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Name: Ying Zhou

Title:Director of Outreach and Internship Coordinator

Department: Tech Incubator at Queens College

Degree(s): MA, Economics, Research Institute of Fiscal Science, Military of Finance, China. MBA, Baruch College, CUNY. MA, Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center. PhD, Accounting, CUNY Graduate Center.

Contact Information:
(718) 570-0573;
Cell: 917-319-4027
Office: CEP 2
Email: ying.zhou@qc.cuny.edu
 
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Ying Zhou: Making Connections for Tech Entrepreneurs

When Ying Zhou was 15 years old, employed full-time as a lathe operator in a Sichuan factory, she couldn’t have imagined her future. “My education was very spotty after third grade,” says Zhou, director of outreach and internship coordinator for the college’s Tech Incubator. Although her parents were both scientists, Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution had overturned the usual social expectations. And so Zhou found herself figuratively yoked to a heavy machine.

       What made her future possible was a surprise decision by Chinese universities to recruit selected peasants and workers. Zhou, then 17, was admitted to college as an English major, graduating in less than three years. Afterward she found employment in a science library and as an interpreter for many organizations. Five years later, an opportunity to study Western-style accounting opened up, and Zhou moved ahead to earn an economics degree with a major in accounting in 1984.

       But the road from factory work in China to helping technology business entrepreneurs and students in Queens is not a straight or short one. Luck, plus lots of talent and determination, play their roles. When Coopers & Lybrand, then one of America’s “Big Eight” accounting firms, partnered with the Chinese government to provide practical training to accounting students, Zhou seized the opportunity.

       “Working as an auditor for a year in New York is when I became fascinated by computers and what we can do with technology,” Zhou says. By that time, she knew she wanted to learn more about computers and study in America. Without a background in computer science (CS), though, Zhou couldn’t be admitted to a CS graduate program. Instead, she enrolled in the CUNY Graduate Center PhD Program in Accounting offered at Baruch, taking as many computer classes as she could.

It paid off. From 1990 to 1997, she taught computer applications in accounting and auditing as an assistant professor in QC’s Department of Accounting and Information Systems. A job offer from Pricewaterhouse, a global professional services firm, was the beginning of another career phase. Zhou stayed 19 years, traveling widely to meet clients as director of Business Applications, Technology Advisory Services.

In September 2016 QC opened its Tech Incubator (TI) in the newly renovated CEP, Hall 2 to help new business start-ups in Queens and nearby—the first facility of its kind in the borough. Students play an important role as TI interns, gaining valuable experience for their own future tech careers.

“The chance to work at Queens College again, with computer science students, was very appealing to me,” says Zhou.

The TI currently has 20 companies in residence—more than half of the CEOs are foreign-born, and two companies are international start-ups. Among the companies are Kidmoto, a city airport car service that provides car seats for children; Doppler LLC, a technology consultancy specializing in cybersecurity; the Italy-based Street Lib USA, an innovator in digital publishing; NewtonX, which uses proprietary software to connect corporate, management consulting, and investment professionals with leading technology experts; and one of the newest, TechClub.nyc. Led by student Charlie Lin, whose team won first place in Governor Cuomo’s Coding Challenge last March, TechClub.nyc will now develop the app concept that won the competition.

Zhou, who works closely with Managing Director Weeks Mensah, is very proud of how far the TI has come. “In just one year, we’ve built a thriving community of start-ups and tech companies that use the latest technology for their businesses, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics,” says Zhou. “We have entrepreneurs, faculty, and our students working on client projects, solving complex, real-world problems.” The TI has also benefitted the local community, offering a series of free lectures and workshops on topics of interest to start-ups, business owners, and the general public.

The outreach part of her director’s title keeps Zhou busy, too. She talks to departments within QC and CUNY to learn about their technology needs, and approaches companies to explore possible tech collaborations and student internships. Zhou enjoys expanding her network of tech professionals, tapping them to mentor students. “These activities help bring new companies into the incubator and establish long-term partnerships,” she says.

Zhou wears another hat as program manager for the Tech Talent Pipeline (TTP) Residency, the mayor’s public-private partnership that offers talented computer science students four weeks of tech training on campus, followed by paid internships at NYC businesses and nonprofits. Ninety-nine students have graduated from this highly selective program in two years; many have received offers of full-time jobs from their employers.

Looking ahead, Zhou envisions the Tech Incubator as “an ecosystem that connects local communities, start-ups, and businesses in Queens and in NYC to industry experts, tech professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, faculty, and students.”

But no technology or virtual meetings can replace in-person interaction, Zhou firmly believes. “I like to think of myself as the ‘Chief Collaboration Officer,’ connecting people with people and people with ideas,” she says. “That’s how exciting things happen.”


 

 
 

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