive all-around high performance set of accomplishments I have ever seen for an undergraduate at ASU,” says Goul.