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Jack (Xiaolang) Yao
SDM ‘15
B.A./B.S. Industrial Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Finance and Operations Management, Chinese Language & Literature
M.S. Operations Research

Jack (Xiaolang) Yao joined the SDM program while he was working at GE in Massachusetts. During his summer internship, Jack discovered the need for having a second monitor in his co-working space. After building a simple prototype and talking with peers, he decided the idea had business potential. 

Through a combination of incubator and Kickstarter funding, Jack and his partners were able to launch Mobile Pixels

What is a key thing you learned at SDM that you routinely use in your work today?

The most important thing I learned as part of the core, especially now that we’re developing our own products, is the importance of having a product roadmap based on platform strategy. My background is in manufacturing, so in order to simplify operations, we wanted to maximize the commonality between products. This also makes developing new products easier if you already have a platform to base it off.

What would you say is the value proposition of a degree in engineering and management?

When I first started my career I was on the floor, I was in the field, I was doing all engineering work. But as you progress through a company, very few people stay in the technical vertical. A lot of people move into management, even with an engineering background. A well-rounded education is the culmination of experience and formal training. Engineering management is perfectly positioned to fill the gap in the industry for people like me moving into management positions. 

What is the importance of systems thinking?

In a startup, you don’t really have the luxury of being siloed in a certain department. There are only three people in our company, so we wear all sorts of hats. Being a system thinker enables you to be mindful of things you’re not working on, knowing that a decision you make here is going to propagate into an effect somewhere else. A lot of things tie in together. If I were a manufacturing or sales guy, I’d be focused on my own metrics and do what it takes to be the best at my job. But when you’re a business owner, none of those single KPIs really matter. It’s the final things that matter, and they can’t be measured in silos.