It isn’t easy juggling studies at one of the most rigorous art and design institutions in the world, Parsons School of Design.
Being on top of social media trends which change as quickly as they appear and to have the ability to run an internationally recognised e-commerce conglomerate – all at the same time, this is where entrepreneur and tech executive Michelle Byun proves that it’s possible.
Michelle who’s infamous on TikTok as one of its top creators has put her influence aside to focus on her entrepreneurial side in an industry that is mostly male centric and dominated, technology. Coming from an entrepreneurial family herself, alongside her partner, Terry McGinnis, she stands at the helm of leadership of e-commerce start-up, Online Shop as its Marketing and Creative Director.
Recently attending an expo in Farnborough we met with Michelle as she was wrapping up her speech on female empowerment in the workplace, and the need for sustainability. Having won over a thunderous applause from the crowd, she met with us to provide an overlook of what it takes to become a successful leader as a female in the tech space.
What is Online Shop and what is it trying to achieve?
We’re pivoting from a marketplace model and opening our techstack to everyone, meaning that instead of having every seller compete for sales we are providing them with the same tools in an oversimplified way to open up a shop under their own domain and to start making sales. Helping smaller businesses and independent entrepreneurs is a real passion of mine, hearing so much feedback about how our products and services help them gain more business and the ease [of use], set up of their shop and all the tools they previously had no access to or weren’t able to use is truly wonderful. This is why I am so passionate about our mission and what we’re trying to achieve.
How do you manage your time so well?
It actually doesn’t come naturally for me at all. Given that I have a tendency to try to perfect everything I do, I’ve learned that balance is a key. I try to do everything in moderation and keep tabs on my wellbeing. After experiencing multiple burnouts, I’ve started prioritizing my mental health as it is the most important in the long run. I now prefer to schedule in my duties and responsibilities to optimize my time.
Why did you choose to Major in Fine Art?
Fine Arts always seemed to be the right choice. My interests always lied in the arts; it was like second nature. Coming from a family that nurtures artistic flair, it was like another method of communication to me. I wanted to expand my knowledge and broaden my approach as to how I experience and create art. Parsons has been a delight and I couldn’t be happier with my professors. They’ve truly helped me realize that art can be applied to any field or aspect of life.
What’s it like being a female executive in the tech space, which is notoriously male centric?
There has definitely been moments of feeling like I have to prove myself to a room. In many cases, I felt that my decisions were always second guessed unless it’s validated by a man. Fortunately, I found an incredible team at Online Shop where I’m able to take initiative and work with amazing talents.
What are some of your top tips for other women who want to be on same path as you?
All of my friends were confused when I told them that I was going to be working in tech during my gap year. It wasn’t what people were expecting. But like with any field or skill, taking the first step is the most important part of the process. Take the initiative by identifying exactly what you want to learn and hit yourself with knowledge. By having concise goals marked with milestones, the learning process didn’t feel too long! Just stay consistent and focused.
What are some of your aspirations outside of work?
Recently I’ve been residing in Harrogate and have been helping organize Ukraine drives with the director of White Horse Machinery, Robin Vauvelle. From toiletries to canned food, the community has done a tremendous job of coming together to help the people of Ukraine during times of tragedy. It was absolutely moving to see volunteers coming in every hour to help fill the trucks and containers. I hope to be able to volunteer and take action in more non-profits organizations that I support.
How do you find life in United Kingdom compared to life in United States?
The UK is absolutely stunning! I’ve been visiting different areas and it’s definitely a change of scenery from NYC. Although I can’t live without the city, it was therapeutic to be close to nature and brainstorm some fresh ideas.
What is the one thing you couldn’t survive without?
It has to 100% has to be Korean food. It is without a doubt the one cuisine I can’t survive without. Being that I grew up in Shanghai, the taste of authentic Korean food is like home to me. I could never get the recipes right but my mom always chefs up the best meals that would just make you melt in your seat.
What’s it like growing up in China as a Korean?
It was odd to grow up in China under the American education system. I consumed and familiarized myself with American media and culture without stepping foot into the country. It got even more confusing when people realized that I’m not even Chinese! I immersed myself into three different cultures, juggling various parts of my identity.
How did you find it moving to NYC?
Michelle: It was quite the move. The people and the energy of the city is just like no other. I moved from to NYC about three years ago to attend Parsons. I believe it was also around that time when I started posting content on TikTok too.
What drove you to create content on TikTok?
I’ve always been interested in social media marketing so I thought why not do it for myself. While settling into New York, I started posting various styles of content to see which niche fit me the most. I grew fast and steady throughout the pandemic and gained experience through sponsorships. I pitched myself to businesses that were looking to grow their socials. I focused on learning the marketing side of business while honing the skills of creative directing.
What do you recommend for businesses who want to accelerate growth through social media?
I would say to always keep an open mind to new methods and strategies. Through trials and tribulations, I’ve learned that sometimes traditional ways aren’t the most effective or efficient. I would start with building a strong online brand identity and finding innovative ways to communicate with customers. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary but consistent.
She’s now being ranked as one of the top female leaders and executives in the world of tech, at such young age Michelle has started her career with a big bang, from knowledge and connections in the social media and entertainment world to being a powerhouse in tech, she now inspires thousands of young women across the globe, proving that being a female doesn’t negate your hard work and talents.