Congratulations to our Alumni Award recipient, Mr. Thomas Huang. Thomas attended AISG from 2008-2010 as part of the Class of 2012.
Since AISG, Thomas received numerous scholarships and awards to study in the US, Germany, France, mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He has launched multiple startups as an entrepreneur and is now a consultant. Additionally, Thomas is an active member in the non-profit and volunteer community including serving as a Startup Advisor with UNDP Cambodia and is a member of the Strategy and Development Committees for Habitat for Humanity. He has also volunteered at underprivileged schools, children’s homes, food banks, youth camps, national wildlife refuges, national parks, and with conservation initiatives.
The Alumni Award committee was impressed by his accomplishments thus far and how he has continued to embody the AISG mission, vision and values in his career and through his ongoing community service. Specifically, it is our delight to recognize Thomas for his outstanding achievements as a business professional, entrepreneur, community leader and for his contribution to strengthening ties between Cambodian communities in Asia.
Let’s get to know our Award Winner Mr. Thomas Huang more by sharing with you our recent interview:
Would you please introduce yourself, including what years you attended AISG and what was the year of your graduating class?
My name is Thomas Huang and I attended AISG from 2008-2010 as part of the Class of 2012. I’m Cambodian-American, born in Cambodia and grew up in the US (Washington D.C. before Guangzhou and Orlando, FL after) and now am living full-time in Hong Kong.
What are some of your memories from your time attending at AISG?
Everyone was super friendly and welcoming when I first moved there in 2008. It was my first time, after being born, living in a foreign country but the people at AISG made it worthwhile and fun. I admit, I was initially very anxious for the move from the US to China, but I ended up not wanting to leave when I had to in 2010.
Some of the memories that I remember most include: China Trips to Hong Kong, which is very uncommon for other high schools; Habitat for Humanity builds within China’s rural areas; Crossroads volunteer trips to Hong Kong; Literary Magazine with Ms. Spisso; our little freshman “butterfly class”; lunchtime basketball games and afterschool sports practices; student government and school socials; theatre class and school plays; and, most importantly, all the great friends I made, who I’m still good friends with today.
What were you like as a student when you attended AISG? What did you enjoy doing?
I was the new kid my freshman year of high school. Prior to the year starting, I remember meeting a couple people from the class of 2010, who includes my now spouse. We hung out a lot and because of that, people from my year were surprised to see me in the 9th grade classes initially. After getting settled, I remember getting really involved in student government, sports, volunteering and just trying as many different things as possible. It was very fun and easy to stay active, which allowed me so many unique experiences with wonderful people.
Can you share your “story” (career path journey) since departing AISG? (Where did you go to? schools attended? Majors? Work experiences to present, personal information as well is welcomed – family, interests, hobbies, etc.)
After departing AISG, I moved to Orlando, Florida in the US and finished high school at Dr. Phillips High School (across the street from Universal Studios; we could hear the kids screaming on rides) and started my bachelor’s at the largest university in the US – University of Central Florida. It was quite a transition from such a small school at AISG (~400 students) to a large public high school in the US (~4,000 students) to the largest university America (~65,000 students), but it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and to learn how to adapt to different situations and diverse environments.
I initially started out studying medicine in hopes of becoming a doctor and heading back to Cambodia to help give back, given my family was very lucky to make it out of Cambodia to allow me a comfortable life. My mother was one of ten children, but only one of three who survived the Cambodian genocide, escaping first to Vietnam’s refugee camps and then eventually immigrating to the USA to start a new life. It’s always inspired and pushed me to give back and help when I can.
After my first year, I decided medicine wasn’t for me and ended up switching to Economics and International Relations, thinking I could bring more impact quickly within business and politics. I was also able to study abroad (which was a goal of mine entering university after leaving Guangzhou earlier than I’d have liked). I ended up studying for a year in Nancy, France (ICN Business School), two summers in China (Suzhou University and Shaanxi Normal University), a semester in Luneburg, Germany (Leuphana University) and a year in Taipei (National Taiwan University).
I was able to attend university on full scholarships and study abroad through numerous local/international scholarships, graduating with three bachelor’s degrees in Economics, Political Science (International Relations Track) and Business Administration, with a minor in International Business.
After graduating, I knew I wanted to come back to Asia and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Macau but ended up turning it down for a full-ride scholarship + living tuition to pursue a Master’s in Economics at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU).
I was initially looking to go into the corporate world, make tons of money and donate/volunteer in Cambodia, but ended up joining a few entrepreneurial programs that led me to starting a few businesses, FinTech and TravelTech. These ventures received sponsorships that brought me to weeklong intensive entrepreneurship bootcamps at the University of Chicago, Chicago Booth (through Hong Kong’s Cyberport University Partnership Program) and UC Berkeley (through HKBU x UCB Startup bootcamp). During these ventures, I was invited to be a startup mentor to the United Nations Development Programme’s first ever startup accelerator in Cambodia, Bluetribe, allowing me a channel to give back and mentor Cambodia’s youth entrepreneurs.
After both startups failed, I decided to join a more successful, slightly bigger startup. I joined a French startup that had offices in the US, Canada, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong. During my time there, the startup raised $US14 million. After a year, I decided to step back and help launch a smaller HRTech startup that allowed me to take more ownership and deliver more impact. I helped launch Happyer (HRTech) and H Academy (EduTech), where I was invited to serve as a Cofounder and COO.
I had a couple great years there, but the startup life (without health insurance, big bonuses and other corporate perks) led me to a bit of burnout, resulting in some health issues . It was then that I decided I would try going into corporate like I initially planned. Not to mention, I had just gotten married (coincidentally to another AISG alumni), was looking to purchase a home, and eventually start a family.
I ended up transitioning into consulting, joining PwC Mainland of China and Hong Kong’s People and Organization team as a Senior Consultant. I advise clients on their HR Transformation, Organization Design, Change Management and Technology Adoption.
I ended up joining our Rugby team, Green Team (Sustainability and Volunteering initiatives), Staff Council (Mental Health and Connectivity committees) and am the Co-Chair of our LGBT+ employee group – SHINE, in addition to being nominated as the Male Allies Corporate liaison.
I’m really enjoying the work I’m doing and the many resources/people I get to interact with in such a large company.
What are you most proud of?
That’s a hard question. I’m proud of being able to stay connected with family and friends despite moving around the world. I’m proud of my brother for starting Optometry School (he can fulfill the typical Asian parent dream of becoming the first Dr. in the house). I’m proud of all my three younger brothers for pursuing their own passions. I’m proud of being able to make a difference whenever I volunteer, in Cambodia, Hong Kong or elsewhere.
Most recently, I’m very proud of finally being able to bring my true self to work and everywhere, coming out in June 2023, and also being able to serve as a visible LGBT+ professional. It took a long time and has been a journey in the making.
How did your time at AISG influence and inspire you?
The unique experiences I was afforded taught me to take every opportunity I can to try new things and meet new people, because everyone has a story to tell. The diversity I grew up with in AISG prepared me to work in a globalized world, connecting with people from diverse backgrounds.
The success of the students also inspired me to work hard and make a difference in this world. I’m still very close with many of my classmates to this day who continue to inspire me. My teachers, counselors and staff were also a huge support network, many of whom I also keep in touch with today, inspiring me to stay curious and always continue learning.
What does it mean for you to receive the AISG Alumni Award?
I am very humbled and honored to be receiving this award. It means a lot to be able to receive this at the 40th anniversary because AISG has been such a huge part of my life and has given me some of the best memories I’ve had, not to mention close friends and even family, introducing me to my now spouse.
What advice would you have for our current AISG students?
Take advantage of this unique opportunity and get out of your comfort zone. Try new things, talk to people outside your circle. Don’t be afraid to fail, it’s better than living with regret that you didn’t try. Always stay curious and keep learning.
What is next for you in your professional journey?
I hope to work my way up the corporate ladder and become a Partner at the Big Four, all while continuing to volunteer and getting more involved in Cambodia.
Thank you for your time. It is always great to connect with a Ram! Any closing comments?
Thank you so much for having me!!! It’s really been an honor and I am so grateful for everyone I’ve had the privilege to meet and interact with at AISG. No matter how big or small, the interactions really impacted me and shaped who I am today.