"Building a perspective bigger than the one you're exposed to": Sitting down with TILIP Alumnus David Chang


The Institute for Global Leadership’s (IGL) mission is to prepare and encourage students to undertake active roles in their communities, on a local, national or international level. That is why the IGL sat down with TILIP Alumnus David Chang (A’01) to highlight and share his experiences. During his time at Tufts University, Mr. Chang pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Quantitative Economics and was involved with the Tufts Initiative for Leadership and International Perspective (TILIP) at IGL from the summer of 2000 through the following spring semester. Today, Mr. Chang, a Partner and Commodity Portfolio Manager at Wellington Management, says that without the TILIP program and the IGL, he would not be where he is today, emphasizing that he “owes a lot to TILIP and IGL” and that “it is always a pleasure to reconnect with the school and the Institute.” (On May 10, he and his wife will be hosting a reception for IGL alumni in the New England region, see the IGL web site for more details.)
In 1998, Tufts University, in cooperation with Peking University in Beijing, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the University of Hong Kong, established TILIP, a unique leadership opportunity for students. Initially students from all four universities spent their summers working in pairs at individually tailored internships and attending the Leadership Lecture Series along with weekly seminars. The students also spent ten days in mainland China before returning to their associated universities to plan the annual international symposium held at Tufts University, where they all reconvened. Mr. Chang fondly recounts his time spent in Hong Kong interning at HSBC, during his summer of 2000. He states how the internship at HSBC was the part of his resume that he was “proudest to highlight”.
Today, TILIP has changed from a primarily China-based program to one that brings participants from all over the world to Tufts each year to engage with each other around a pressing global issue. Recently, TILIP has included delegations from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Iraq, Israel, Rwanda, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, and more. Despite the expansion however, the fundamental goals of TILIP have remained at the core of the program since its founding: TILIP is a program that fosters cross-cultural team-building, creates an open environment for discussion, breaks down barriers between cultures, and encourages students to educate others about issues relevant to their country and the theme of the annual symposium. The IGL encourages TILIP students to challenge their preconceived ideas by conducting thought-provoking discussions and collaborative research.
Looking back, Mr. Chang recalled the many reasons that drew him to the TILIP program and motivated him to become involved. He explained, “The ability to work as part of an international cohort and being able to do it in an environment such as Hong Kong...with students from other universities and cultures was really important.”
Additionally, Mr. Chang described how the course work and feeling empowered to organize the topics for the symposium following his HSBC internship “[were] all very appealing.” He further discussed how the intimate working relationships he developed with his Chinese counterparts forced him to be inquisitive and open-minded when working with people from different cultural backgrounds. In this way, he learned how important it is to be flexible when approaching work and projects.
To this day, Mr. Chang still thinks about his time spent in Hong Kong and China. As a Partner and Commodity Portfolio Manager at Wellington Management, he works closely with business contacts in China and has a much deeper understanding of the culture and working relationships; he reflects that his former experiences “allowed [him] to appreciate the nuances that exist in the language...and how trusting relationships are at the very core of doing business.” Indeed, Mr. Chang highlighted how the internship required him to first and foremost gain his counterparts’ trust and to build key relationships with them.
He further noted how “when [he] thinks about TILIP, the ‘L’ stands for leadership. Leadership is not just about being in front, telling others what to do. It’s about empowering and asking questions, really making people feel valued and I think that is what we learned during that summer.”
Given the nature of his career, Mr. Chang remains quite interested in China and the South-east Asia region. Elaborating on this, Mr. Chang said, “My job is one where I think about markets globally and no country is more important to commodity markets than China...so I continue to travel [to China] and to meet with people and companies [there], to get a sense of the state of the economy and the vision of its leaders.” Increasingly, Mr. Chang is more concerned with the environmental and social pressures within China, but states that he “remains an optimist” and that he is “encouraged by a lot of the new policies that tend to be firmly rooted in building a beautiful China.” Furthermore, he believes that a strong China “is good for the global balance of power” and “means strong global growth generally.”
When asked what advice he would offer to IGL and TILIP students aspiring to be future leaders, there emerged a key theme: it is the day-to-day interactions with the people around you that impact your perspective and your future. Recruited at a Tufts careers fair on campus, Mr. Chang highlighted how it is these interactions and the working relationships built with his colleagues that motivate him to continue working at Wellington Management. “Don’t think about the name of the company on your business card, [but rather] the people you will be working with,” he encouraged.

With regard to the IGL, Mr. Chang stressed the same theme of surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals, emphasizing how involvement in the programs at the IGL “is about building social skills, building a perspective that is much broader than the one you’re exposed to on campus...it’s about working with people who have a different experience [than you].” Today, Mr. Chang is still in contact with many of his fellow students who had similar experiences involved in TILIP including Ken Fan, Amy Kumpel, and Kelly Knee.
Mr. Chang continues to be a passionate and driven leader within his workplace and community. When asked about his plans for the next five years, he jokingly stated that it might be too early to talk about his ‘legacy’. However, looking forward, Mr. Chang hopes to continue his work and develop in his role at Wellington Management, while striving to address the gender and racial imbalances that exist, noting that “women represent less than 15 percent of portfolio managers across asset management, and then when it comes to people of color, it is much lower than that. This is one of the greatest imbalances of any industry.” In addition to his work, Mr. Chang is Board Chair for Boston Scores, an after-school program that supports approximately 1,600 students at schools across Boston, as well as a Board of Advisors Member for the Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences. He says that both roles have been eye-opening experiences and are about giving back to the community. Mr. Chang hopes he can support and inspire the next generation and return the same help he was given as a student.