Photo courtesy of Illinois Tech Leadership Academy
Coming to Chicago from the warm suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, Chris Hui has spent his years at Illinois Tech highly involved in student life and professional development. He is a fourth year mechanical engineering major and will be pursuing a master’s degree in the fall focusing on machine design. On campus, Hui is serving in his third consecutive year of being a resident advisor, is the internal secretary for Tau Beta Pi (TBP), the engineering honor society, and has participated in Habitat for Humanity through Alternative Spring Break since his freshman year. Additionally, he serves as the chair of the Public Relations/Publications Committee in Leadership Academy. In his free time, Hui enjoys drawing, building models, sewing, cooking, and playing the piano, as well as riding his bike all seasons of the year.
Q: What's something that makes you, you?
Hui: For better or for worse, I always try to learn more about everything. It helps me understand a situation, but it can also be a hindrance for me because there will never be a situation in life where I can know everything before I make a decision. If I’m not consciously aware of this, I can fall into analysis paralysis and become a fence-sitter. I must be able to face uncertainty and be confident to shoot my shot appropriately so that I keep moving forward. With this, I strive to continue utilizing my innate curiosity while working to mitigate the negatives of this trait when facing uncertain situations.
Q: What do you think is essential for any good leader? How do you try to embody this?
H: Three essential dimensions of leadership are context, empathy, and trust. I always try to remember to step back periodically from a situation to gain a larger perspective. First, it is critical for a leader to understand the context at hand, where I must understand myself and my own attitudes and intentions, understand my teammates’ concerns or viewpoints, and understand the nuances of the situation. Secondly, empathy concerns understanding and feeling what each of my team members experience. Without a true connection to my team, how can I hope to adequately serve and support them? Finally, trust must go both ways between leaders and their team: leaders trusting in team members’ strengths and abilities, and the team trusting in the leader’s vision and intention. I always strive to be able to change perspectives and gain a full understanding of myself, my teammates, and the situation. I know I still have much to learn and improve, but this is at the forefront of any situation I face.
Q: What has the Leadership Academy meant to you?
H: I think something really beautiful about the academy is how multifaceted and diverse it is in our scholars’ qualities, backgrounds, and interactions, from being a group of learners to a family away from home. Working and learning alongside 25 highly motivated and talented people has helped me grow and expand my boundaries. In a sort of informal mentorship, the different spontaneous discussions we have had about topics large and small have opened my eyes to experiences and perspectives I had never known or considered before, and including our staff, it has been one of the most supportive environments I have been in.
Q: What career objectives do you have once you graduate from Illinois Tech?
H: I plan to complete my master’s degree in machine design focused on propulsion and mobility technologies, improving the way people can move around and interact with the world through fields such as vehicular design or assisted mobility. This interest is a culmination of sorts of my lifelong fascination of working with and designing machines and mechanisms, and I hope to work in the industry after completing my schooling. Far in the future, I hope to have the chance to teach high school math or science to give back with my academic and professional experience to support and inspire students who are at the crux of making decisions that will guide their professional futures.
Q: What is a piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to be a leader?
H: Personal leadership is a quality one can train and improve with behaviors such as empathy, team empowerment, and emotional intelligence. However, in pursuing a position of leadership, I think the most important aspects are self-awareness and self-reflection. Power and prestige can be motivators to pursue leadership, but these are superficial and leadership should come from a deeper, genuine motivation to serve and support. Society and media commonly associate certain behaviors with leadership, such as giving orders, being assertive, or being highly extroverted, but these alone do not make a good leader. Self-reflection is critical to examine what you want out of leadership; you must be fully aware of your talents, strengths, and weaknesses. No matter your leadership style, understanding the relationship between yourself and those you work with is vital.