Innovator Article

Brenda Guo Accelerates IT to Raise the Bar

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By Joanna Corman

Brenda Guo prepared to enter the Chinese foreign ministry, but serendipity led her to a 12-year career in information technology and most recently to the Bay Area Working Professional MBA Program, where she is a second-year student.

Guo, a native of China, has built her career at a diverse collection of U.S. companies, and a stint co-founding a company in China.

She earned her undergraduate degree from the China Foreign Affairs University. While most of her classmates entered the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guo moved to New York state with her husband, who was enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Cornell University, to pursue a master’s degree in corporate communications at Ithaca College.

She had aspired to work in the communications field after graduating in 1998, but instead joined Burntsand Inc. in San Jose during the Internet bubble. As an information technology consultant, she designed and built web-based databases, completing projects for Fortune 500 companies such as Wells Fargo, AT&T and Boeing.

That experience sparked her interest in harnessing the transformative power of technology rather than doing corporate communications. The more she learned how to program computers, the more she enjoyed it. She also found she has effective problem-solving skills, essential for a successful IT career.

Since 2006, Guo has thrived as an IT programmer analyst for the Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), a program of the University of California that is cosponsored by the State Bar of California to cultivate the professional development of lawyers. She is a system administrator overseeing three databases, two of which she designed. Guo is responsible for the systems’ health, helping users when they encounter daily problems and introducing new systems. She and her team have earned CEB recognition awards for their work.

Guo likes the fast-paced nature of IT, researching changing technology and proposing new products to senior management. “You feel like you’re adding a lot of value to a business, and it’s a very challenging job,” she says. “Also, once your system is up and running, you feel a lot of power because you have to help a lot of people to do their daily work.”

Recently, Guo convinced her managers to change the vendor of their web catalog, which advertises products for attorneys. The old catalog had a “straight, plain PDF layout without URL links.” The new one, in its final testing phase, is like a virtual magazine with pages that flip and inserted links that let customers buy products with a mouse click.

Before joining the CEB, Guo worked in for Bio-Rad Laboratories in Irvine as an IT business system analyst and as an independent consultant to American Honda Motor Company Inc. in Torrance, Calif.

In 2005, she and her husband returned to China and launched a start-up with friends called Yiyouxing Technology Inc., an online training company, which they sold.

As a UC Davis MBA student, Guo is an active member of the Bay Area Marketing Association and has set her sights on becoming a general manager leading an international team at a high-tech company. Courses in marketing and finance, she says, will help her better interact with customers and allow her to pursue a product management career path.

Guo’s preparation for a high-tech career started in junior high and high school, when she attended a highly competitive, elite school in Tianjin, China, near Beijing. “It gave me confidence I could be successful among a group of very competitive people.”

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