Kenny's Blog

19 Jan 2015

Why Do I Choose Leadership?

Here are the leadership positions that I’ve either taken before or am currently in

  • President/Chair - IEEE Student Branch at the University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • VP of Information Technology Engineer’s Council at the University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Board Member - Electrical Engineering Student Advisory Board
  • Software Lead - Smart Campus Energy Laboratory
  • Section Leader- PCHS Marching Band

I tend to gravitate towards these positions; I look up torwards those who were in those positions before me and I think to myself: that’s where I want to be. Regardless of where I’ve been, I’ve always wanted just a little more - to do something extra. When I’m involved with something, it becomes a part of me - I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’ve never fully considered why I’m so gravitated towards leadership, but I’ve been thinking about it a little more recently. After a tough semester in Spring 2014, I found myself in a bit of a rut and have been steadily climbing out of it since. Spring 2014 was my first active term as the President of the IEEE Student Branch at UH Manoa. While it was an extraordinary learning experience, it left me drained and a little burned out.

So what now, and why?

So where am I now? I’m still the Chair of the IEEE Student Branch! Since I only served a partial term the first time around, I felt it was my duty to finish up my work with the student branch before I graduated and stepped down.

But this begs the - why? I’ve already mentioned that my first term left me a drained and burned out, so why would I try to endure another term? Why would I continue to subject myself to something that was detrimental to my mental well-being?

I still ask myself that question, and every time I ponder that question again, I come to a slightly different reason. I suspect that there are many different why I do what I do, but there are a few main ones. I enjoy enabling people and giving them the opportunity to do things, gaining experience and the chance to build something.

The chance to enable others to do and create.

I didn’t grow up in a terribly bad environment; I had loving parents, a great brother and a rounded friend group. But we never quite enough money, and things weren’t quite stable enough. My parents were first generation immigrants from Vietnam and they didn’t know many of the cultural norms that I had to learn from others around me. For the most part, I had to figure out the difficult parts of childhood and adolescence myself.

Again, I’m not unhappy with the way things turned out - my upbringing experience is a integral part of who I am. I’ve always craved the opportunity that many times I did not have before. And this is one of the reasons that I enjoy leadership - I have the opportunity to enable people to do things, to create, plan, organize, collaborate and innovate.

To give others the opportunity and the framework to do so gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I’m helping in my own way.

An opportunity to gain experience and improve myself.

To a certain extent, enabling others to do also allows me the benefit of improving myself and gaining experience. I crave the opportunity to improve myself, learn skills and broaden my experience. My friend calls it “the hunger”, referencing the internal ambition that helps to drive him.

And calling it a hunger is accurate enough. Those who knew me in high school would definitely recognize me, but they would also say I’ve changed as well. I’m not longer the shy guy I once was. My core values are the same, but I’ve developed a voice, gained experience and hold myself higher.

Leadership for me is an opportunity to continually improve myself and to move forward as a person with the characteristics that I value.

A chance to build something.

There is a reason I chose to stick with Computer Engineering even though I struggle constantly - I like to build things. But I’ve found out that this isn’t limited to just software or hardware. It also counts when you can build a community.

I’ve never given up the big dreams that I had as a kid. Sometimes others around me may question the scale of the goals and visions I have for the Student Branch, but these dreams are what drives me in my leadership. I see things for what they are as well as what they could be. Aim high because you never know what you’ll reach in the end.

The chance to build a very strong student community is one of the core motivators that I currently have for the IEEE Student Branch. A strong community can accomplish amazing things. Look at silicon valley, for example - the community of innovators and inventors continues drive technological development for the area.

My hope is that the student branch will become a self-sustaining and student run entity that continues to benefit many of our student members for years to come. I want the same opportunity that I was given by others who have graduated already, others who lent me their valuable time and resources to help me out. I see the environment at the UH Manoa as something that could be truly extraordinary, and I want that dream to come into fruition with the Student Branch.

Where to now?

My perspectives as a person and a leader are so different than what they were before. Who knows where things will lead me to in the future? All I suspect is that if I keep developing myself, help others and follow my passion I won’t be disappointed in the end.