Maria Li is the chief operating officer (COO) at Tech in Asia (TIA), one of the leading digital media publications covering Asia’s tech and startup scene. Prior to Tech in Asia, Maria worked at Apple as a business operations and commercial strategy manager, in Cupertino and Singapore. She began her career as an emerging markets consultant with consulting firm Deloitte, leveraging her Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Wharton and her Master in Public Policy (MPP) from the University of Virginia.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (Kr): Hi Maria, most people know you as COO of Tech in Asia. What is something people don’t know about you?
Maria Li (ML): If you knew me in San Francisco, I actually loved the outdoors. I’m happiest when I’m outside, camping, and hiking. My husband and I would spend many weekends out in the various national parks. I’ve summited both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Rainier. I love the intensity of just being outdoors.
KrASIA (Kr): You’ve gone from consulting to tech and then media. Can you explain the reasons behind your career transitions?
Maria Li (ML): It is really important for me to make an impact on the local economy. This was influenced by the differences I saw in my own upbringing versus my cousins back in China. I did my MPP, which led me to join Deloitte’s Emerging Markets Group, which is very focused on advising international institutions on how to run multi-year projects to support national gross domestic product (GDP) growth within developing countries.
However, I started to realize that the most sustainable way to support local economic growth is actually through the private sector. So, I moved from the public to the private sector, and I ended up in Nairobi for my MBA summer internship, and helped to spin out new investment products for those in rural Kenya.
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