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A student studying on a bench outside the Davidson library.

Promise, Recognized

Future product managers and entrepreneurs excel with help from Bei‑Jing Guo

Bei-Jing Guo ’94,’95 applied to UC Santa Barbara just six months after moving from China to California with her family. As part of her application, the then-junior in high school wrote passionately about her achievements in math, her family’s story, and her vision for a future that felt just out of reach.

“I felt I had something to prove,” said Bei-Jing. “I said, if you accept me, I promise I will be an asset to the school.”

Bei-Jing fulfilled her promise. She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara, then went on to a 20-year career in product management with Microsoft and Amazon. Now, she’s giving back to the community that gave her a chance. Bei-Jing is an advocate for the campus as an inaugural member of the Pacific Northwest Regional Leadership Committee, a mentor, and a philanthropist.

“UC Santa Barbara got me my first internship with Microsoft,” said Bei-Jing. “It was a pivotal moment for me, and I always felt very indebted to the College of Engineering for changing my life.”

Within the College of Engineering, Bei-Jing supports the Technology Management Program (TMP). TMP gives students the opportunity to form and manage technology-driven enterprises. Drawing upon research and curriculum at the intersection of technology, business, and social science, TMP prepares students to enter the global workforce. Bei-Jing understood the value of this training.

“When I started my career as a product manager at Microsoft in 1995, my engineering degree prepared me well for managing technology, but it did not actually teach me how to be a product manager,” said Bei-Jing. “When I first heard about TMP, my reaction was: They built it! This is exactly the program to prepare the future product managers and CEOs. I appreciate the value and I feel there are places I can contribute, not just financially, but with connections and skills.”

Bei-Jing brought her expertise to judge TMP’s New Venture Competition in 2020. Now in its 22nd year, the competition is UC Santa Barbara’s flagship entrepreneurial experience. Students work in multi-disciplinary teams under the guidance of faculty and mentors as they address a business problem or opportunity and take their business ideas from concept to reality.

“You have a big range of consumer businesses and esoteric technical projects, and the teams are dynamic, with a lot of business and liberal arts students,” said Bei-Jing. “Together, their thinking is creative and comprehensive. They’re so passionate, and you really want that energy and conviction.”

For biopsychology major and TMP participant Marina Akhavein ’22, entrepreneurship means the freedom to pursue ideas.

“I’ve never felt as supported as I do in TMP,” said Marina. “You have venture capitalists who are mentoring you from pitch to execution. They give you the confidence that you have the power to bring something into the world.”

Marina participated in the New Venture Competition two years in a row. Her first project was a smart grocery list that would integrate with Amazon Fresh. The second year, she joined an engineering team’s capstone project to commercialize an autonomous solar drone for precision farming.

“Donors are cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs, especially within social entrepreneurship,” said Marina. “We’re getting the support we need to bring in the best teachers and to make the world a better place.”

Bei-Jing hopes her support of TMP will change lives in the way that hers was transformed. Her gift also honors her late father, Heng-Li Guo, an electrical engineer who worked in robotics at UC Santa Barbara.

“I am just starting on this journey,” said Bei-Jing. “I feel like I am on the path to go home.”