Alumnus Keeps an Open Mind to Opportunities

4.24.2024 Alumni News, Article
Photo of people in the article

Shaowei Tu (MSM ‘15), senior partner account manager, Global ISVs at Amazon Web Services, speaks with School of Business Alumni Council member Molly Rutledge (‘04, MSBA ‘20) about his perspective moving from Taiwan to Virginia with his family when he was young, working in London for two years during the height of the pandemic and not losing sight of the opportunities afforded to him in the United States. Of his time at Wake Forest, he reflects that it’s “the people I met along the way” that made the journey worthwhile.

Molly: What led you to pursue the MSM program?

Shaowei: Coming out of Virginia Tech with an undergraduate degree in international relations, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career and was looking for something that would spark ideas. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to relocate somewhere new; since I had never spent much time in North Carolina, I thought that a change of scenery would be good. I interviewed with Wake Forest University and really enjoyed the whole experience. Farrell Hall had opened a year before I applied, and the facility was impressive! My overall experience throughout the application and interview process was smooth, so it was an easy choice to make.

Molly: What path led you to your current position?

Shaowei: After graduating from Wake Forest, I joined Oracle Corporation. At the time, Cloud Computing was the hot new thing (like Generative AI today). I started in a business development role, then transitioned to the technical side; I wanted to get my hands dirty with the solutions that I was selling. So, I went into implementation consulting and really learned about how customers benefited from cloud solutions. I did that for a while before returning to a technical pre-sales role with Oracle. In 2019, there was an opportunity to join Amazon Web Services (AWS), and I am very thankful that I made the decision to take a leap of faith. A lot has changed since then! Once the pandemic happened, everything went virtual, and my team went through an international expansion. I took another leap of faith and relocated to London with my significant other to help grow our EMEA footprint. We ended up calling London home for two years and really got to explore Europe. Interestingly enough, I had never been to London before I moved there – it was an unbelievable adventure and a special chapter of our lives that we will cherish forever. Last year, I moved back to the States to join my current team, where I am working with one of the largest ISV customer/partners at AWS.

Molly: Do you think the degree you earned at Wake Forest has translated to what you’re doing now in your career?
Shaowei: 100% without a doubt! The time I spent at Wake Forest taught me how to learn quickly and adapt to an ever-changing environment. It gave me a good foundation for business and how to understand the way the real world works. At the same time, I loved the component of business casual dress code for class and always being “on”. We really learned what it means to be a working professional – not only in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom, including how to conduct ourselves in a professional setting. The business foundation that I built at Wake Forest definitely translates into the work I do today.

Molly: What was your favorite Wake Forest experience while you were there?

Shaowei: The people that I met along the way made my experience memorable. I still keep in touch with many classmates. Going through the same journey for the first time together really bonds you; I was able to meet some really great friends. Last year I gave a talk to Wake Forest School of Business graduate students and told them what made the program fun were the people and the good memories we shared. We all had a lot of pressure to do well and spent many late nights studying together, but we ended up helping each other succeed.

Molly: Do you have any words of wisdom for current MSM students?
Shaowei: I would say this – take the time to be present. Enjoy getting to know the people that you’re on this journey with.

Molly: Earlier you mentioned that when you started at Oracle, it was all cloud-based, and now people are talking about AI. AI is such a current buzzword; how are you using or selling it?

Shaowei: Every company is talking about Generative AI (GenAI). Everyone is looking to find a real-life problem or example in their organization that they can leverage GenAI to solve. Essentially, AI is assistance, and the assistance can complete a task that, in the past, a person would have done. Generative AI is leveraging learning models to generate text, image or other data that will be helpful to a human making decisions. AI can help remove a certain level of reliance on people doing manual tasks and automate them. How do you sell it? Don’t focus on the solution. Focus on the problem. Don’t come in and ask, “So what’s your AI strategy?” Ask yourself, “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve today?” Then, work backwards to come up with a solution.

Molly: Reflecting on the fact that April is Asian Heritage Month, can you share how your identity influences you at work?

Shaowei: I was born in Taiwan and grew up there until I was 10 years old. Twenty years ago, my family and I moved from Kaohsiung, Taiwan to Richmond, Virginia, where I still call home today. Between my experience growing up in Asia and the U.S., living in London for two years, and having seen different parts of the world, I understand how many opportunities we have in the U.S. I feel very fortunate every day. That level of context and understanding gives me a greater appreciation; because of that, each day I’m hungry to give it my all. I don’t take our environment for granted, and I try not to lose sight of that.

Molly: What is your best career advice?

Shaowei: At the start of your career, it’s okay not knowing what you want to do yet. I know many people in my line of work that have tried different career fields. You might start off thinking you want to work for the government and then end up in the private sector, or vice versa. Try to keep an open mind, think about what you want your day-to-day to look like and what’s your “why”. Also consider potential mentors by looking around and identifying whose shoes you would love to be in 10 or 20 years down the road. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask about their journey, how they got there and what were their biggest lessons learned. It’s a big world, but the industry circles are small. Those people that you meet at your first job, you’ll likely cross paths with later down the line!