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People of Stanford Research Park: I Lin Chen

by SRP on October 10, 2023
Get to Know I Lin Chen: Pushing Herself Out of Her Comfort Zone—and Into New Passions and Achievements

Programs Manager, Stanford University

When I Lin Chen was in fourth grade, she found herself suddenly in a new country, in a new school, and forced to learn in a language she did not know. With no choice but to adapt to her new life in California, I Lin learned English as she simultaneously learned whatever was taught in class that day. She managed to overcome a massive language hurdle and excel in school.

I Lin’s path to Stanford was one of equal tenacity. After earning her degree in radio, TV, and film from San Jose State University, she worked in the sales and marketing department for a prominent Asian TV station in San Francisco. After fourteen years, she hungered for a new challenge. With the dearth of media companies in the Bay Area, her job search became a challenge in and of itself. But she persisted. She expanded the roles she would consider, as well as the industries. She would stretch, she would learn, she would do what she needed to do.

Soon enough, she learned of a six-month event planning position at Stanford. As part of her television job, I Lin was often involved in planning large-scale events—such as the network’s annual Lunar New Year celebration—which was work she always enjoyed. When it came down to the offer, the Stanford hiring manager asked I Lin if she was certain she wanted to give up a stable career for a temp job. And she absolutely did—she was trading a job where she felt she’d reached the height of what she could offer for the welcome opportunity to push herself, gain new skills, and be of value in new and exciting ways.

I Lin also saw the temp job as a way to get her foot in the Stanford door. And she was right. As her temp job came to a close, she applied for her role at Stanford Research Park. Fast forward nearly five years, and I Lin is integral to Stanford Research Park’s robust programs and community events. In particular, I Lin plans, promotes, and manages ongoing events, like Lunch and Learns. She’s also a fixture at them. Perhaps you’ve seen her participating in the Stanford Research Park Toastmasters—her very own brain child—where she forced herself to confront a fear or public speaking.

Pushing herself outside of her comfort zone is a recurring theme in I Lin’s life. When she was in her twenties, she was in search of a hobby, and one that might help her overcome her shyness. So she signed up for ballroom dancing lessons. This hobby soon turned into a passion—and one with perhaps a bit of fate sprinkled in. It was in a class where she reunited with an elementary school classmate who would become her husband, with whom she now shares three children.

If you ever see I Lin at an event, be sure to say hello. It was always her hope that Stanford Research Park events and programs would be of networking and educational value to all who attend. What she didn’t expect, but has been overjoyed to witness, is how many people—herself included—have developed new friendships at The Hub.

We’re excited for you to get to know I Lin Chen, yet another person who makes Stanford Research Park a unique and special place.

I Lin Chen and her husband having their first dance at their wedding. Guests surely enjoyed watching this pair—both trained ballroom dancers—move gracefully around the dance floor.
What is a risk you took that paid off?

My job at the TV station was stable and secure. But after fourteen years, I wanted more growth. Given how small the media industry is in the Bay Area, I realized I might have to take a more entry-level job in a new industry, something I was willing to do to meet my goals.

I would eventually interview for a marketing role at Stanford. During the interview, I was asked if I knew how to code—a question I was not expecting. I expressed to the interviewer that I was willing to learn. I took it upon myself to learn the basics of HTML. To my surprise, I received a call back for a second interview. I shared with the interviewer that I’d started teaching myself to code, which impressed her. Although I wasn’t offered that job due to timing and other factors, the experience provided valuable insights into the Stanford interview process, which would serve me well on my way to my current role at SRP.

These days, with three kids I’m constantly shuttling around, I don’t have time for ballroom dancing. It’s a major commitment. But I really do hope to compete again someday. For now, though, I get the vicarious joy of watching my boys in martial arts and my daughter in her dance class.

I Lin Chen, Programs Manager, Stanford University

What was your first paying job?

My mom used to own a restaurant in San Jose. When I was about ten or eleven, I would help out now and then. I’d refill sodas, bus the tables, pour water for customers. I wasn’t paid exactly, except in free food!

My first real paying job was at Togo’s sandwich shop, back when I was a teenager. We would compete to see who could make sandwiches the fastest. My best time was just under a minute. In fact, there were regional and national sandwich-making competitions! My manager could make sandwiches really fast, and Togo’s wanted to send him to a competition. So we’d constantly be competing with him to help him improve.

What do you consider your hometown?

I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. My family moved to Cupertino when I was eight years old, and I’ve been here ever since. We still have family in Taiwan. After several years of not visiting them during the pandemic, we’ll finally be going later this year, over Thanksgiving. The food there is so good, and I can’t wait to enjoy it.

What is your favorite day-off activity?

Lounging around and watching soap operas! I love random Chinese soap operas. When each of my kids was a newborn and I was up with them in the middle of the night, I used to binge these soap operas. Now it’s not so easy to find the time. But when I can, I put on my headphones and watch them in bed.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I used to do competitive ballroom dancing. When I was at the television station, my days started really early, around 6am, and would end by about 2pm. I had all this downtime, so I decided to use it to learn something new. After a year of dancing as a hobby, I ventured into the competitive ballroom dancing scene. I would go on to join the Stanford Ballroom Dance Team. I represented Stanford in collegiate competitions and participated in local and national events. Eventually, I accepted the roles of a team mentor and dance teacher for the Stanford Ballroom Dance Team.

These days, with three kids I’m constantly shuttling around, I don’t have time for ballroom dancing. It’s a major commitment. When I was competing, we’d practice five to seven days a week. But I really do hope to compete again someday. For now, though, I get the vicarious joy of watching my boys in martial arts and my daughter in her dance class.


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