Meet Dr. Wenming Chung
Assistant Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management
Information and Decision Sciences Department
I think that being a risk taker is something that I was born with and has brought me where I am at today.”
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Taiwan, and I received my education there. I got my BA, BBA and MS degrees at National Chiao Tung University in Northern Taiwan, and I also started working for a company in Taiwan. I was then sent to a factory in El Paso, and that is how I got to the U.S.
What is your BBA in?
My BBA was in transportation research and engineering, and that is also my major. This major is part of a business school in that university, but it really focuses on transportation studies.
What are your major academic, professional or personal goals?
For my midterm academic goal, I will continue to conduct research and hopefully I can publish my recent work in top journals. In the long run, I hope that my work can have some impact in the business world and I would like it to be utilized in some company’s practice.
What have been your greatest achievements?
During my professional years in the industry I did pretty well compared to my colleagues. I started as a buyer for Acer, one of the largest PC companies in the world. I was promoted to supervisor in just one year, and then became personal manager in two years. After another two years, I became a purchasing director. I was promoted more quickly than my peers. I was also the first person in my family to receive a degree and a PhD degree and in my parent’s perspective that is probably my greatest achievement. I think they are pretty proud of it.
Who or what motivated you on your road to success?
My parents had just enough to support a family, yet I always had a dream to go oversees. I decided that in order for this dream to become a reality, I had to take a risk and do an extra effort to get my work done. I normally spend long hours in my office when everyone else in gone. I want to make sure that I do a good job, so I don’t mind spending some extra effort to make it right and good. I think that is something that probably helped me be where I am at today. Compared to my other friends from school who take the more conservative approach—work for the government, have a stable job and stay there forever—I kind of take a different route and take a risk and still get ahead. I think that being a risk taker is something that I was born with and has brought me where I am at today.
What additional steps have you taken to be where you are today?
When I was in the industry I normally worked more extended hours than others. And when I started working for Acer, you know that company has different factories oversees and there are so many people who want to be sent oversees to gain work experience in other countries. There are so many people up there and of course one of the main things they consider is your language capability. If you cannot speak English or other languages, they are not going to send you oversees unless you can connect with people from other countries. When I started working, I realized how important it is to be able to speak English. In Taiwan we don’t speak English; we speak Chinese so everyday I spent some time studying English after I finished a day’s work. So I didn’t just say home resting and watching TV. After a while, I still noticed that it was not enough because I didn’t have the environment or people who could speak English with me so I could practice. I actually decided to attend an ESL Program in Wisconsin. By doing that I did not have an income, and I didn’t want to spend my money to learn English, but I decided to do that because I thought that I needed to do that to be able to grasp the opportunity. I did that for five months, I went back and immediately they decided to move me to El Paso.
What are you working on right now?
My current research is focusing on designing mechanisms between two firms so they can work together to create higher profit and an improved supply chain situation. My area of study is in Supply Chain Management. In Supply Chain there a lot of companies, for instance I am selling you micro material and you use those raw materials to build some component, and then you sell it to your customer so there is a chain of business entities—a chain. In many cases you can notice that even though two firms have a customer and seller relationship, sometimes they don’t necessarily have a good relationship. There are all kinds of conflict between firms even though they have different relationships. So right now I am studying and designing a mechanism between two firms to see how they can create a benefit for both parties through this mechanism, because normally if you are not in a collaborative relationship the relationship will not last long.
What do you plan on doing with your research?
Hopefully I can get my work published in a top academic journal. I hope my work can be a pride for the business world. I want to see my research impact the business world and actually be utilized.
What motivated you to pursue your career in business?
My friends from the same program at the university I went to worked for the government and had secure jobs, but I took a different route. I decided to take a risk. I think that it is more interesting in the business environment because you get to see different people from different industries. You get to see people from different worlds. Also, since I had the opportunity to work oversees—because a lot of companies in Taiwan have operations all over the world—that is something that kind of interests me. So I can change gears from the type of work that I am supposed to do based on my training. I decided to work in the PC industry and it doesn’t have a lot to do with what I learned in school, but my opinion is that you can go on a job even though you are not familiar with what they do. If you work hard and learn quickly you can be pretty good at what you’re doing. Learn at work. That’s the approach I normally take.
In your opinion what is the highlight of CoBA?
I think the environment is very friendly to me. My colleagues are very friendly and I like the students a lot because I think the students here are very polite in general. Students can be very mean in other areas. Students here are very polite and highly motivated because they may be the first in their family to get a college degree, so they are more motivated to do well in school and get a degree so their family can be very proud of them. I really like that because I had that experience myself and I know how that can impact your family and how proud your parents can be when you earn a degree from a university. That is something I really like about UTEP and I do see a lot of students who have great potential to do very well and to pursue any career. One thing I think students can maybe improve here, well not necessarily improve, but I kind of do notice that a lot of students come to stay here in our area. I would encourage them to take a job opportunity in another area or even other countries so they can enrich their life experiences. I think that will only benefit the students. That is something I would highly encourage my students to do.
Do you have more advice to give to CoBA students?
I encourage students to work hard; don’t set a limit for yourself. Don’t sit and say, “This is what I want to do and what I want to be,” because you never know what will happen in the future. Like my experience—I never pictured that I would be in this career, in this area. I kind of decided I wanted to work in industry instead of pursuing an academic career, but instead, after working 6 years in the industry I decided to go back to school to get a doctorate degree and that is something I frankly did not picture myself doing when I was in the industry. That was a total surprise and something I didn’t expect, so don’t set a limit for yourself. You never know when you’ll use the knowledge that you’ve acquired from the classroom. For instance, when I started the admission process for the PhD program, if I had not worked hard in college so I would have a decent grade, if I thought at that time that I would not have to work hard, my transcript would not have gotten me into any PhD program because they would see that I did poorly in school. When I thought about that I felt that I had done the right thing about not being lazy or skipping classes. I did what I was supposed to do even though I didn’t know at that time whether I was going to use it or not in the future. When you start working in the industry, once you get a job, no one cares how well you did in class, but you never know because you may change your mind and get a master’s degree or a PhD degree and then all of a sudden your transcript and your grades become very important. A lot of things you don’t see now but that doesn’t mean they are not useful. That is some advice I would give students.