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This busy corporate manager is temporarily stepping off the fast track, making time to welcome her first child.
by Donna Parker
Lily Chai, who received a double degree in speech communication and business administration from Trinity in 2001, is a senior project manager at PayPal in San Jose. She is excited and nervous, but it has nothing at all to do with her career with the giant subsidiary of eBay.
"Cayden Augustus Liu is our first baby, due in October. We just bought a house in Dublin in the East Bay and we're getting ready for his arrival," says Lily. She is married to husband, Steve, who works in the financial services.
Lily began working with PayPal in October 2009, spearheading projects linking corporate business strategy with key business initiatives, all while she pursues an advanced project management certification at Stanford University.
The corporate life came only after Lily had a chance to follow her dream as a working actor in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even Taiwan and China.
"After Trinity, I worked in marketing but really wasn't fond of the corporate world at that time in my life," says Lily.
"So, after moving to LA and interning at MTV/VH1, I decided to get into acting. Being a part of LA's huge party scene was a great time in my life. Meanwhile, I was doing journalistic reporting and freelance writing to pay the bills."
It was during this Hollywood stint that Lily met her future husband at a cousin's wedding.
"He was super-duper shy, and I was the emcee for the ceremony," laughs Lily. "One of his friends cornered me in the bathroom and told me Steve really wanted to dance with me but was afraid to ask. I found him on the dance floor, nervous as can be, and I danced with him, thankful that he wasn't your typical Silicon Valley nerd!"
Still consumed with the acting bug, Lily opted for an international long distance relationship after her uncle encouraged her to experiment with acting in China.
"Acting was good for me as I discovered my strengths, which I wouldn't have found without exploring that business. It's a place to fall and learn to pick yourself back up."
Lily eventually landed back in the Bay Area, securing her present position with PayPal after working in event planning and consulting. She stays active in the San Jose community she now calls home.
"Junior Achievement has a great mentoring program in which we coach students interested in entrepreneurship. We help them learn how to start a business from scratch by teaching them marketing, production, and assigning leadership roles," explains Lily.
For fun, Lily and Steve love trying out new restaurants and watching movies - sometimes two films in a night. Sleepless in Seattle and My Fair Lady are two favorites.
"I guess I still have that slight desire in my heart - a passion for filmmaking. It's because the process is magical and you are working with very creative people."
When Lily reflects on her Trinity days, it is with great admiration for Brooks Hill and John McGrath, both from the department of human communication (formerly known as speech communication) - Dr. Hill for his insightful wisdom and Dr. McGrath's hip, young attitude. Lily also names Dr. Meng Yeh, Trinity Chinese program, as one of her mentors as she was just one class away from a triple major in Chinese.
"Trinity was also great for making lasting friendships. We spent a lot of time on the Riverwalk and sharing late nights together when we intended to study but didn't!"
"We'd often end up at Taco Cabana or Sonic eating and gossiping until 4 in the morning until we'd actually start cramming. But those were the best times and most memorable because it's in the secret of the night when people reveal their true selves."
Lily says if she had to do it over again, she would have taken advantage of more opportunities on campus, such as mentorship and financial assistance in starting her own business. However, she truly enjoyed the social aspects of Alpha Chi Omega, volunteering, and various clubs on campus as well as her role on Student Court and TigerTV.
Looking forward, where does this former actor, now corporate manager, see herself in 10 years?
"Being a super mom with two kids - being a good wife and mother, working and contributing to society."
You may contact Lily at lilychai [at] gmail.com.