Global poverty is at the root of so many things. So many things. From hunger, to the orphan crisis, to human trafficking, to drug trafficking, to homelessness, to disease and HIV/AIDS – global poverty is at the root. Reducing or even eliminating global poverty is the key to reducing and eliminating so much hurt and pain in the world. But this issue is so complicated, as most issues are. But it is one that is incredibly important. My guest today left a life of comfort and security, working in the area of technology startups, to pursue a deeper calling. My guest this week is Ann Mei Chang, the Executive Director of Lean Impact at the Lean Startup Company and author of the book Lean Startup that will be released soon! Previously, she was the Chief Innovation Officer USAID and Mercy Corps, and served the U.S. Department of State as Senior Advisor for Women in Technology in the office of Global Women’s Issues. Prior to her pivot to the public sector, Ann Mei had more than 20 years experience as a technology executive at leading companies such as, you know, Google and Apple. Heard of them? This was such an incredible and interesting conversation and I learned so much from it!
SILICON VALLEY & A QUEST FOR DEEPER MEANING
From early on, Ann Mei was fascinated by computers. When they first came out when she was 12-years-old, she taught herself how to program and went she went to college in California, she studied computer science. Her career for the first 23 years after college was in Silicon Valley in the tech industry working for both big and small companies, and having a lot of fun with it. At the same time, she always felt a yearning to do something more meaningful. Ann Mei donated and volunteered, but her work was very consuming at there were limits to how much she was able to do on the side. She was inspired by the idea of spending the first half of her career in Silicon Valley and the second half of her career in the public or social sector – trying to find some way to do some good in the world. It was in her early 40’s during her time at Google that she decided to make that shift. Ann Mei decided to take a leave of absence from Google and she ended up going to the State Department through a fellowship program. She calls it her “custom Masters in Public Policy.” Rather than going back to school and spending her time in the classroom, she learned by doing.
AT THE ROOT OF IT ALL: GLOBAL POVERTY
Ann Mei realized during her time at the State Department that Global Poverty was at the root of the majority of the issues she cared about. She firmly believes that talent is evenly distributed and opportunity is not – that many of the ills in the world arise because people do not have better options. The good news is that we have made dramatic progress in global poverty – the number of people in extreme poverty has been cut almost in half. The bad news is that where poverty remains, it is becoming even more entrenched.
LOVING EVERY SECOND
Michelle went back to school to focus on communications and public relations. As an extroverted and analytical individual, she excelled and fell in love with the industry. Upon graduating, she worked at a major PR firm and spent time in the nonprofit world. She began searching for what kind of business she could create where she could do what she loved, while escaping the 9-5 work life. It was during a midnight breastfeeding session that, while on Instagram, she first stumbled upon the world of business coaching. She was incredibly inspired by this concept, and pulled on all of her past experiences in deciding what the business would look like. Today, Brandmerry is a business that is all about branding and business mentoring. Michelle works with female entrepreneurs at every stage of the business, from coming up with the idea and launching, to running and scaling it successfully–and she loves every second of it.
About Ann Mei Chang, Executive Director at Lean Impact:
Ann Mei Chang is a leading advocate for social innovation and author of LEAN IMPACT: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good (Wiley, Oct. 30, 2018). As Chief Innovation Officer at USAID, Ann Mei served as the first Executive Director of the US Global Development Lab, engaging the best practices for innovation from Silicon Valley to accelerate the impact and scale of solutions to the world’s most intractable challenges. She was previously the Chief Innovation Officer at Mercy Corps and served the US Department of State as Senior Advisor for Women and Technology in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.
Prior to her pivot to the public and social sector, Ann Mei was a seasoned technology executive, with more than 20 years’ experience at such leading companies as Google, Apple, and Intuit, as well as at a range of startups. As Senior Engineering Director at Google, she led worldwide engineering for mobile applications and services, delivering 20x growth to $1 billion in annual revenues in just three years.
Ann Mei currently serves on the boards of BRAC USA and IREX, is a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, and is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Stanford University, is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellows’ class of 2011, and was recognized as one of the “Women In the World: 125 Women of Impact” by Newsweek/The Daily Beast in 2013. Ann Mei is a keynote speaker who has been featured at TEDx MidAtlantic, SxSW, Social Good Summit, SOCAP, and Lean Startup Week, as well as numerous nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies.
CONNECT WITH ANN MEI