It is my utmost pleasure to present to you Raymond Liang, who is our feature for this month’s “Stern Somebody.”
Ray is a first-generation Taiwanese-American who was born in Queens, but has spent most of his life on Long Island. He is already a very accomplished young man, having earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s, prior to starting the full-time program at Stern in 2018. Before Stern he worked in Real Estate Valuation at a commercial bank. He is graduating this May and isn’t even 30 yet. To make matters worse, I mean, better, he is starting law school this fall with a plan to focus on entertainment law. Stop being so impressive, Ray!
I first met Ray on DBi China (yes, I made all my best Stern friends there), but we didn’t truly become close until later when a mutual friend, who would prefer to remain anonymous, made us throw ourselves a co-birthday party. The rest is history.
Ray was incredibly involved during his time at Stern. He was a board member of Stern Speaks, a VP of ABS, EMSA, GMA, and OutClass and involved in Leadership Fellows. When I wanted to restart The Oppy, the first person I asked for advice and help was Ray. Despite his intense schedule with classes, clubs, and graduate fellowships, he supported me and took on the MBA2 Managing Editor role.
In all honesty, I was nervous when I was running my first Oppy meeting and planning the first issue, but Ray helped me every step of the way. Ray excels at many things but being a steadfast friend and a compassionate person is what truly makes him stand out from the crowd.
Ray, thank you for finally agreeing to let me interview you. Do you think you’ll always be this annoyingly humble?
(laughs) I want to say no, but the answer is probably yes. I think it’s partly how I was raised and so it’s naturally a trait I value in others as well. My favorite tennis player is Rafa Nadal, for example, and what I love about him is that he is arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all time, yet he remains incredibly humble. I mean the guy is a millionaire, a 17-time Grand Slam Champion, yet prefers flying coach and vacationing on his home island of Mallorca. If I’m ever that successful, I hope I remain as grounded and humble as he is.
I see that you are already trying to turn the spotlight away from yourself. So typical. This interview is about YOU. Not Rafa Nadal. Although, he’s pretty cool too. I briefly mentioned your educational pursuits. Can you tell us a little more about your career and personal goals?
My short term goal is to work in entertainment law. My long term goals are more nebulous. I enjoy being creative – writing and acting to be exact. In particular, I’m especially interested in narratives that have traditionally been marginalized by Hollywood, like those in the Asian-American community. Ideally, I would love to one day blend these two seemingly disparate worlds, which oddly isn’t as rare as people might think. Take the creator of Westworld, Lisa Joy, for example, who is a screenwriter and has a law degree from Harvard. Christopher Demos-Brown (most known for his recent Broadway play “American Son”) is also an actor turned playwright who continues to be an actively practicing lawyer. If I could model my career after anyone it would probably be his.
And don’t forget your Hamptons house that you said I will always have a place to stay in? You’re going to be a lawyer so you know I need it in writing…
(laughs) How about I do you one better? When I get my first Oscar or Tony nomination, I’ll invite you to be my plus one.
YES, YES, 100% YES! If you can’t be rich or famous, hang on to other shooting stars, kids.
Do you think being first-generation American is responsible for some of your drive?
It’s interesting. It hasn’t always been, but as I’ve gotten older, and perhaps wiser and more appreciative of my family’s diaspora, it’s definitely been a motivating factor. I didn’t realize how difficult it was for my father to come to this country until I took the time to actually talk to my family about it — and even then, I only did it because I had to interview them for a capstone project. But it was eye-opening. There were discriminatory laws and quotas still in place during the 40s against Asians, which made immigration extraordinarily difficult. But through an act of kindness of a stranger, they eventually made it to the U.S. as refugees seeking asylum.
My mother’s also an incredibly tough lady. She left her entire family behind and her career as a nurse to come to a country where she didn’t know anyone or speak the language. She’s also a survivor of breast and thyroid cancer, and yet she’s always had this hopeful outlook on life. Whenever I’m having a “shitty” day because of some trite reason, like missing the express train, I remind myself what real adversity is like and that grounds me.
So yeah, growing up I’ve taken a lot of their sacrifices for granted for sure, and it’s important for me to finally be able to say to them “hey I’ve got this now…and I’ve got you, too.”
Wow, you truly are an extraordinarily kind person. I can only imagine how thankful they are to have you as a son. You are the textbook example of the “American dream.”
Well, I’m pretty sure there are days where they’ve questioned having a second child (laughs).
Tell us your favorite experiences at Stern? I know you have a top three.
Ohh Deirdre, you know all my secrets don’t you!
You said it, not me.
One would have to be DBi China. I won’t reveal too much because what happens in China, stays in China (laughs). But to be honest, I made some really close friends on that trip, which caught me by surprise. I also had the opportunity to visit, or rather sneak into, the university my grandfather studied at, so it was a reconnecting of sorts to someone I never had the opportunity to know growing up.
Stern Speaks would be another highlight. I’m normally a very private person, so sharing the successes, challenges and aspirations in your life with a room full of 70+ strangers and more importantly trusting them is a transformative experience, to say the least.
Part of me was saving this last slot for Spring Break 2020, or graduation but now that my options have been vastly limited, I’ll say spending New Year’s Eve with a group of amazing Sternies in Taiwan. Those people, and that country have a special place in my heart. It was also particularly memorable because I got to meet the Vice Presidential candidate while I was there. By happenstance I was eating lunch at the same restaurant he was eating at and he came to shake everyone’s hand. His security guard also took a picture of me with him, so that was pretty cool (laughs).
Can you please tell everyone the story about the NYU Shanghai jackets?
Oh my god…this still gives me heart palpitations. It’s a rather long, convoluted story, but the short version of it is that it all started when I bought an NYU Shanghai bomber jacket as a memento when I was in China last summer. For Christmas, I planned on surprising some of my friends, who had gone on DBi China with me, with the very same jackets. At the time, I thought it’d be cute that we’d all have matching jackets. I realize now that people probably hate us every time we wear them out in public together, but I digress. Anyway, I had my cousin, who lives in Shanghai, purchase them for me and ship them to my apartment. Naturally, with my luck they arrived when I was away on Thanksgiving break and since my building doesn’t have a doorman, someone stole them. I then had my cousin buy them again, and express ship them to my parents house in Long Island so they would come in time for Christmas. Foolproof…except my cousin accidentally mailed them to my apartment in the city and they got stolen AGAIN. At this point I was hysterical. A normal, sane, rational person would’ve given up, and I did for a few days…only to have my cousin ship them out a third time. In the end it all worked out, and the reaction on my friends’ faces is enough restitution for the emotional and psychological trauma I experienced. But if I EVER see a stranger wearing an NYU Shanghai bomber jacket on the streets of Manhattan…
Lesson learned folks – don’t get uninsured packages delivered to your East Village apartment if you don’t have a mailroom or doorman.
I am one of the lucky recipients of these bombers and I am pretty obsessed. But you’re absolutely right, we are annoying with our matching jackets…annoyingly adorable!
Please see exhibit A:
What are some parting words of wisdom you want to give to MBA1s and continuing Langone students?
I think when we come to business school we are flooded with messaging about the importance of expanding your network and meeting as many people as possible. But for me, what’s important is not so much the quantity but the quality. I can honestly say that I’ve developed relationships with a small number of people, who I know will always have my back and I’ll always have theirs. It’s weird because some of these people I’ve only known for less than a year, but what my time at Stern has shown me is that time is an artificial construct. You can know someone for years and they still feel like a stranger whenever you’re in the same room, and on the flipside you can become incredibly close with someone after only knowing them for a few months. I think it’s important to recognize when you come across those types of relationships and purposefully choose investing time into building them.
Ray, you have an amazing way with words. You are an exemplary Sternie and an even better friend. Thank you for everything you have done for The Oppy, the MBA community, and for me. We will be so sad to see you go, but we cannot wait to hear of your upcoming successes.