Hi, my name is Haiman Wong and I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I am currently a cybersecurity professional and full-time graduate student wrapping up my final semester in American University’s Master of Data Science program with a concentration in Cybersecurity. I also hold a BA in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG) from American University and was an active student leader and member of the Politics, Policy, and Law Three-Year Scholars Program and the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program throughout my undergraduate career.
Throughout my professional and academic careers, I’ve centered my research, work, and advocacy on understanding how technology, psychology, constitutional law, and education intersect and can be leveraged to provide transformative solutions to problems that persist in our status quo and to anticipate issues that may arise. Additional subjects that I am most passionate about include rhetoric, digital transformation, and cross-cultural communication. Currently, my primary goal is to apply my interdisciplinary skills to my role as a cybersecurity professional and further develop and fine-tune my technical skills and knowledge in threat intelligence, offensive cybersecurity, and machine learning.
My passion for public affairs started my sophomore year of high school, which, if you asked most people within my circles, is a fact that few are willing to believe. For twelve years of my life, I was dedicated to pursuing my dream of becoming a pediatric cardiologist. I graduated with an Applied Math, Science, and Engineering major and a Conservatory of the Arts Music Minor in high school. I was also part of the officer team in my high school’s Forensics Club and completed various research projects of my own, including a project on the effects of GMOs on human health and development. I also sequenced DNA and worked with the Rosetta Institute of Biomedical Research at UC Berkeley over the summer of my freshman year in an effort to understand and further research regarding cancer and molecular biology.
Though those experiences were undoubtedly invaluable, joining my high school’s parliamentary debate team in my sophomore year is what ultimately completely transformed my career path in ways I never would have anticipated. I still remember the opening remarks from my coach that very first day I joined the team. My coach stated, “It takes a hundred men to move a mountain, but it only takes one right word to move a hundred men.” From there, the shortest version of this journey that I can share here is that debate taught me that every word has meaning and that every voice matters. Through debate, I found an innate love and an insatiable passion for rhetoric, politics, and education that I never would have known was within me, had I not joined debate.
I never saw myself as a debater, but six months after joining the team, I was elected to be the Vice President of Tournaments. This position required me to administer all the logistics for the team imaginable, which included everything from registering our teams for tournaments, facilitating relationships between parents, judges, coaches, tournament staff, and team members, and managing thousands of dollars of our fines and fees. Serving as my team’s Vice President of Tournaments taught me not only how to manage high stress, but also how to be flexible and patient when plans go awry. I also learned how to make quick decisions and became practiced at articulating those decisions to my team in a manner that promoted team confidence, unity, and peace amid often unstable, chaotic, and high-stress situations.
Exactly one year after I was elected Vice President of Tournaments, I was elected by my team to be the first female president. I look back on this fondly not because of my achievements, but because I can proudly say that the team now is still retaining the culture I fought and advocated for, even as I’m across the country, pursuing the next chapter of my career. It is a culture where our debate team is a community where everyone can find their voice, as I did, and a place where each member learns to empower others in-and-out of our team. I led intending to make debate a place where my members learn to be empathetic and authentic. Perhaps it is because I never saw myself as a debater or a public affairs major that is the very reason why I am more driven than ever to proactively create opportunities for myself to learn, make the most of every opportunity that I have, and intentionally hold space for others who are looking for opportunities.
Never foreseeing that I would be who I am today also means that my values and perspectives on the public affairs field and debate are unique from my peers who have always known that they were proficient debaters and wanted to pursue a career in public affairs and law. I am better able to empathize with those who see public speaking, debate, or even our current political scene as a daunting scene to enter because I was also one of them. I recognize that it is only through inspiring leaders and mentors in my own life that I have been empowered to maximize my full potential, which inspires me to be that person for others. I am also more open-minded and comfortable with change because I, myself, pursued such a drastic change in my career path.
Though my experience now includes founding multiple tutoring programs for my communities and interning, managing, and working for political campaigns, non-profits, university administration, technical consulting start-ups, retail, and financial services, the common denominator is that I do everything with intentionality to make the most of each opportunity and to serve authentically. Whether it’s stepping completely out of my comfort zone into an unfamiliar field, working within a team where I’m the one who has the most learning to do, or being tested as a leader of a divided team, I aspire to further refine my skills through the current roles I hold and the future experiences that will come. I consistently challenge myself to learn, apply, and adapt my leadership style and skill set to any community I join and serve.
Leadership to me is not just a simple passion, a position, or a responsibility. Leadership to me is service to others. I believe that leadership is putting other people’s needs and desires before your own and doing everything in your power to provide your team with the resources they need to grow and achieve success. I am here to challenge myself to be the best that I can be at all times. I am here to support, but above all else, I am here to empower my teams and myself to redefine the established limits in our field. I look forward to connecting with you soon!