Tech, the Arts, and the Value of Human Interaction with Shirley Yu

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Shirley Yu began her journey as a computer scientist, and is an award-winning environmental portraiture and conceptual still life photographer with clients including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time. She's also the founder of Choosii, a community app for collectors to curate, share, and acquire their collections, and cultivate connection.

Join us as we speak about Shirley's journey from computer science to entrepreneurism, her creative process, and building communities with our collections.

About Shirley Yu

Shirley Yu is the CEO and Founder of Choosii, the community app for everyone that loves to collect (including herself and her friends

  • crazy plant collectors). Prior to launching Choosii, she discovered her creative side in high school, studied computer science at Rutgers, and then started an award-winning creative production studio where she created environmental portraiture and conceptual still life works for clients that include New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Barclays and Toyota.

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  • [00:01:17] Shirley's beginnings in computer science.
  • [00:01:29] Shirley's family is heavily STEMM leaning.
  • [00:02:55] With a creative background, computer science seemed like a good balance between technical and creativity.
  • [00:04:15] Algorithms to 3D print sculptures. The intersection of creativity and technology. There's an intentionality and logic to the universe.
  • [00:05:37] Shirley's pursuit of photography.
  • [00:05:52] The creative problem solving of photography and bringing a vision to life.
  • [00:07:45] Seeking a creative outlet and discovering the scope of photography.
  • [00:10:27] Renting a studio to develop her skills in parallel with school.
  • [00:11:38] Being nominated for awards and having commissions and realising that photography would be a viable career path.[00:13:51] Steve Giralt and being motivated to be in that world where she could innovate creatively.
  • [00:15:20] Graduating from computer science and building her studio.
  • [00:15:53] Developing client work, but also personal projects to explore what you're capable of creatively.
  • [00:17:07] Being passively creative and pulling from both her technical and creative experiences.
  • [00:19:32] Creating Choosii for collectors inspired by her own experience.
  • [00:20:57] Creating experiences from interactions.
  • [00:25:48] The experience doesn't end with the transaction.
  • [00:30:39] The emotional satisfaction of knowing something you care about has gone to someone who will care about it as well.
  • [00:34:42] Shirley made Choosii for people like her.
  • [00:36:36] On Shirley's COVID experience and reflecting on care packages and contact.
  • [00:42:15] The evolution of shopping habits and the trend toward supporting local businesses and responsible capitalism.
  • [00:46:52] Creating networks from which to buy also gives provenance and builds trust.
  • [00:47:28] Shirley's breadth of experience and interactions inform the wholistic view of how she creates.
  • [00:50:05] Shirley's process in portraiture and capturing her subject and their environment.
  • [00:58:42] All of Shirley's experiences and people she has met through her creative work now informs her own journey as an entrepreneur.
  • [00:59:11] Curating her projects to reflect her own values and cultivate her journey.
  • [01:01:08] Finding mentorship when your growth is across multiple spaces.
  • [01:01:49] Show up. Know what you want to learn, and figure out where that can happen.
  • [01:03:42] FounderCafe.
  • [01:04:38] Launch House.
  • [01:05:08] Finding like-minded people and organically grow the relationships. Create new connections and reengage with old connections.
  • [01:09:53] What it means to Shirley to be good at business.
  • [01:12:01] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
  • [01:14:13] Loving what you do takes work, risk, and perseverance.
  • [01:19:50] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
  • [01:21:16] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
  • [01:21:26] Diversify. Always keep learning and exploring.

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