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Vice President of HBO Sofia Chang had lunch with Penn students on Friday.

Credit: Sydney Schaedel

English majors, rejoice! Next time your relatives ask you what you’ll do with your degree, simply tell them that you might run a global entertainment company, just like Sofia Chang.

Chang, a 1991 graduate of the College — and former English major — is now the executive vice president and general manager of HBO. She was on campus last Friday for an intimate lunchtime talk, hosted by the Fox Leadership Program, in which she spoke about her career experiences.

According to Chuck Brutsche, Associate Director of the Fox Leadership Program, the event had the greatest number of RSVPs of any of the program’s talks this year.

“My whole life goal is to have as many choices as I can in my life and not have those choices made for me,” Chang said, referring to her unconventional career path.

Chang’s journey to HBO was not a direct one. After graduation, she started off in fashion buying for a short time, moved to advertising and then ultimately climbed the corporate ladder to her current position at HBO. She credits her “transferable skills” with helping her find success in business, even though she does not have formal training in that area. Among these are analytical thinking, problem solving, communication and research skills.

Chang also described her networking skills and her ability to build relationships as major factors that contributed to her success. She stated that out of the six jobs she’s held since graduation, only two were acquired through “traditional” means — sending in a resume without knowing anyone in the company. However, the other four were obtained through a connection she had made or a relationship she had maintained.

A theme that continued to crop up in the talk was the concept of self-awareness. Chang described that the longer she spent in various workplaces, the more aware she became of who she was and what she wanted.

“The more you become self-aware, the better for your career, the more you know what kind of workplace you like,” she said.

She admits, though, that she’s still developing her own self-awareness.

“I feel that I’m constantly evolving,” Chang said. “I’m always asking: What else do I need to do? What else can I get better at?”

Chang said that she was also very aware of her position as an Asian-American woman in a high-ranking position.

“When I go to board meetings I’m often the only woman in the room, or the only Asian in the room,” she said. Chang added that she makes up for this by sitting "at the head of the table, and [wearing] bright colors."

This way, she feels the legitimacy of her presence is never questioned.

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