Look for areas of disruption where you can apply your fundamental business skillset. That’s where you can grow your career the fastest. Don’t be afraid of the pressure or the uncertainty. In this line of work, every day is an exciting opportunity to tackle the unknown.
By Ashley Rabinovitch
Vincent Wu T'11 doesn’t make headlines, but he makes them possible. In the past eight years, he has quietly breathed new life into major outlets like AOL, HuffPost, and Yahoo News with an intensely data-driven approach to operations and a wide range of skills gleaned from his time in Hanover. As a result, NewsBreak, a local news platform with $1B+ valuation and 50 million users, has experienced growth in revenue by a factor of 25 in less than three years.
“There is no secret sauce to growth,” he says. “Achieving excellence in operations is about challenging the status quo and pushing an idea to its limits—and then going an extra mile on top of that. It’s about having the right people and mindset to make the impossible possible. In many cases, coming up with ideas is the easy part. Execution is what counts.”
In some ways, Wu found himself in the right place at the right time. He graduated from Tuck at a time when media titans were waking up to the need for versatile, data-savvy managers with the right skillset to steer them through an ocean of disruption. On the other hand, he is unusually gifted at spotting and acting upon opportunities for large-scale impact.
“I bet on myself and bet on an operations role in the media sector,” said Wu. “Fortunately, it’s paying off.”
Tell us a little about your professional background.
Born and raised in China, I earned an engineering degree before launching my career at Accenture. While I enjoyed consulting for technology companies, I always knew that I needed more business training to move forward. While I didn’t know how that was going to play out, I decided to go to Tuck because I had a gut feeling that gaining a broad base of management and leadership skills would be valuable in the future. That turned out to be one of the best calls I’ve ever made.
How did you get started in the media industry?
I was always interested in the news, but I never imagined building my career in the media industry. After working at Oliver Wyman for a few years after getting my MBA, I received offers from a few big tech companies. Everyone thought I was crazy when I accepted an offer from AOL, an older company. But at that time, the media sector was undergoing massive disruption. With companies like Facebook entering the media space, mastering data and analytics became essential to succeeding in the content business. I spotted an opportunity to use my skills to help media leaders navigate a changing landscape.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
My mission has been to use a rigorous data-driven approach to help companies grow. As the director of global strategy and operations at AOL, I helped turn things around by using data to transform the process of content production, distribution, and monetization. Then, as head of operations at HuffPost, I strived to push analytics to the forefront. Based on my insights, HuffPost moved from an article-centric to a video-centric model and grew its audience as a result. I’m perhaps most proud, though, of the growth I’ve achieved at NewsBreak, a startup geared toward reimagining the local news ecosystem. I helped build a company from scratch to a ‘unicorn’ in two years.
In what ways did your Tuck MBA set you up for success?
Without a doubt, the rigor of the curriculum prepared me to work well in a high-pressure startup environment and get results. Tuck also equipped me with all the fundamentals I needed to connect the dots in my career. It was hard to see where I was going when I was in the program. But when I look back, I can see how Tuck classes like Negotiations, Managerial Accounting, and Decision Science gave me the ability to take on challenges in a wide range of disciplines. My colleagues at NewsBreak half-jokingly call me the “Full-stack COO” because I can do just about everything on the business side. I’m proud of that nickname. My MBA was a major factor in developing the versatility to manage finance, sales, strategy, marketing, fundraising, and every other area of the business. Every skill I took away from Tuck is a skill I use to help News Break grow.
Any advice for Tuck graduates considering a career in operations?
Look for areas of disruption where you can apply your fundamental business skillset. That’s where you can grow your career the fastest. Don’t be afraid of the pressure or the uncertainty. In this line of work, every day is an exciting opportunity to tackle the unknown. In operations, there is always a new problem to solve and a new approach to develop.
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