2024 Best & Brightest Business Major: Winston Zha, Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

Winston Zha

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“Normal is boring. Dare to be different. Do precisely what others are unwilling to do.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have moved around all my life – Pittsburgh is the seventh city I have lived in.

Hometown: Miami Florida

High School: Nanjing International School

Major: Business Administration, Computer Science Dual Degree

Minor: Concentration in Finance

Favorite Business Course: Marketing

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

15-411 Compiler Design and Implementation: Teaching Assistant (2024)

15-112 Fundamentals of Programming and Computer Science: Head Teaching Assistant (2023), Division Lead (2022-2023), Teaching Assistant (2021-2022)

Kappa Sigma Delta Alpha Chapter: Internal Events Chair (2022-2023)

Where have you interned during your college career? I interned at a pharmaceutical manufacturing startup, Multiply Labs, for my sophomore and junior summers in San Francisco, acting as a software engineering intern in the first summer, and a software engineering + business analyst dual intern in the second.

I also interned at an online foreign meats butcher Swiss Butchery in Shanghai, China as a DevOps intern in Freshman Summer, and interned as a CEO’s management assistant for an educational consultancy Next Level Consulting based in Nanjing, China.

Where will you be working after graduation? Multiply Labs, Software Engineer and Business Analyst.

Who is your favorite business professor? One of my favorite business professors is Professor Peter Stuettgen, who taught my Marketing course. Professor Stuettgen is an incredibly worldly Professor with experience having taught overseas and brings with him a diverse array of perspectives that made marketing lectures genuinely interesting. From showing up to class in an M&M suit to advertising Vibram Fivefingers (search them up), he embodies what marketing is and taught me some of the most memorable lessons in my time here at CMU.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Studying business taught me the importance of soft skills and being enjoyable to work with.

As someone with a technical background, trust me when I say that it can be extremely easy to believe that just having the technical skills is enough. However, in nearly 90% of situations, I learned that people would much prefer working with or hiring someone who is perhaps weaker technically but a joy to work with than someone who is technically strong but a jerk in the workplace. One can have all the technical skills they want, but if people do not want to listen to them, their technical skills are good for naught among our increasingly collaborative world. Learning to work with people with different strengths and weaknesses is one of the most important things studying business taught me.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Business classes have such a wide variety of students in them, and it surprised me how interdisciplinary studying business could be. While I came in with the idea that most business majors were either interested in banking or consulting, it was actually through studying business that I discovered what I wanted to do with it – business typically is a major that allows you to have the additional time to recruit, network, and explore an additional interest.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? If there’s one thing, I wish I did differently, it would have been to join more clubs back in Freshman and Sophomore year. While COVID-19 influenced my ability to participate in clubs and organizations in person, the most invaluable experiences I’ve had as a business major have all come from my interactions with different organizations, in particular in positions of leadership.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of my journey as a teaching assistant for CMU’s flagship introductory computer science course, 15-112. For context, CMU has a unique computer science teaching assistant culture that puts the emphasis on undergraduate teaching assistants. I started as a teaching assistant in Freshman Spring, one of 50 TAs to serve a class size of 400. It was through this journey that I discovered my passion for computer science – through teaching recitations, leading small groups, hosting hackathons, and creating content with other TAs who were just as, if not more motivated than, I was to give students the best possible introduction to computer science in the world.

I stayed with the course for five semesters, becoming a division lead in charge of practice materials, and eventually becoming a head TA, responsible for mentoring 10 TAs and for course logistics (budgeting, scheduling, managing student events). The opportunity to serve in a leadership role of such a magnitude, helping dictate the term projects of over 100 students and helping lead a course staff of 40 TAs, was awe-inspiring. It drove me to work harder to better myself every single day. I love teaching computer science, and I hope that my 2.5 years teaching it has left a positive impact on the nearly 1000 students that I’ve taught to date.

Which classmate do you most admire? I most admire my roommate of three years, Mehmet Deniz Birlikci. I initially met Deniz because we were assigned as recitation teaching partners in our freshman fall. It was the first time the course had ever hosted a remote-only recitation at 5 AM EST for overseas students during COVID-19 semester, and putting two new TAs in charge of it (this was our first time TAing). We immediately hit it off as two passionate technology people who both had eyes set on start-ups. And we absolutely rocked that recitation.

Deniz’s never-ending energy and willingness to do what it took to make things happen has inspired me throughout the past years to reach for leadership opportunities, get involved in start-up ecosystems, take risks. Having become a Head TA with me, then going off to win a Berkeley start-up competition as he (nowadays still) continues to work on building his start-up. Deniz is someone who makes seemingly impossible goals seem like normal everyday things, because that is who he is. He inspires me every day to reach for more, and there is no one better I could ask for to have accompanied me, both academically and as a roommate, throughout the entirety of my college career.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my dad for continuing to inspire and motivate me every day and supporting my pursuit of my dreams. My dad once told me, ‘People often say motivation does not last. But neither does a shower – that is why we need it daily.’ And my dad continues to serve as my daily source of motivation, pushing me forward and believing in my abilities and character, even in times when I myself did not believe in them. He has taught me more about being a leader, and being a good human than anyone else.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Number one is easy – I want to found a tech startup of my own. I want to create technology that changes the world and use my both tech-savvy and business minded skillset combination to make it happen. Secondly, I want to eventually be an angel investor – one who provides funding, mentorship, and advising to new young start-up founders. I’ve been involved in startup ecosystems since back in high school, and I hope to one day become a mentor that can continue to shape the future of our world by investing in our young aspiring entrepreneurs.

What made Winston such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?  

“Winston is an extraordinary individual. His kindness, intelligence, and talent radiate effortlessly. In just four years, He has navigated the demands of completing two full undergraduate degrees in Business Administration and in Computer Science, all while maintaining a remarkable 3.8 QPA, a focus on well-being and a genuinely positive attitude. His commitment to academic excellence is unwavering, even when faced with demanding coursework. But what truly sets him apart is his heart. Winston selflessly supports others, previously serving as a Teaching Assistant, a Lead Mentor, and a Head Teaching Assistant for various classes on campus. His communication skills are top-notch, and his positive energy uplifts everyone around him. As he prepares to graduate this May, I am beyond amazed by all that he has accomplished. Winston is someone who any organization, including us here at the Tepper School of Business, would undoubtedly be proud to have as part of their community.”

Erin Mosher O’Brien 
Senior Academic Advisor and Program Manager
Tepper Undergraduate Programs


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