Alumni Profile: Angela Chang

Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.

Angela Chang

Education

  • MIT SB Course 2 ‘97
  • MIT MAS SM '02
  • MIT MAS PhD '11
Angela Chang

Biography

Angela is a practicing artist, designer, academic, and entrepreneur who believes that tinkering together enhances relationships. As Founder of TinkerStories, she develops experiences that enable readers to become better storytellers to young children. Her storytelling apps help caregivers bond with young children during story sharing. Angela also creates digital media, electronic textiles, and consumer devices that heighten people’s presence to improve their self-awareness, interpersonal communication, and enjoyment of social situations.

Angela received an SB in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and her Masters and PhD at the MIT Media Lab in Media Arts and Sciences. Her research in synesthesia led her to develop devices that translated touch through remote communication devices. She developed haptic technology and futuristic phone prototypes with the Advanced Concepts Group at Motorola. She is an inventor on several tactile interface patents. Her main interests are to improve interpersonal relationships in families and communities by applying creativity and engineering to the domains of Storytelling, Electronic-Textiles, and Education.

She is a mother, wife, and community volunteer. Currently, she works with other like-minded people as a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Trope Tank, adjunct professor at Roger Williams University, and an Affiliated Faculty member at Emerson College in Boston, MA. She is an editor of the Taper Digital E-zine and treasurer of the Berkley Cultural Council in Berkley, MA. She enjoys creative coding, book clubs, interactive fiction, and tinkering with her friends. Her motto, "Let's have fun tinkering together."

Angela's Story

What influenced your choice of undergraduate major? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?

A recommendation from an alumni, and having tried some courses in the areas I was most interested in during freshman P/F.

What influenced your choice of graduate program? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?

My boss recommended the program to me.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently or more of while you were at MIT?

I wish I had worked with more people and taken exploratory classes in other disciplines as well-- materials science, EAPS, biology, and foreign languages.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

I like getting to know and working with regular people who are amazing in their own right. Creating tools and sharing information that can help people personally and professionally to make the world a better place.

What motivates you to do the work that you do?

My family and interest in building a world that they would want to live in. I want my children to have literate, thoughtful, and curious peers. I would like the future to be populated with creative and passionate makers.

What's the biggest challenge you've encountered so far in your career? How have you managed or overcome it?

My biggest challenge is to not be a perfectionist. I often want to do everything to perfection, but learning how to communicate intentions, prioritize, and appreciate every outcome of work has become a much healthier and sustainable approach.

Making decisions, especially important-feeling career decisions, can be challenging. What strategies have you used to make career decisions?

I talked to people I cared about and who cared for me.

What professional development experiences or opportunities shaped your early career?

I am so lucky to have so many great mentors. I worked and learned from amazing people who truly loved their work. At my first job in a small company called LCS/Telegraphics, I worked with Robert Dezmelyk, Richard Poyner, John Jurewicz, and Howard Eglowstein. They were devoted to their craft, amazing teachers, and so kind to teach me. I went to Japan and interned at Horiba, and my supervisors and coworkers worked efficiently and in harmony with each other. At Motorola, I was lucky to work with a small group of designers with Marco Susani, Lisa Yong, Tad Toulis, Michael Caine, JoonWoo Park, and Conor O' Sullivan. Also at the MIT Media Lab, the professors and other graduate students lived to perfect their craft. The themes of compassion, mastery with technical skills, and creative curiosity have influenced me in my own life.
 

What professional development activities do you find really useful these days?

I publish and produce work regularly, and meet up with like-minded people regarding our mutual work interests. I do a fair bit of reading of current research and provide feedback to others about their work.

What's the best piece of career advice you've received?

Being strategic with your resources - Robert Dezmelyk told me, "Invest your money early," and "learning on the job is more valuable than any degree."
Passion for your work - Howard Eglowstein lives and breathes firmware, and taught me how to hack by being friends with me. Richard Poyner told me, "I read programming books and code in my spare time." Tad Toulis telling me "I am a designer so I obsess about design." and when I visited his house, every object was designer and yes, he obsessed over every detail (in an awe inspiring way). And every designer I worked with worked at home and whenever they could.
Always make progress - When I was disappointed about a lack of help from another part of the company, "We do it. We get it done." Marco Susani. "Always keep moving," by John Jurewic, MIT S.B. AR'83'. When trying to figure out what options to pursue, Cynthia Breazeal said to me, "Do everything."
Personal - My father-in-law: "When you're young and ambitious, you think work is your legacy. As a retired person, see that it wasn't me building the legacy, but my wife. Look at you kids." (3 of his children went to MIT, one went to Harvard.) Prof. Leon Glicksman took us undergrads in his graduate heat and mass transfer class out to lunch at the end of the semester as part of a student-faculty initiative. He said, "Remember this, when you find the right one, you'll know. Do what you can to stay with them," My Dr. Anne Liau at MIT Medical told me, "90% of success in life is marrying the right person." and "Always take care of your health." My friend Harold Barnard says, "It's simple really, you've got to eat right, sleep, and exercise everyday."

What career advice do you have for current MIT students, or those interested in entering your industry?

Don't be afraid to try new things and invent your own path.

Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?

No need to network for the sake of networking. Do interesting things and share them with people.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun/relaxation/inspiration?

I teach using creativity and technology. I publish digital literature. I meet with people who share similar interests and contribute to the community. I make electronic clothes. I roller skate. I love being a mom to my kids and traveling together. I like to read about other artists and their journeys.

Do you participate in any volunteer/community service activities? If so, how do you balance your professional and personal responsibilities?

I'm a blogger for the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction. I advise students sometimes. I was elected to Treasurer for my town's Cultural Council. I volunteer to teach 3D printing and technology at my local library. I volunteer at my kid's schools. I balance my responsibilities by being selective and focusing on being present.