MAR 3, 2021

Warrior to Watch: Laura Huang

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Our next Warrior to Watch, Laura Huang, is an award-winning Harvard Business School professor, 
Project EMplify founder, and the author of EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage

Dear #VEERAHwarriors,

Check out our latest installment of our Warrior-to-Watch series, where we shine the spotlight on women who inspire us to chase dreams, hustle hard, and #DoGoodLookIncredible.

If you’re looking for the next book to immerse yourself in, then we recommend EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage. Behind this powerful book is Laura Huang, an educator at Harvard Business School who was named one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under the Age of 40 by Poets & Quants, and awarded 2021 Thinkers 50 Radar. She has previously held positions in investment banking, consulting, and management for prestigious companies, including: Standard Chartered Bank, IBM Global Services, and Johnson & Johnson. Laura has also spent her academic career studying interpersonal relationships and implicit bias within entrepreneurship and the workplace. Not only did she nab the 2016 Kauffman Foundation Fellowship award (among others) with this research, but she was also featured in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. Her speaking and consulting clients include Google, Uber, BlackRock, and Keystone. Last year, she penned EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage, her debut book. Being the force that she is, she also started Project EMplify, a global program that teaches soft skills via books, mentoring and education to underprivileged communities, bridging the gap between what is taught in schools and what is needed in the workplace.

Learning never stops and this is what Laura’s journey has been all about. Get to know this award-winning professor in this insightful interview conducted by VEERAH Founder and Chief Warrior, Stacey Chang.

Laura wearing women's vegan shoes
Laura in vegan high heels

I loved your BOOK'S introduction story ( (READ IT HERE) about your first meeting with Elon Musk. I’m really curious, what GIFT did you brinG him?

Haha, yeah, that was quite an experience. I was taught to never show up at someone’s house empty-handed, so we wanted to make sure we brought a gift. Elon had six sons (at the time; now he has 7), so we brought him a gift that we thought his sons would enjoy—some toys that had been manufactured from space materials. But since it was unwrapped, that’s what led to him thinking it was a product prototype, and that we were entrepreneurs trying to pitch [to] him.

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Laura finishes her look with the ORCHID BLOSSOM BROOCH

Entrepreneurs—the ones who succeed are called trailblazers, innovators, visionaries. But the ones that continue to invent without achieving what society deems to be a success are called a lot of other things. If you had one piece of advice to share with the ones who are still trying to make a difference with their idea or invention, what would it be?

I think these labels—trailblazers, innovators, visionaries— actually prevent us from sometimes seeing the unique ways in which we enrich and provide value, even in small ways. In my book, I talk about how gaining an edge (and trying to make a difference and an impact), is about also knowing that there is no such thing as a visionary, for example. A visionary is just a hacker— someone who learned the rules, and learned how to break the rules in the right way. And yet how often do we revere those who are visionaries and look down upon the negative connotations of hackers?

So gaining an EDGE is about the E, D, G, and E: Enrich, Delight, Guide, and Effort. How equipped you are in each of these components is ultimately how you’ll make an impact, bit-by-bit. That’s the perspective that I’ve been studying for the past decade and the framework that I present in my book. So my advice? Find your unique edge. And when you do that, you’re unstoppable.

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Laura embodies a #VEERAHWarrior in strength and style in HEDY BOOTS

It's BADASS HOW you called out THE AUTHORS on "The MBA Reading List According to the Top Business Schools in the WORLD'' are all WHITE MALEs and THEN responded with a list of your own INCLUDING both female and minority thought leaders in “well-balanced meal MBA reading list”! SO, WHAT'S YOUR ALL-TIME MUST READ?

I’ve loved Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s work for decades. She’s a brilliant scholar and so many of her ideas are the foundation of what others have built their research upon.

Project EMplify founder

Diversity and inclusion have been two of the many topics that inspired us last year to reflect and learn. You have taught at top institutions THAT are shaping tomorrow’s world leaders—what role can they play to positively change the landscape?

Creating dialogue from the inside out, and the outside in; and then, taking action and executing plans from the inside out, and the outside in. What do I mean by this? I’ve heard it said that structural issues need to be solved with structural solutions. Structural solutions are things imposed from the outside in, and I think that it is far too simplistic and naive to believe that that will solve things. When we rely only on the outside in, that’s the equivalent of telling people to just wait… keep waiting for things to get better, even when we know there is a myth of meritocracy. You’d be surprised at how often things are just done in one direction, and mostly only from the outside in. But when we are able to empower ourselves from the inside out as well, that’s how we will truly start to change the landscape.

Author of EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage
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Tell us more about Project EMplify. What would you like to achieve?

This is a global initiative that is about empowerment. It’s about how success involves hard skills and soft skills… and how soft skills are still totally underestimated. They’re actually not soft skills at all, but should be called core skills or even power skills. You can’t really be successful without them.

With Project EMplify, we want to level the playing field by teaching soft skills to underserved high school and college students as well as teachers working in these underprivileged communities. Via books books, mentoring and education, we are bridging the gap between what is taught in schools and what is needed in the workplace. We are trying to give individuals who feel like they’ve been beaten down, over and over in their lives, or just can’t get a break, the tools they need to create advantages for themselves. It’s about leveling the playing field through embracing who you are, and feeling empowered to go after your definition of success.

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Laura Huang of Project EMplify

Warrior Lightning Round:

Texts or Calls?
Depends on who it is! I actually embrace both.

Cake or Cookie?
Cake

Coffee or Tea?
Tea

What do you read first thing in the morning?
Ugh… my emails. I wish I had a different answer.

What book are you reading strictly for
pleasure right now?
The Signature of All Things

Celebrity crush?
Chris Evans, Richard On, and Oprah

 

Any new hobbies picked up during this new normal?
Shoulder rehab. Does that count as a hobby?

We heard you are a runner. Do you run with or without music?
Without—it’s my time to think.

Most useful app?
Google Translate

Styling tips for feeling comfortable and confident?
Keep it simple and classic, and then add a bit of your own flair.

Learn more about Laura’s work at laurahuang.net and projectemplify.org.
Follow her journey as an educator and new author at @laurahuangla and @projectemplify.

Photography: Alexander Chen
Assistant: Joanne FanOlivia Chen

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