Impact Stories: Luke

This Mentor Learns from Those He Teaches

Isaacs

Lujia “Luke” Zhang is a mentor for Nextech. And sometimes he’s Superman.

“I personally think ‘mentorship’ as a word is too official. A lot of times, I don’t see mentoring as me teaching students something. I see it more as a conversation with a friend who shows potential and is eager to learn. With that kind of person, there’s surely something I can learn from them,” Luke said. “It’s the reason I’m so passionate about the Nextech mentorship program. The mentees also mentor me by sharing fresh ideas I’ve never considered.”

Luke has volunteered with Nextech since 2017 as a mentor, a conference speaker, a judge, a Catapult instructor and a walking, talking example of what a computer science education makes possible.

Giving Back Through Data Analytics

Luke is a Senior Data Scientist at Resultant, an Indianapolis consulting firm helping organizations use technology and data analytics to solve problems. He works with public-sector clients, including government agencies. In fact, he’s been analyzing data related to COVID-19 for the State of Indiana almost since the pandemic began.

“I graduated college and initially joined a firm to apply data science to digital marketing,” Luke said. “But it wasn’t fulfilling. When COVID hit, I felt the need to go back to the public sector to help out. It comes from my core values and mission. I value solving problems and helping people.”

He’d interned with Resultant several years ago; they knew him, and he knew he could pursue his passions there.

“Through Resultant, I’ve worked with the Indiana Department of Health and the Governor’s office on COVID, creating a cases dashboard, running predictive simulations, doing a lot of analysis for doctors and hospitals so they have unbiased data for making decisions. How many hospital beds do we need? How many respirators? Should we have a football game?” Luke said.

When the pandemic prompted federal stimulus checks and increased unemployment compensation, Luke developed ways for the Indiana Department of Revenue and Workforce Development to identify fraud using its data.

“I’ve always been really good at mathematics,” he laughed. “My parents wanted me to go into finance.”

A Teacher and Programming Changed His Life

Luke credits his parents with believing in him at an early age. At 16, he packed a small suitcase and left the port city of Wenzhou on the East China Sea all alone, buoyed by their hope, support and a strong work ethic. His father applied his PhD in economics with the Chinese government and now runs an e-commerce company he started. His mother gave up the business she owned to raise Luke.

“My parents had the vision to support me in trying to create something on my own. They made it possible for me come to the United States,” he said. “I give them all the credit.”

Breezing through math and science classes at his Florida high school left him a little bored, he said. He took up computer programming to challenge himself.

The decision would change his life. Luke tells the story:

“One of my teachers, a really nice guy, noticed my interest in math and video games. He said to me, ‘If you get really good at programming, I can take you to a lot of competitions where if you do well, you win prizes like an Xbox, a PS2, monitors, things like that.’

“I thought, cool! I’m in. I started working hard for those free gifts. I won every competition and just liked getting the prizes for a while. I’d never seen myself in a tech-related career. I mean, it wasn’t until late my junior or early senior year that I realized I had a talent for programming. I started thinking maybe there was something here for me.”

Among the many college acceptance letters Luke received, he chose to enroll at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute. He made sure he wouldn’t be bored this time; since he’d earned quite a few college credits during high school, he was able to pursue a triple major in mathematics, computer science and software engineering. (He’d go on to earn a master’s degree in machine learning at Georgia Tech.)

After graduation, Luke made a deliberate decision to stay and work in Indiana.

Indiana Has It All

Internships and part-time positions exposed him to numerous companies throughout college. That’s exactly why he prefers to work in Indiana rather than on the West Coast, he said.

“We always think of Silicon Valley and the West Coast as the mecca for software engineers. I went for a summer and realized there are a lot of dark things there that don’t get talked about,” he said. “Here in Indy, at my first internship through the TechPoint Xtern program with Resultant, I learned so much and built so many great relationships. So despite a lot of great offers, I decided Indy is a much better place to accelerate my career and allow me to give back.”

He certainly does give back. Luke volunteers for so many organizations besides Nextech: Second Helpings, TechPoint Foundation for Youth, Junior Achievement and others. He often makes his participation memorable, such as when he donned a Superman costume and rappelled down a 25-story office building to raise funds for the United Way of Central Indiana. In another event, he raced a Mini Cooper against IndyCar drivers.

He also spends time advocating for education and STEM education. He aims to inform and energize students who don’t yet know all the possibilities a computer science education could open for them.

“I was in their shoes once. Now as a mentor, I can be that person, like my high school teacher, to tell these kids we’re living in an era where everything is possible with computers. Having me as an example who can let kids touch, feel and see programming, let them know what computer science can give them in whatever occupation they choose, is really valuable,” Luke said. “It’s up to us to open these kids’ eyes to how they can apply these skills. It’s up to us as people to adapt to rapidly emerging technologies and tools. The way for our species to get better and stronger is for everybody to grow.”

Growth demands the ability to recognize that we don’t know what we don’t know, he added. We can plug data science into any industry, he said, which means you may know analytics but you won’t know everything about the industry in which you’re asked to use it. The strength of a data scientist is their unbiased opinion.

“I speak purely from data. That introduces a lot of ‘I don’t know.’ We all make a lot of assumptions, some that have existed for many generations. For a lot of industries, those assumptions are the root cause of problems. Education hasn’t done a good job of teaching us that ‘I don’t know’ is just the step before figuring it out.”

Lujia “Luke” Zhang is a mentor for Nextech. And sometimes he’s Superman.

“I personally think ‘mentorship’ as a word is too official. A lot of times, I don’t see mentoring as me teaching students something. I see it more as a conversation with a friend who shows potential and is eager to learn. With that kind of person, there’s surely something I can learn from them,” Luke said. “It’s the reason I’m so passionate about the Nextech mentorship program. The mentees also mentor me by sharing fresh ideas I’ve never considered.”

Luke has volunteered with Nextech since 2017 as a mentor, a conference speaker, a judge, a Catapult instructor and a walking, talking example of what a computer science education makes possible.

Giving Back Through Data Analytics

Luke is a Senior Data Scientist at Resultant, an Indianapolis consulting firm helping organizations use technology and data analytics to solve problems. He works with public-sector clients, including government agencies. In fact, he’s been analyzing data related to COVID-19 for the State of Indiana almost since the pandemic began.

“I graduated college and initially joined a firm to apply data science to digital marketing,” Luke said. “But it wasn’t fulfilling. When COVID hit, I felt the need to go back to the public sector to help out. It comes from my core values and mission. I value solving problems and helping people.”

He’d interned with Resultant several years ago; they knew him, and he knew he could pursue his passions there.

“Through Resultant, I’ve worked with the Indiana Department of Health and the Governor’s office on COVID, creating a cases dashboard, running predictive simulations, doing a lot of analysis for doctors and hospitals so they have unbiased data for making decisions. How many hospital beds do we need? How many respirators? Should we have a football game?” Luke said.

When the pandemic prompted federal stimulus checks and increased unemployment compensation, Luke developed ways for the Indiana Department of Revenue and Workforce Development to identify fraud using its data.

“I’ve always been really good at mathematics,” he laughed. “My parents wanted me to go into finance.”

A Teacher and Programming Changed His Life

Luke credits his parents with believing in him at an early age. At 16, he packed a small suitcase and left the port city of Wenzhou on the East China Sea all alone, buoyed by their hope, support and a strong work ethic. His father applied his PhD in economics with the Chinese government and now runs an e-commerce company he started. His mother gave up the business she owned to raise Luke.

“My parents had the vision to support me in trying to create something on my own. They made it possible for me come to the United States,” he said. “I give them all the credit.”

Breezing through math and science classes at his Florida high school left him a little bored, he said. He took up computer programming to challenge himself.

The decision would change his life. Luke tells the story:

“One of my teachers, a really nice guy, noticed my interest in math and video games. He said to me, ‘If you get really good at programming, I can take you to a lot of competitions where if you do well, you win prizes like an Xbox, a PS2, monitors, things like that.’

“I thought, cool! I’m in. I started working hard for those free gifts. I won every competition and just liked getting the prizes for a while. I’d never seen myself in a tech-related career. I mean, it wasn’t until late my junior or early senior year that I realized I had a talent for programming. I started thinking maybe there was something here for me.”

Among the many college acceptance letters Luke received, he chose to enroll at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute. He made sure he wouldn’t be bored this time; since he’d earned quite a few college credits during high school, he was able to pursue a triple major in mathematics, computer science and software engineering. (He’d go on to earn a master’s degree in machine learning at Georgia Tech.)

After graduation, Luke made a deliberate decision to stay and work in Indiana.

Indiana Has It All

Internships and part-time positions exposed him to numerous companies throughout college. That’s exactly why he prefers to work in Indiana rather than on the West Coast, he said.

“We always think of Silicon Valley and the West Coast as the mecca for software engineers. I went for a summer and realized there are a lot of dark things there that don’t get talked about,” he said. “Here in Indy, at my first internship through the TechPoint Xtern program with Resultant, I learned so much and built so many great relationships. So despite a lot of great offers, I decided Indy is a much better place to accelerate my career and allow me to give back.”

He certainly does give back. Luke volunteers for so many organizations besides Nextech: Second Helpings, TechPoint Foundation for Youth, Junior Achievement and others. He often makes his participation memorable, such as when he donned a Superman costume and rappelled down a 25-story office building to raise funds for the United Way of Central Indiana. In another event, he raced a Mini Cooper against IndyCar drivers.

He also spends time advocating for education and STEM education. He aims to inform and energize students who don’t yet know all the possibilities a computer science education could open for them.

“I was in their shoes once. Now as a mentor, I can be that person, like my high school teacher, to tell these kids we’re living in an era where everything is possible with computers. Having me as an example who can let kids touch, feel and see programming, let them know what computer science can give them in whatever occupation they choose, is really valuable,” Luke said. “It’s up to us to open these kids’ eyes to how they can apply these skills. It’s up to us as people to adapt to rapidly emerging technologies and tools. The way for our species to get better and stronger is for everybody to grow.”

Growth demands the ability to recognize that we don’t know what we don’t know, he added. We can plug data science into any industry, he said, which means you may know analytics but you won’t know everything about the industry in which you’re asked to use it. The strength of a data scientist is their unbiased opinion.

“I speak purely from data. That introduces a lot of ‘I don’t know.’ We all make a lot of assumptions, some that have existed for many generations. For a lot of industries, those assumptions are the root cause of problems. Education hasn’t done a good job of teaching us that ‘I don’t know’ is just the step before figuring it out.”