Five Under Five: Yuhong "Ellee" Chen ’18 (WHIT/iSchool)
Our Five Under Five column features a Q&A with a Whitman School graduate of the last five years. In this issue, meet Yuhong "Ellee" Chen ’18 (WHIT/iSchool), a native of Guangzhou, China, who now resides in New York City. At Syracuse University, Chen earned a dual degree in marketing management from Whitman and information technology from the iSchool. Today, she works as a user experience (UX) interaction designer at Synchrony. In this role, she designs and optimizes the digital experience for cardholders servicing their credit accounts online. Before joining the UX team, Chen participated in Synchrony’s Business Leadership Program, a two-year rotational program that allowed her to develop transferable skills in various IT disciplines, including solutions architecture, project management and Java development, which helped hone her UX design skills.
What factored into your decision to pursue a dual major from Whitman and the iSchool?
I initially applied to Whitman with the intention of majoring in marketing. I was not familiar with the Whitman/iSchool dual program until I attended a new-student orientation at Lubin House in New York City. The presentation sparked my interest and helped me realize the importance of technology in business. Moreover, I knew technology was a high-growth area and saw the increasing demand for tech talent. Therefore, I decided to pursue the dual major to better differentiate myself from other traditional business students and to be better positioned for the future.
Are there classes or experiences from Syracuse University that you especially draw from in your career?
As a UX designer, I often need to present my work and research findings to project stakeholders. I was never great at presenting and used to get very nervous standing in front of an audience, but professor Bruce Kingma's Information Reporting and Presentation class taught me how to overcome that and be more persuasive. Great presentation skills are never acquired overnight but can be improved with practice over time.
Where would you like to be professionally in five years?
I hope to broaden my skill set and knowledge in user experience design and research by going back to school and pursuing a master's degree in human-computer interaction. It is important never to stop learning and growing, especially in today’s world, where tech companies are innovating at unimaginable speeds.
Do you have any advice for incoming first-year students? Or seniors?
I encourage students to take on any opportunity that could give them practical work experience. The only way to find out whether you will like working in a particular role or field is by doing it. It is OK to experiment because it is ultimately your career path. One of the reasons I joined the rotational program at Synchrony was so I could try different roles within the technology field and determine where my skills and interests align best. It is completely OK not to know what you want to do, whether you are a freshman or senior, but you must be open to exploring different paths.
Is there an experience from your time at Whitman that was transformative or particularly impactful?
I loved being part of the IMPRESS program. Believe it or not, it was one of the primary reasons I chose Syracuse and Whitman. I took full advantage of the program from day one and attended as many events as I could, knowing they would help develop my professional skills and provide additional insights into the business world beyond textbooks. Eventually, I had the honor to lead Harrison House as the lead peer mentor, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I had at Syracuse.