From China to Washington to MIT

Charlotte Wang, SDM ‘10

Software engineer chooses SDM masters in engineering and management

By David Rosenbaum
May 25, 2010

While studying English in Dalian, China, Chunguang (which means “spring sunshine”) realized her name was unpronounceable in English. Her teacher encouraged her to choose another, which is how Chunguang Wang, who loved Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, became Charlotte Wang, System Design and Management (SDM) class of 2010.

Becoming Charlotte was only the beginning of Wang’s long trek from Dalian, a port city in northeast China, to the start of a career that would take her first to America’s heartland–as a student at Dordt College, in Sioux Center, Iowa–then to its West Coast – as a software engineer and project manager in state government in Olympia, Washington – and then to its East Coast, where she is now a student in MIT’s System Design and Management program.

This summer Wang will head to Shanghai to work at World Expo 2010 in international relations and management for innovative technology. In July she will continue her journey when she weds architect Zhiyong Wang in Manzhouli, inner Mongolia where his parents reside. She will then go to a wedding reception in Dalian hosted by her family, a honeymoon in Greece, and another reception in Olympia for all the friends she’s made over the past decade at work. After that, she’ll return to World Expo 2010 while her husband heads to MIT to matriculate in SDM this fall.

Wang’s life has been characterized by change and adventures not limited to travel. An accomplished bass player, she has performed with the Seattle Chamber Orchestra and other groups. Recruited by Washington State after graduating from Dordt, Wang helped implement a $70 million ERP system to create a new HR management system. She also helped bring lean processes to state-controlled liquor stores, which increased revenues by 300 percent.

It was in that role–working with legislators; organizing teams; interacting with business people–that Wang began to enjoy management. “I could no longer see myself spending my life sitting in front of a screen,” she says.

“Originally, I thought I should look at an MBA,” Wang says, “but I didn’t want to leave technology.” SDM, she thought she would allow “more flexibility” in customizing her course of studies to include technology and management. She also felt that because SDM students average over 9 years of real-world experience, she would be studying and working with seasoned peers, not undergrads who had gone right into graduate school.

What really surprised Wang were the professors, such as Ed Crawley, who works with NASA and Michael Cusumano, whose expertise is in strategy, product development, and entrepreneurship in the computer software industry. “These are accomplished people who listen to you and treat you as a peer,” she says.

Someday Wang hopes to start her own business. For now, however, she’s concentrating on her SDM studies, her summer working at World Expo 2010, and of course her wedding activities.

Charlotte Wang, SDM 10
©Kathy Tarantola Photography