International Student Perspectives with Ella Wong

Halley Trinh – April 16th, 2018

This is a photo of Ella Wong

Ella Wong graduated from UVA in 2012 with a B.A. in Global Development Studies (GDS) and a minor in Urban and Environment Planning. She has had experiences in PR, technology consulting and the start-up scene. She is currently working at Swire Properties, a real estate company with a new launch in a co-working space for tech startups with accelerator programs.

At UVA, Ella was interested in the topic of global development, and there was not a single subject that she was particularly interested in, so a multidisciplinary major was a perfect fit. In retrospect, Ella expressed her big takeaway from GDS was "that you do not have to be working in a charity or NGO to be engaged in development issues. There is power in the consumers and/or working for a company that cares." From her experiences working as an orientation leader, Ella knew for sure that she wanted a job where she could interact with people and not just sit in front of the computer all day.

Ella described her job experiences as “a series of accidentally stumbling into something, or you can call it, gradually finding my way”.  She explained, "How I found my first job, truthfully, was a bit of a leap of faith. I figured since I didn't want to be an unpaid intern in the US, then I might as well go to China and explore the huge country that is right next to where I grew up." The UVA job platform (Handshake now) helped Ella land her first job as an education consultant in China. She had worked there for a year before moving back to her hometown, Hong Kong, to begin a job in a technology public relations agency. While this position was less exciting than what she expected, it was her exposure to the start-up industry that she really enjoyed. Ella realized her interest in working with passionate tech entrepreneurs and the technology scene that would change people’s lives in the soon future.

She then joined General Assembly, a New York-founded education startup, where she learned a lot about diversity in tech. She was later recommended to join her current company, Swire Properties, with their launch in a co-working space for tech start-ups. Now, Ella is involved in all facets of the business from helping startups make business connections, to selling and operating the physical space. “It is just like running your own business within a big corporation!"

More often than not, your first job is simply to get some sort of work experience on your resume so employers know you are not completely inexperienced.

She empathizes with international students about the difficulties in finding a job in the U.S.  The visa restriction in the U.S. has made a lot of companies not consider an international student’s job application. At times, when she was searching, she also found it difficult to find a company overseas that was willing to conduct remote interviews with a new graduate. Her biggest advice is not to worry too much about your first job. “More often than not, it’s simply to get some sort of work experience on your resume so employers know you are not completely inexperienced. I would say that for those who have a general interest in a topic or industry, try to get a job that might even be peripherally related to getting your foot in the door. For those who have no specific interests in mind (like myself), just go for it! Go far!”