On bringing technology into the financial sector, creating a global perspective, and seizing the dayAlex Chen is an MEng candidate for the Class of 2020 studying Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) with a concentration in FinTech. During his undergraduate career, he had the opportunity to explore a variety of disciplines, eventually settling on combining business and computer science through FinTech. He is passionate about photography, learning new things, and making the world better for all through tackling inefficiencies with technology. We recently had the opportunity to hear from Alex about his life experiences and the intentional mindset he cultivates.
On his educational journey“Both my parents are environmental engineers, but I love things that give me certainty. For example, I love mathematics and physics more than chemistry. So I have decided to study computer engineering. I was an undergraduate student at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China studying automation, a pure engineering field. I quickly discovered that business was exciting to me, and I wanted to go outside my country to see the world. So in my second year, I went to two business-related programs, at Columbia University and National University of Singapore in the winter and summer, respectively. Afterwards, I realized that I appreciated business thinking and insights, but I wanted to focus on using science and analytical thinking to prove business ideas. I found that data analytics was an excellent way to combine technology and business. In my junior year, I went to Taiwan Dong Hwa University to study computer science. The following year, I got an exchange opportunity at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where I studied artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). I also completed two internships in my last year of undergraduate study. In the first one, I was an Analyst Intern, where I helped a traditional group achieve their digital transformation. In the second internship, as a Data Mining Engineer Intern, I utilized data science tools to boost business insights. Our team used machine learning to categorize bank customer data to help the bank make smart decisions and optimize their profit. These two internships taught me that the business world has a need for cutting-edge technology and analysis methods. After practicing my hard skills and soft skills, I found and applied to the Berkeley MEng program, which combines technical and leadership coursework, and found it was the perfect program to fit my goals. I choose IEOR and specifically, FinTech, because I see it as an area which is ripe for application of data, AI, and blockchain. My mission is to use technology to solve real-world business problems by standing at the intersection of technology and business. Finance is a traditional industry which is facing a transformation. So I am searching for the solution for the next era and revolution in finance.
On his Capstone projectThe title of my Capstone project is “Generative Financial Simulation on Stock Limit Order Books.” We combined AI and finance by using GANs (Generative adversarial networks) to generate limit order book data. This Capstone project is fascinating because we are trying to apply cutting-edge technologies in the traditional finance field. And we needed to be creative to make it happen. In the process, we got advice from our professor and a JP Morgan professional, getting perspectives on the project from both academia and industry.
“This Capstone project is fascinating because we are trying to apply cutting-edge technologies in the traditional finance field. And we needed to be creative to make it happen.”
On what he’s passionate aboutI am passionate about traveling around the world and experiencing different cultures. This school year, I was living in UC Berkeley’s International House to meet people from all corners of the world. It is an incredible place where you can get different perspectives from people every day and learn about their cultures. I found that we are so different and yet have many similarities, which is fascinating. In addition, I love photography. By recording the scene in the world, I have to view it differently and be detail-oriented, which lets me fully experience it. When I do photography, I can find something I never noticed before.
On tackling inefficiencies in the global finance industryI want to use technology to solve inefficiencies and real problems, thereby bringing more happiness to humans. Even though technology is booming, we still face lots of issues. Take the coronavirus as an example, which is causing the world many problems. In human history, we have always continued to search for new methods to help us transmit information and value. We used the news to communicate information for many years, and now we use the Internet as a more efficient and effective solution. I wish that people could transfer and exchange not only information, but also value and trust efficiently. We still have lots of inefficiencies in transmitting value and trust. We still use paper certification, which is outdated and inefficient to verify. We are still using documentations in the bank system, which makes processes so slow in terms of the global currency exchange. We are still using the physical ID, which requires tons of resources to detect fraud. Therefore, we can improve our lives by leveraging technology in the existing market as well as the unknown market.
On seizing the day and what identity means to himMy motto is “Carpe diem,” which means “Seize the day” in Latin. And I have three words that I highly value and apply in my life: experiencing, serving, and creating. We can regard a person as performing I/O (input/output) in the world (a metaphor from the computer world). You will get the input from experiencing the world, and you will give the output by creating the things you want and serving people. I also define myself as having different roles. First, I will be a lifelong learner, because I desire to learn new things forever. Second, I identify myself as a life designer because I am never satisfied by taking on only a single job or role at a time. For example, I am currently a writer in SSPAI, a product and technology website in China, to share my perspectives and learn things from the community. Third, I consider myself a globalist so that I can get different points of views on issues from all angles. Lastly, I am trying my best to become an entrepreneur. Fortunately, the MEng program will give me enough resources and insights to achieve this. I have found that these four buckets can categorize anything I have done, and these four roles will provide me with the motivation and ability to do anything I want to do.
“You will get the input from experiencing the world, and you will give the output by creating the things you want and serving people.”Connect with Alex or view his website // Edited by Lauren Leung Fung Features is a series dedicated to showcasing the Fung community from various cohorts and backgrounds and learning more about their lives and their stories. If you’re interested in being featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fung Feature: Alex Chen, MEng ’20 (IEOR/FinTech) was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.