Most people avoid obstacles, but Shang Ke seeks them out. Whether it's skiing the Alps or getting her Ph.D. in Mathematics, she sees obstacles as an opportunity to prove her strength—and improve her skills.
One of the biggest obstacles Shang has faced was deciding what to do after she got her Ph.D. “No one knows what is the most suitable direction for you," she says. "Even your professor will not give you such explicit direction."
A week spent at home with her parents, between her first and second year, gave her the confidence to stay the course. “The principle that my parents explained to me — to not worry if I end up changing my direction — seems quite normal, but when spoken from your loved one's mouth, it really helped."
Her eventual path from academia to an internship at J.P. Morgan led her to her current work in quantitative research—and to a career full of opportunities and obstacles that are still pushing her to learn, achieve, and grow.
What does success look like to you?
To me now, it is having control of my life and my work. On one hand, that means I have confidence in my ability to solve problems. I have the skills to conquer them; if not, I know I can master that with fast learning. Yes, there's always uncertainty in our day-to-day life—and you cannot always see the answers in the first place—but having full confidence gives me the capacity to deal with it as life happens.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
If I were to name one, I think that would be my direct manager in quantitative research, the head of QR China team. When I first joined the QR center back in 2013, I had just graduated with my Ph.D. When I first met my current manager, I was shocked because she was such a gorgeous lady and had a similar academic background to mine. She's so sharp, and very energetic. During recess or lunch, she prefers to play ping pong. She also encourages our junior guys to keep up in such challenges.
In each conversation, she's like the breeze and gives me the confidence that I can enjoy this profession for my whole life. She has a good work/life balance, and I think she leads an excellent life, the first reality of that for me.
What do you consider the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received and where did it come from?
The best advice I ever received came from a manager who worked in the Hong Kong QR team for ten years and then transferred over to Beijing. I worked with him closely for over two years. His advice was that I had to show ownership of my project, no matter what it was, no matter how small it seemed. Only with ownership will you take full responsibility for what you are working on. Whenever you run into difficulty, if you stand high and get a full picture of the problem, it is much easier to see a way out.
What made you want to get into this type of work?
After I got my Ph.D, I could have stayed in academia and probably become a professor. But before my actual graduation, I decided to take the opportunity to try something else with an internship at J.P. Morgan.
When you do an internship in an industry, you get to work with real-life challenges. My work at J.P. Morgan gave me the opportunity to use my skills to tackle real problems—while still enjoying the beauty of abstract math. Also, the people there impressed me, so later on, I took a full-time offer from the same team without any hesitation. Even though I was just an intern, they treated me no differently than anyone else on the team.
What brings you joy?
My husband and I love skiing very much. When you directly face the mountain, it's giant, silent and very beautiful. When you're on the slope, there's no one else; just you and the mountain.
My husband and I joined a ski club, and some of my colleagues are also members. We are all close friends. So far, we have traveled together more than ten times together. We went to the Alps for nine days. We also traveled to Japan. We are friends at work and off work, so this brings me joy.
Where will you be in 20 years?
There're so many uncertainties, but I think my current direct manager is a very good example for me. If, in 20 years from now, I can be a lady like her — yeah, I would love that! She is a really good role model for me, for all the junior ladies, even the guys in QR China team, with everything she works on and her attitude.