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"The Rock Star": Maria Ly, Co-Founder of Skimble

Maria Ly is quite literally a Rock Star.  She is the rock star co-founder of Skimble (which is incubated by Rock Health), and you’ll often find her hanging off a 5.13a grade rock climbing route or snapping rock formation photography that's featured in Outside Magazine.  While stretching the metaphor but still rocking out, she will even do backflips on stage during her talks at TEDx and other health conferences.

How Did You Get Started on Your “Grand Plan”?

Maria studied overseas and credits her time abroad as a big part of her grand plan and rock star success.

While I was born in Vietnam, with Chinese and Japanese ancestry, I moved to London, Ontario in Canada when I was six months old. I speak English and Cantonese, and understand some Japanese and German. From a young age I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I had my own company in high school where I customized and sold cellphones.

What was Important to You When Deciding on Your University?

University was my launch pad to see more of the world and experience a variety of cultures. I chose to attend the University of Waterloo in Canada due to their international co-op program.  They offer a 5-year engineering program, consisting of alternate terms of studying on campus and working at companies.  I graduated with a degree in computer engineering and minor in international studies and management sciences. I had already accumulated 2 years of professional experience before I graduated.

What Were Your Overseas Destinations?

I spent my time in key global business markets: Japan in Asia; Germany in Europe; and Silicon Valley in the US.

My first overseas experience was a language and cultural summer program in Tokyo, Japan. I arrived in Tokyo and immediately had to use public transit to get around.  Through challenges like these, I became much more independent and learned how to adapt and function on my own in foreign country.

My next international experience was a Praktikum (or internship) in Frankfurt, Germany. I took one German language course before going there but the language barrier was really low.  Germans want to practice their English so, as an English speaker, you become a guinea pig for them. I picked up the German language more through immersion than through classes. For my internship I was assigned to an international team based in Frankfurt and was able to work with people in India, Australia, other Europeans, and Americans.  It was a very rewarding experience.

Finally, I rounded out my international work experience with internships in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in the US. The whole experience reinforced by desire to do global work in the technology space.

Did All of These International Experiences Affect Your Future?

I was able to combine cultural learning and workplace learning. Understanding and appreciating the differences in cultures and business mannerisms is extremely beneficial in today's global society.  I have lived, travelled, and worked in over 25 countries. I think that helps me keep an open mind as I work through new challenges!

And Finally…

Now that you reached the end of our StudentRoads interview it is probably time to take a break with a bit of stretching and/or some fresh air. Check out Maria’s company Skimble, which offers top free health and fitness mobile applications like Workout Trainer.  It will get you moving, just like Maria, and millions of other Skimble community members!

 © 2012 StudentRoads. All rights reserved. Do not reprint without permission.

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Student Stories

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  • Maria Ly is quite literally a Rock Star. You’ll often find her hanging off a 5.13a grade rock climbing route, she is the rock star co-founder of Skimble (which is incubated by Rock Health), and you can find her rock formation photography featured in Outside Magazine.

  • March 13, 1988 was the day we moved to America. Although it wasn't my first time in the country, that date was the beginning of my journey through the American school system. Those eleven years filled me with a lifetime of great memories.

  • Mayank is an inventor and zebra-enthusiast. He developed Stripespotter, a biological barcode scanner for zebras, and is a part of the team behind Facebook insights. By way of India to Oman to the US, Mayank can be found behind the wheel of a red Porsche dreaming up his next big idea.

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