After a decade as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, Carleton University’s 11th chancellor knows a thing or two about being successful in business – knowledge he hopes he can share with students.
Alumnus Charles Chi was named chancellor in November 2011 but will be formally installed at the morning convocation ceremony on June 5. He succeeds the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, who served as university chancellor from 2008 to 2011.
For Chi, who graduated with a systems and computer engineering degree in 1988, his new role at the university is an opportunity to give back.
“It’s really gratifying to come back to Carleton in this role. Hopefully, I can provide some inspiration to students and hopefully I can impart some experience to students. I am excited to be here,” said Chi, in a recent interview with Carleton Now.
Currently, he is the chair of Lytro, a high-tech company in Mountain View, California. It recently launched a web-enabled pocket camera that uses light-field technology, the term for an array of microlenses that capture information about a scene.
He was recently at Carleton and had the opportunity to meet with a small group of business students who pitched him ideas about growing new companies and get his feedback.
While Chi lives in the San Francisco Bay area, his parents and other members of his family still live in Ottawa. And he says that it’s this family connection to the nation’s capital that is the added bonus to the job of chancellor.
“So, there are lots of good reasons to keep coming back,” says the personable 46-year-old.
Although he admits he has lots to learn about his new role, he plans to approach it like he has most challenges in his life.
“One of the things I have learned the most over the last 15 years, is when recreating oneself or going into new areas or new endeavours where you may have had limited experience is not being fearful of being in that process of something new and something unknown and creating your own way of being successful in those areas.
“That is what I am looking for in this role. It’s brand new to me, it’s a new set of circumstances and in some ways it’s like coming home so it has a lot of things that I like about it.”
After the learning curve, Chi says he hopes he can contribute to the university in a tangible way.
“For the first little while, it’s really all about learning. From there, it’s about finding ways where I might be able to help (Carleton president) Roseann and the faculty with things that are relevant and important to Carleton,” he says.
He credits his Carleton education in systems engineering as providing him with a solid foundation that equipped him as his career unfolded.
“With a systems view of the world – from my systems engineering education – it was particularly relevant early in my career where I was focused on communications systems. I think the education at Carleton gave me a really, really strong foundation. It gave me a very deep insight that was much more meaningful in the long run.”