Johnny Lee '05 — Chief of Operations, AIC Education

Johnny Lee graduated from Duke University with a double major in International Comparative Studies and Economics and a minor in Chinese. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research on the impact of tourism on ethnic minority development and identity in rural Western China. Starting his career as an Analyst in Goldman Sachs #1 ranked Asia Financials Research team in Hong Kong, he is now the COO of AIC Education, a leading education consultancy firm in China with ten offices spread across China and the U.S.

Abraham Lincoln in the recent film Lincoln said, “A compass..[will] point you True North from where you're standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps and desert and chasm that you'll encounter along the way.”

Having realized that living life for the approval of others left me empty and feeling burnt out in high school (yes I was your typical results-oriented Asian who did well in school to avoid disappointing my parents), I arrived at Duke with a burning desire to find what I truly cared about. My mission was clear, but not my vision.

Despite being unable to articulate my vision at the start of college, ICS gave me the opportunity to piece together my own “major”, class by class, regardless of whether they were in the same discipline. This largely helped me get to the classes I was genuinely curious about faster. I believe reflecting on the gap between prior expectation and actual experience is most revealing about one’s character and interests when one had possessed a genuine curiosity to try it in the first place, whether one was able to articulate the initial curiosity or not. Thus, being able to encounter the swamps, deserts and chasms that were more relevant to me faster helped me find my True North faster. Gradually, I learned that I cared most about providing opportunity to those that lacked access.

This evolutionary approach to my education that ICS enabled also helped me appreciate the process of learning. Moreover, it forced me to introspect constantly. I carried forward this habit beyond Duke, checking, at every critical juncture or transition in my life, whether I was adhering to my inner compass. Through much reflection and self-analysis since college, I’ve come to learn that meaning to me is no longer defined solely by doing something that provides opportunity. Rather, I have to also be pursuing something that otherwise may not exist if I do not participate. I’ve discovered the growth of our own potential goes hand in hand with the opportunities we create for others to do the same.

Today, I consider myself among the fortunate few with a career pursuing something I love and find meaningful. As the COO of AIC Education, I am helping to build a platform where more typical Asian over-achievers can discover their passions and live according to their purpose in service of others in the same way ICS has enabled me to do.