Annie Y. Lai
“A multipotentialite who is willed by being and has a profound curiosity for the world.”
Let me explain. The term multipotentialite, made popular by Emilie Wapnick, is one who has many interests and creative pursuits who thrives on developing new aptitudes across multiple disciplines – like a polymath. For those who ascribe to spirit animals, mine is the octopus!
Hometown: I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and grew up in small towns throughout rural Missouri. I am an Atlanta “transplant” and have lived in Atlanta for the last 13 years. Does that still make me a “transplant”?
Family Members: John Lee (dad), Su-Ling Chen (mom), Judy Lai (older sister), and Wade Lai (younger brother)
Fun fact about yourself: My favorite song to play on the alto saxophone is “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. I also enjoy playing in the dirt to plant things and watch them grow. My first participation in a science fair project was when I was in first grade with a project titled “Do Plants Only Grow from Seeds?” Needless to say, my awe and curiosity of nature remains to this day.
Undergraduate School and Degree:
University of Missouri – Columbia:
B.S. biochemistry (2004), chemistry (2006), biology (2006)
Ph.D. pathobiology candidate or ABD (2006 – 2008)
M.A. bioethics (2016)
Georgia Institute of Technology
Data Science and Analytics, Certificate (2019)
Where are you currently working? I have been in the healthcare industry for over 20 years in a range of clinical, administrative, and research capacities in both private practice and academic medical centers. About 7 years ago, I became immersed in the startup innovation happening on campus at Scheller and Tech Square. As I continue to absorb the knowledge gained from the EMBA program, I look to expand my horizons in leveraging data science to innovate in the business of healthcare. I look forward to the possibilities and the journey ahead.
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:
Georgia Institute of Technology
2020 – current Executive MBA Student Leadership Team Emory University:
2014 Professional Development Support Funds, recipient
2012 Health Care Ethics Consortium of Georgia (HCECG) student scholarship
2010 – 2016 School of Arts and Science Enrollment Scholarship
University of Missouri – Columbia
2007 Graduate Professional Council Travel Scholarship
2007 Annual College of Veterinary Medicine Phi Zeta Research Day, Third Place
2006 Graduate Professional Council
2006 Campus Safety Committee
2000 – 2004 Diversity Scholarship
2001 Wurdack Scholarship
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Academic Award
2008 – 2015 Home Owner’s Association, president, secretary, member at large
2008 – 2011 Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, volunteer
2008 – 2010 Emory University, Emergency Department, Helpers Assisting Nurses and
Doctors (HANDS), volunteer
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of being nominated/elected to serve on the Student Leadership Team (SLT) for the Class of 2021. Among the caliber of my cohort mates, I am truly honored to be a servant leader for the class and to represent the diversity of voices and student interests.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
I am most proud of my master’s thesis publication titled “The Moral Permissiveness of Harms Associated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO): Clinical Reasoning of ECMO Candidacy and the Principle of Double Effect”. Although I had been published in peer-reviewed journals prior, this publication was single authorship.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? Do I really have to pick a favorite? Goodness. To be fair, we are in the middle of our academic journey. Thus far, and by a slight margin, I would have to say Professor Matthew Higgins, our Global (Managerial) Economics professor is top pick. I took my first, and what I had thought to be my last, economics class when I was a freshman in college in 2000. Being a science major at the time, I thought good riddance – never again! I was not looking forward to having to take another economics course; it had been 21 years. However, I found a new appreciation for economics with Professor Higgins. He reinvigorated the subject matter and made it interesting, digestible, and entertaining with real-world practical applications. Like all the professors in the EMBA program at Scheller, Professor Higgins is very passionate about what he teaches and how he teaches. All of the thought-leaders at Scheller have cerebrally enriched the experience.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I continue to be impressed by the talent of the students and world-renowned professors at Georgia Tech, inasmuch as the innovative activities on campus that Tech attracts. I am part of the management of technology (MOT) track – a concentration that has made Scheller’s EMBA program distinguishable and compelling.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work?
The most meaningful learning is taking the time to know who one is and how one is. But in doing so, you also know who you are and how you are. I’ve always been tuned in to the notion of self-actualization and that of others. Our Leadership and Organizational Behavior class taught by Professor David Sluss offered formal tools in effective leadership and how it can be actualized through relational and situational awareness. Possessing a sense of self and how others perceive you, or overall emotional intelligence, can be applied at work or at home or simply with any interactions with everyday people to positively influence the work culture and even the culture of your community. It’s a skill that I highly value.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education?My worst struggle, I must admit, is finding the time to cook for myself whereas I am normally a frequent restaurant patron!
In all seriousness, the EMBA program is a wonderful reprieve from the sometimes heart-rending nature of healthcare. This past year, healthcare has really been tested. Our society has been tested and so has the world. When there is so much uncertainty in the realities we live in, I find solace in knowledge – as a way to make things less chaotic.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? For those who are looking to enter an EMBA program, I can offer the advice to maintain discipline and balance. As new and as exciting as it can be, you’ll be confronted with the reality of needing to prioritize school, work, and family and to wisely choose how much time to allocate between social decompression versus being productive. Overall, develop healthy habits. Find what is the best balance for you and your situation and, if time allows, try to give back.
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I am an academic at heart! I enjoy the quest for knowledge. I really never left school, per say. As a life-long learner, learning will always be a personal and professional pursuit.
What was your biggest regret in business school? My regret in business school is not knowing that I could take advantage of taking extra courses (for free!), beyond what is required. I would like to maximize the amount of knowledge I can reasonably absorb before I get kicked out (e.g. graduation).
I will also say that the new virtual norm has challenged us to take a different approach to networking and developing relationships. The experience has deepened our bonds and, when we are on the other end of the tunnel, we are looking forward to the simple things like shaking each other’s’ hands and giving hugs all around.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Rather than picking a classmate, if I may instead, I’d like to commend the Class of 2021 for their commitment to advancing their careers and businesses in the midst of a global pandemic. To matriculate at a time of great uncertainty truly tested our abilities to adapt, to be resilient, and to maintain steadfast positivity throughout despite the circumstances. When I hear about personal work-life balance struggles, it’s admirable how my cohort mates have each risen to the occasion in support of their classmates, friends, family, and community. I am very honored to be among the Class of 2021!
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I gravitate towards people who are not only smarter than me, but who are seasoned leaders in their respective industries. The EMBA program converges world-renown thought leaders with industry leaders that face solving complex business problems with the weight of the people (and sometimes the community) on their shoulders. This convergence and exchange of both theoretical frameworks along with real-world case studies enhance the heuristics and experiential learning as a result.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? This is a tough question for any multipotentialite to answer. It was not an easy question to answer when I was in grade school and still remains something I ponder over a lot. Being polymath-oriented, I thrive in environments where tension exists. I enjoy the juxtaposition between science, medicine, technology, data science, and ethics and yet also the abstraction and creativity that also defines it. I can say for certain the worst professional situation is perpetual boredom. I am currently developing skills in data science and analytics and how it can be leveraged to revolutionize healthcare. So, my professional goal is not defined by a mere job title; rather, it is to exist in a situation in which I feel cerebrally challenged, to be given some latitude for exploration, to have the opportunity to collaborate with multi-interdisciplinary teams, and to offer a meaningful contribution to the value of the company I work for. Hopefully, the situation also allows time for me to give back – either in the capacity as a mentor or as a servant leader to the community or anywhere in between.
What made Annie such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?
“Annie has been engaged with the program and the class from the very beginning and always shows concern, empathy and understanding for other students. She was elected by her class of 96 to represent them in the six-member Student Leadership Team. Annie is always the one to stay on top of agendas, notes, and tasks for SLT and other program issues and is very dependable. Annie brings a strong diverse background in healthcare and is combining that with data science. She is always very curious and eager to learn. She is using her MBA to gain and round out her business knowledge to combine her backgrounds with her overall goal “to help people.”
Director, EMBA Career and Student Engagement
“Annie is a very pleasant, conscientious, student. She is always engaged in class.”
Gary T. and Elizabeth R. Jones Chair in Management, Professor, Regents Professor
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.