Jason Chen – Chief Financial Officer at Influence Tree
Jason Chen is an Asian food lover, camping lover and the chief financial officer of Influence Tree. He lives in Manhattan, New York, where he hosts large gatherings and parties where people come together and become a part of a community.
Hi my name is Jason Chen and I grew up in Cerritos, California. By no means were we wealthy, but we lived in a household that was filled with a lot of love. My parents and I had family dinners every night together, but they were extremely strict when it came to academics.
In school and even currently in life, I’ve always found a passion for history. I have a good sense of what is going on in the world at different points in time, which provides a lot of context to immediately pinpoint what was going on contemporaneously in China, Africa, Europe and in the Americas at the same time.
My focus growing up was definitely on my grades. I was pushed by my parents to shine and excel academically and that led me to becoming valedictorian in my class. I spent most of my time at home studying and playing video games and didn’t really make it outside much until I started going to college at Stanford.
Aside from my grades, my parents got me into becoming a classically trained pianist and I still do music to this day. I loved music as a kid and that passion just followed me throughout adulthood. Another passion I dove deep into was reading and I tore through a ton of books when I was growing up.
Luckily, growing up in an Asian neighborhood where my high school was like 99% Asian, I didn’t face any racism growing up. The biggest issues in our household came from a lack of money. I grew up on second hand clothes and it bled over into my social life. There would be times when I would go out with my friends to the mall and while they were all shopping, I just wouldn’t be able to buy anything. As a result, it left me with a low sense of confidence in myself.
Luckily, we still took a lot of family trips together. They just weren’t as luxurious as how other families would take vacations. We did a lot of bus tours all over the Southwest, Midwest and up and down the coasts. With my friends, we would go out on camping trips and that’s something I found a lot of enjoyment in, and while I would love to go camping nowadays, it’s quite difficult being in New York City.
While transitioning into life at Stanford, academically it was pretty easy, probably easier than high school was. But socially, I found it extremely challenging. I just wasn’t used to meeting a completely new group of people and it took me a year just to fit in with everyone around me. I spent most of my first year just in the dorm rooms studying, but my second year, I kind of developed a new group of friends, friends that I’m still hanging out with regularly to this day. What really pushed me to be so close with my friends — and the friends I meet to this day is that we share the same ideas: hard work, integrity and creativity. We share the same wavelength and it brings us to be closer together and ensures we stay in touch regularly.
As I started getting more and more out of my shell, I started getting involved in other activities, from skiing, scuba diving and going to music festivals.
After I graduated from Stanford, I decided to take a job at McKinsey and Co. doing all of this stuff for them. They put me up in Taiwan for three years and quite frankly, it was the best thing I ever did in my life. It was so much fun because I was making so much money that I could spend it all but so little that there wasn’t any point of saving anything. Every weekend was just a huge party and it was quite memorable. I kind of regret that that period of my life is over, but who knows, it may reappear with the charitable work that our company Influence Tree will continue to do over time.
After I finished my three years in Taiwan, I decided that I wanted to go back to business school so I started to attend Wharton. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after I graduated, so I did what many people at Wharton did. Since their reputation is so strong in the field of finance, I decided to pursue that as a career.
When it comes to finance, there are only so many places where you could end up doing it. The choices are London, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. So I decided to settle down my roots in New York. I started my career here in investment banking then moved over to private equity and now I’m over at Influence Tree as the chief financial officer.
I spend a lot of my free time nowadays working on a few donation campaigns and organizing a lot of parties and events in New York, which I found brings me quite a bit of joy. I have a fond love for Asian foods, steak and lobster.
If you’d like to come to one of my parties that I host in New York, dive deep into history or talk more about how we can help you grow your business at Influence Tree, drop me an email at Jason@influencetree.com.