How a poor refugee from Vietnam became CTO of the billion-dollar startup Uber

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Next Shark (by Ryan General):

Today, Thuan Pham is the successful Chief Technology Officer at Uber, the most valuable ride-sharing startup in the world worth over $62 billion, but as a child, Pham struggled to survive as a poor refugee boy escaping a war-ravaged Vietnam.

Pham was among the tens of thousands of refugees who fled from the Vietnam War in 1979.  The 10-year-old Pham, his mom and his siblings were crammed with hundreds of other Vietnamese refugees on a 60-meter boat on their way to an uncertain future.

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The refugees endured a perilous journey with their boat being raided by pirates twice.

“We would not panic. In fact we would be calm and surrender ourselves,”  Pham told Tech In Asia. “That’s the way a startup journey is. Even if you lose all one day, you can build all over again if you retain your calm.”

Their boat landed on the shores of Malaysia but they were immediately rejected as refugees. Instead of returning to their country, his mother took a chance in taking her children on another boat to Indonesia, where the family stayed for 10 months.

Living on the island of Letung, young Pham would swim to the nearby town to buy candies which his mother sold in the refugee camp to earn money.

“We used to make 10 cents of profit a day, and that would be a luxury,” he recalled. “We could buy fresh fish.”

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Pham’s life began to change after his mother’s asylum application in the U.S. was approved. They relocated to Maryland, where his mother worked as a ledger keeper at a gas station during the day, and as a grocery packer at a supermarket at night.

While studying in American schools, Pham struggled initially as he didn’t know English and had to start from scratch. He also wore donated clothes and shoes and found work at a local car wash station.

“I remember wearing girl socks for almost two years in oblivion, until someone pointed,” Pham told Tech in Asia.

A persistent and hardworking student, Pham graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s in computer science in 1991.

“I strongly encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to educate themselves, even if they don’t wish to graduate,” he said. “College education opens doors for you.”

After MIT, he found work at HP Labs, Silicon Graphics, DoubleClick and VMWare. When Pham joined Uber in 2013, it was already present in 60 cities with 200 employees. Currently, the company has an estimated net worth of $62.5 billion, has a presence in almost 400 cities and employs thousands of employees around the world.

As the Uber CTO, he has helped improve the Uber app which was prone to crashes in its earlier versions.  To ensure that the app is responsive and crash-proof, Pham has developed innovations that enable its architecture to keep running even if something goes wrong.

“Now we don’t crash, because we have done that in our early journey,” he said. “Entrepreneurs should fail fast in the early days.”

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Growing up with hardship and the constant threat of death back in Saigon, which today is Ho Chi Minh City, Pham was forced to overcome fear at an early age, but that trait still stick with him today.

“It taught me that life is ephemeral,” he said. “I advise young entrepreneurs to treat their startups as a learning experience. Even if it all fails you can rebuild it again. You’re in a free world.”

20 celebrities you didn’t know were Asian

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Audrey Magazine (Ethel Navales):

Not all Asians look the same.  I repeat, not all Asians look the same. It seems no matter how many times we say it, people simply assume that all Asians share the same physical features. Some believe we all have the same body structure and others even think we all have the same kind of hair. Of course, we know this is absurd. We know that there are plenty of ethnicities which categorize under the umbrella term “Asian” and we know there are plenty of Asians who are of mixed race. So why do people think all Asians look the alike? Well it may have a thing or two to do with media’s portrayal of Asians. If audiences have only been exposed to a very particular type of Asian, how can they know we’re all different? This lack of exposure may be the very reason many celebs who are bi-racial or multiracial are often overlooked in the Asian community. Even if they don’t necessarily “look it,” all of the following celebrities are Asian.

Check out this list of 20 Asian celebs you probably didn’t know were Asian.

1)  Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical is part Chinese and part Filipino.

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2)  Tiger Woods is part Thai.

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3)  Chad Michael Murray of One Tree Hill  is a quarter Japanese.

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4)  Dean Cain, superman of the TV series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is a quarter Japanese.

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5)  Nicole Scherzinger of PussyCat Dolls is half Filipino.

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6)  Keanu Reeves of The Matrix is a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese.

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7)  Darren Criss of the TV series Glee is half Filipino.

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8)   Ne-Yo is a quarter Chinese.

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9)  Tyga, the rapper, is half Vietnamese.

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10)  Maggie Q is half Vietnamese.

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11) Enrique Iglesias is half Filipino.

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12)   Piper Curda of the Disney Channel show I Didn’t Do It is part Korean.

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13)   Mark-Paul Gosselaar, aka Zack Morris of the 90’s hit TV show Saved By The Bell, is a quarter Indonesian.

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14) Kristin Kreuk of the TV series SmallVille and Beauty and the Beast is half Chinese.

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15) Kelsey Asbille Chow of the MTV series Teen Wolf  and The Amazing Spiderman is part Chinese.

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16)   Host of the TV show Lip Sync Battle and model, Chrissy Teigen is half Thai.

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17)  Rob Schneider of Grown Ups and The Hot Chick is a quarter Filipino.

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18) Chanel Iman, the Victoria Secret Angel and model is half Korean.

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19) Model Karrueche Tran is half Vietnamese.

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20) Bérénice Marlohe from the famous Bond series, SkyFall is part Cambodian and Chinese.

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– See more at: http://audreymagazine.com/20-celebs-you-didnt-know-were-asian/#sthash.71uqqXCc.dpuf

Washington Post: The ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ of stereotyping Asian American students

“Ophelia” was never a very good student.

The second generation Vietnamese American described herself as “not very intelligent,” someone who got straight Cs. She failed the exam to qualify for Advanced Placement classes at the end of Junior High.

But for reasons beyond her understanding, she was placed on the AP track when she got to high school. There, surrounded by ambitious peers and high expectations, “something clicked,” she told researcher Jennifer Lee.

I wanted to work hard and prove I was a good student,” she said. “I think the competition kind of increases” the desire to “do better.”

Ophelia graduated with a 4.2 grade point average and an acceptance to a prestigious pharmacy program.

Lee, a sociologist at the University of California at Irvine, is an author of the new book “The Asian American Achievement Paradox,” which examines how stereotypes based on race can determine students’ chances for success. For their research, she and co-author Min Zhou surveyed hundreds of students like Ophelia — children of Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants who felt they were treated differently because of their race.

Teachers and guidance counselors and peers assumed that they were smart and disciplined and high achieving,” Lee told The Washington Post. “So they were more likely to be placed on advanced tracks, more likely to be directed toward selective colleges. Some admitted to getting grades they didn’t feel like they deserved.”

Paradoxically, though, this was one stereotype that served its targets well. Lee said students who were subject to irrationally high expectations usually rose to meet them. Surrounded by brainy classmates only happy with “As,” they adjusted their own notions of what it means to do well. Assumed to be a “smart Asian,” as Lee put it, they put extra effort into their coursework in order to live up to expectations of their ethnicity.

What you have is a self-fulfilling prophesy where initially what is untrue becomes true,” Lee said. She calls it the “stereotype promise.”

Lee’s findings are the inverse of social science we’ve heard about before. For the past two decades, researchers have been investigating the “stereotype threat” — how negative assumptions about certain groups can undercut their performance. It’s been used to explain why high-achieving African American students sometimes struggle when they get to college, why talented women may underperform in STEM fields.

Social psychologist Claude Steele, who coined the term in 1995, explained how the stereotype threat affects members of groups that are seen as less able or intelligent.

They know that they are especially likely to be seen as having limited ability,” he wrote in the Atlantic in 1999. “Groups not stereotyped in this way don’t experience this extra intimidation. And it is a serious intimidation, implying as it does that they may not belong in walks of life where the tested abilities are important — walks of life in which they are heavily invested. Like many pressures, it may not be experienced in a fully conscious way, but it may impair their best thinking.”

In the Los Angeles area, where Lee and her colleagues surveyed 4,800 first-generation Americans, the children of Mexican immigrants were most likely to be affected by the stereotype threat. These respondents told Lee that they were rarely taken seriously as students. They weren’t offered help preparing for the SAT and weren’t advised to apply for four-year colleges. If Mexican American students wanted to get into a selective school, they had to be their own tutors, their own guidance counselors.

One of the questions it raises is how many students aren’t given the opportunity to meet their potential,” Lee said.

Lee’s finding challenges the assumption that gaps in achievement are purely cultural, that “tiger moms” and community regard for education entirely explain Asian American students’ success. The perception of a culture can be as influential as the culture itself.

That’s not to say that culture isn’t a factor — Lee has previously studied how raised expectations within the Asian American community drive high achievement. But when we adopt stereotypes about Asians and education, we’re crediting the wrong culture, she said. It’s not necessarily Chinese people who value education so highly (only 4 percent of China’s population has a college degree), it’s the highly educated Chinese immigrants who come to the United States, more than half of whom went to college.

It’s not culture reduced to a certain ethnicity,” Lee said. “It’s about who immigrates to the U.S. and what sort of norms they’re bringing.”

Chinese and Korean immigrants are “hyper-selected,” as Lee put it. They are more likely to be highly skilled and more likely to hold an advanced degree than almost any other immigrant group. In fact, they are almost twice as likely to be college-educated than the general U.S. population — only 28 percent of Americans have graduated from college. Since parents’ level of educational attainment is one of the best predictors of their children’s achievement, it’s hardly surprising that academically successful Chinese immigrants will have academically successful kids.

Teachers’ assumptions about Asian culture — misplaced though they may be — affect how they perceive Asian American students. And Asian American students internalize those perceptions. They wind up achieving more than they normally would have based on a stereotype that isn’t even completely true.

We think that grades and test scores and who gets into what colleges is objective, that it’s all about individual effort,” Lee said. “But our work reveals the hidden ways in which biases and stereotypes operate that make certain outcomes more possible for certain groups.”

Most of the students Lee spoke to said that the stereotype promise was a good thing. It helped them do well in school and get into good colleges.

But Lee warns that it can be a “double-edged sword.” Asian American students are also likely to feel a form of the intimidation Steele described in writing about the stereotype threat.

While black students may worry that their failures will reinforce negative assumptions about African American achievement, Asian American students who didn’t meet the high expectations set for them “didn’t feel Asian,” Lee said. One man told her that he was “the whitest Chinese guy she’ll ever meet,” because he didn’t fit the stereotype of a high-achieving Asian. The pressure can lead to mental health issues, like anxiety and depression.

And the positive stereotypes that serve Asian Americans well in school can act against them once they’re in the workforce. They have a harder time attaining leadership positions because they’re seen as diligent and thoughtful, rather than bold and creative, according to Lee. She noted that Asian Americans made up 6 percent of college students (slightly more than their proportion of the U.S. population) but 2 percent of college presidents. In Silicon Valley, Asian Americans are 27 percent of the workforce but just 14 percent of executives.

The stereotype promise may help Asian American students get a degree, Lee said, but the “bamboo ceiling” stops them from achieving as much as they could with it.

5 unique cafés to visit in Asia

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Audrey Magazine (by Alyssa Park):

Cafés are popping up all over America, and they are quickly becoming part of a global culture as well. For instance, all across Asia you can find amazing cafés with different types of aesthetics such as rustic, modern, traditional and even themed. If you are traveling through Asia, then these five destinations are a must.

1. Hoho Myoll Café : (Seoul, South Korea)

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Korea is known to have some of the most beautiful cafés in the world. With a bit of a rustic aesthetic, Hoho Myoll Café is an enchanting little café tucked away in the heart of Seoul.

2. Wangye Teahouse : (Zigong, China)

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Inside of what was once a 100-year-old temple lies a very famous Sichuan Teahouse in Zigong, China. Next to the Fuxi River, visitors not only enjoy a traditional cup of tea, they can also become engrossed in a rich cultural history.

3. Shirohige’s Creampuff Shop: (Tokyo, Japan)

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Shirohige’s Creampuff Shop is one of many of Japan’s themed cafés. Not only are the creampuffs Totoro-shaped, the café itself is extremely sophisticated while maintaining a youthful charm.

4.Up Café: (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

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Up Café is a mandatory destination in Saigon mostly for it’s novelty. With all of the furniture and windows hanging upside down from the ceilings, you can’t help but feel like you are in another dimension.

5. Audrey Café & Bistro: ( Bangkok, Thailand)

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Audrey Café & Bistro is one of the most popular destinations in Bangkok, Thailand because of its beauty. With decor that only reflects elegance and class, your experience here will be nothing short of luxurious.

7 Asian female emcees worth bumping on your stereos 

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Audrey Magazine: (by Arianna Caramat)

In a culture that’s been relatively dominated by a heterosexual male narrative, Hip Hop has been a hard place for women–let alone Asian American women–to truly dominate. As raptivist Aisha Fukushima once described to me, booty, bullets, and bling have countlessly been glorified by male rappers. I mean, take Big Sean’s “Dance (a$$)” for example. It’s blatantly written in the title.

But don’t give up on hip hop just yet! We have a list of strong Asian female emcees who are still under the radar but counter that male-driven narrative. Of course, they also prove women can keep it one-hundred.

Rocky Rivera (U.S.)

This thought-provoking, powerful spitter and Bay Area-native started out as an accomplished journalist before dedicating herself to her musical craft.

Suboi (Vietnam)

Hailing from Saigon, Vietnam, Suboi stands as the country’s number one female emcee and Queen of Hip Hop. Not to mention, she became the first Vietnamese artist to perform at SXSW.

Akwafina (U.S.)

Don’t be fooled by the comedic moniker! Akwafina’s tongue-and-cheek lines have been embraced by countless other women and celebrated as something good for feminism since her song, “My Vag,” went viral.

Yacko (Indonesia)

This emcee is a lecturer for an international college during the week, a rapper by weekend, and a full-time mother. With a full plate like that, Yacko still manages to be recognized as one of Indonesia’s most respected emcees.

Miss Ko (Taiwan)

This Taiwanese American emcee made the move from New York to Taiwan where she garnered a government grant to produce an album; however, all production was halted after an almost-fatal accident. After 2 years of healing and an album later, Miss Ko became the first female rapper to have a No. 1 album in Taiwan.

Ruby Ibarra (U.S.)

She may be fun-sized, but her raps will knock you out! Also a Bay Area local, Ibarra has started gathering national attention and is known for melding together English and Tagalog into her flows.

Yurika (Japan)

Yurika isn’t a stranger to the rap scene in Tokyo, she’s the emcee who’s spearheading the next generation of rappers in Japan. With her cuteness and juxtaposing hard flows, she caught the attention of the Dream Boy label and became their most recent signee.

Celebrate Earth Day with 5 of Asia’s most beautiful spots 

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Audrey Magazine:

One of Buzzfeed’s top posts is a list called “27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die.”

Since it’s release in 2013, the list has gained over 10 million views and for good reason! All of the locations are absolutely breathtaking.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a closer look at the five locations in Asia that made it onto this list to remind everyone that the earth is capable of such beauty. Lets work to keep it that way.

1. Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China

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The Danxia landforms are sandstone formations most known for (you guessed it) their vibrant color patterns. They are located in a remote region in northern central China. The mountains and hills retain such color because Danxia landforms are composed of red sandstone. Mineral deposits were compressed into rock for 24 million years, thus gaining colors ranging from deep red to yellow and green.

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2. The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

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The Sơn Đoòng cave is currently the largest known cave in the world and is located near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It is five times larger than the Phong Nha Cave which previously held the record for being the biggest cave in Vietnam. Although it was created 2-5 million years ago, the cave did not become public knowledge until 2009. Inside, there is a fast flowing underground river as well as cave pearls the size of baseballs.

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 3. Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan

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This popular tourist destination has been given the nickname “flower paradise” because the 32,000 square meters of flowers look amazing all year long. With each passing season, a different variety of flower will blossom throughout the Hitachi Seaside park such as the Nemophilas. The popular blue flower blossoms annually during springtime.

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4. Bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan

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These Japanese bamboo groves, located in Northwest Kyoto, are a tourist favorite. The gorgeous line of bamboo not only looks beautiful, apparently it sounds beautiful too. Amusing Planet notes, “The sound of the wind in this bamboo forest has been voted as one of ‘one hundred must-be-preserved sounds of Japan’ by the Japanese government.”

The bamboo in this grove is still used to manufacture various products such as cups, boxes, baskets and mats in the area.

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5. Kelimutu crater lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia

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Kelimutu is a small volcano in the central Flores Island of Indonesia. It has gained popularity because the volcano has three craters which each contain a lake with a different color. The lakes periodically change colors from red and brown to turquoise and green, independent of each other. The lakes are named Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People), Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Sprits, or Enchanted Lake). The scientific explanation behind the colorful lakes? Chemical reactions from the minerals in the lake are triggered by the volcano’s gas activity.

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Vietnamese engineering student Viet Tran invents fire extinguisher that puts out flames with sound waves

AsAm News: 

Engineering students Viet Tran and Seth Robertson have recently invented a fire extinguisher that can put out blazes by using sound waves, according to Time Magazine. What started out as a senior research product has developed into a working device with much practical use.

Tran cited several potential uses for the device, which included “In the kitchen, as part of a countertop, and in drones, to fly over areas which aren’t safe for human inhabitation”.

Although this pair of George Mason University students haven’t fully developed this technology, they have high hopes for the future, as they hope to soon seek a patent.

To view the pair’s technology in action, see the video below. To learn more about the theory behind it, read Time Magazine.