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Tandon alum Jade Lu (’20): A global citizen pays tribute to New York and NYU

Asian student in graduation gown

Lights, camera, taking action

Jade Lu had always been interested in the world of finance, and she earned an undergraduate degree in that field in her native China. However, she soon found herself thrust into a much different (and some might say more glamorous) world, when she was offered the chance to present lifestyle and fashion content on-air, for a major state-run television channel. 

She quickly proved herself to be much more than just an on-camera presence; because the show was relatively new, Lu was given leeway to learn about all aspects of the business, and she realized that there were opportunities waiting to be seized by someone with the combination of media savvy and a finance background. “For example, in China, in 2008, the real estate business was booming, but the advertising industry was still immature,” she recalled. “Real estate businesses seeking to advertise had no real strategy and weren’t getting advice that would allow them to use their advertising budgets wisely.”

Lu, intent on seizing the entrepreneurial reins, embarked on a process of research, customer discovery, and networking that resulted, in 2009, in the launch of her own company, Hebei Baoli Zhishi Film & Television Culture. Not only did she provide much-needed advertising consulting services for local governments, real estate companies, and fashion industry executives, she raised the funds to produce several digital films and television shows, selling the distribution rights to CCTV 6 (the Chinese National Movie Channel) and various satellite stations and consistently exceeding investor targets. (In 2018, before coming to Tandon, Lu negotiated a lucrative sale of the company and explained, “This successful exit was also a great starting point to my new journey.”)

Rising to the “fore”

One day a longtime client, impressed by Lu’s acumen, came to her with an unusual proposition: would she be willing to help him turn around his ailing golf course and country club, which was experiencing heavy losses? Not one to back down from a challenge, she agreed, despite being only a casual fan of the game. “I obviously believe in researching and thinking about a problem,” she said, “but I also believe in diving in and showing can-do spirit.”

She subsequently took charge of the nine departments that constituted the golf business — from ground maintenance to pro instruction to human resources — and instituted a system that allowed each department manager to rotate monthly into the general manager’s role, to learn all aspects of the overall operation. Additionally, she redesigned the physical facilities, increased membership, and within a year had completely turned around the business. 

Concurrently, she realized that many of the club’s high-net-worth members needed help managing their individual assets, and thanks to her entrepreneurial drive (which was just as strong in the setting of an already established company) and her networking skills, she forged useful partnerships with wealth management companies and private banks to provide that service.

An even greater need

As she was simultaneously managing her own media company and the golf course, Lu was realizing, as well, that the lines between media and technology companies were blurring, and her clients also needed help navigating the increasingly complex digital aspects of their businesses. “Technology is touching every field without exception,” she says. “While everyone knows that media is now conducted digitally to a great extent, consider even the example of a shoe-store owner. While that might sound like a relatively low-tech venture, a smart shoe-store owner will use data to determine what styles are selling, in what quantities, and where. So, there’s no escaping it; you may get away without actually knowing how to code, but you must at least have a base of tech knowledge. All the money in the world isn’t going to help a CEO or COO transform their business without it.”

Back to school

Lu decided to seek a master’s degree to give herself that base of knowledge. She found it natural to focus on schools in New York City. “I wanted more than just a degree,” she said. “I wanted to get an immersive experience in a dynamic environment.”

When she discovered the Management of Technology program at NYU Tandon, it struck her as tailor-made for her goals. “It was undeniably the correct choice for me,” she asserts. “I threw myself into my time at the school, attending every conference and seminar I could, making friends in every department, and taking on jobs as a teaching assistant in my academic department and a graduate finance and administrative assistant in the dean’s office. (Few people probably realized that the smiling assistant on the 19th floor of 1 MetroTech had been the youngest female golf CEO in China just a few years before.)

Lu maintained a nearly perfect GPA and graduated in 2020, and while she admits that it was difficult to start down an entirely new path, the effort was worth it. “I had already traveled to about 20 countries across five continents because I feel that if you’re going to change the world, you must understand it, and if you hope to understand it, you must engage with it,” she said. “So I appreciated the chance to study in New York and expand my horizons even further. Throughout my time here I focused on absorbing everything I could and forming bonds that I hope will last forever.” 

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis 

Lu has long been a board member of the Hebei Joint Education-Aid Fund, which helped teenagers in rural China access quality education, and the concept of pulling together to help communities in need was important to her.  When she learned that medical personnel at NYU Langone and other city hospitals were facing shortages of personal protective equipment during the early days of the pandemic, she sprang into action, reaching out to contacts in China, sourcing the needed items, figuring out ways to navigate export restrictions, and purchasing $100,000 worth of supplies to send to Langone. “It was a joint effort on the part of many people,” she modestly asserted. “It couldn’t have been done without my friends in China.”

“Jade’s generosity helps NYU Langone Health protect our dedicated physicians, nurses, and staff on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, who are our everyday heroes,” said Michael Healy, Senior Director of NYU Langone Health.

Lu, who participated in NYU’s Global Days of Service, plans to leverage her hard-earned master’s degree and fresh perspective in a new international venture. She says NYU Tandon will always be important to her. “Whatever I do next will combine my media background, my passion for finance, and the knowledge of technology and greatly expanded global network I gained from the school,” she explained. “I’ll always be grateful to Tandon for providing me with an absolutely vital component of my future and am really looking forward to being active in the worldwide NYU alumni family.”