Wednesday, February 21, 2018

HNC Alumni Profile: Ellis Gyöngyös

Ellis Gyöngyös, Certificate ’14, is the founder and CEO of Know Your Token, an ICO and cryptocurrency due diligence provider and advisory firm.

Let’s start by having you talk a bit about yourself.
I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and majored in Chinese and International Economics and immediately went to the HNC after graduating. After completing a certificate at the center, I attended a career trek arranged by Robbie Shields, HNC’s Career Advisor. Afterwards, I applied to several positions and got my first job in Hong Kong at Kroll. I worked as an analyst there for over 3 years conducting compliance and regulatory due diligence with a focus on IPO projects. My position called for a lot of Chinese research, a skill I strengthened at the HNC. Recently, I left Kroll to start my own company providing due diligence on ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) and I’ll be doing deep dive due diligence on crypto companies. This is a hot new field and I’m really excited!

Can you talk a little about your current role? How much would you say HNC prepared you for this role?
Conducting due diligence has a lot to do with research skills. I honed those skills at the HNC and I found that I did a lot more reading in Chinese at Kroll than I ever did at the HNC (if you had told me that I would someday read even more Chinese while I was at the HNC, I never would have believed you!) For some people the amount of reading at the HNC is unbelievable. I remember having to read 120 pages one night. At the Center, you develop the skill of extracting content without reading every single word in a passage. You must make sure that you can glean content from paragraphs or whole papers in a short amount of time. Thankfully I learned that at the HNC and brought those skills to into my career in due diligence where there is just a lot of content.

I also learned how to connect the dots. You can gather tons of data on urban migration in China but, to really understand what’s going on, you need to know about the factors behind it. Why are these people migrating and what effect does it have? Being able to look at something critically instead of simply recounting facts is very valuable in a job.

What courses did you take during the year?
I took a variety of classes but Adam Webb’s Rural Development class really stood out to me. One of my favorite classes, perhaps the most useful class for my first job was on Game Theory. In that class I wrote a report about salary negotiations through which I learned that it’s better to negotiate for higher pay during an interview. Most companies actually have more money to offer but they pitch low on initial offers because they want to save money. Most of the time, if you present a good case for why you need/deserve money you’ll get more. I tried it at my first job and it worked.

Another course I took was an introduction to economics course, Economic Principles. I also took a couple of anthropology courses with Hua Tao who is an amazing teacher. I took mostly Chinese courses since that is a requirement of the curriculum.

What would you say is your best memory from your time at the HNC?
During the fall break a group of friends and I went to Chengdu. We flew there and stayed in a hostel and I remember lots of fun and good food. That short trip was a great way to foster strong friendships. I also remember having good conversations at night at the Center with friends, we would walk around and talk all the time.

What was the biggest thing you learned outside the classroom?
I would say I really learned how to appreciate people no matter what their background is. There was a lot of variety between international and Chinese students, some were straight out of undergrad while others had years of full-time work experience. Additionally, not all of the international students were from the US. Some of the Chinese students were more outgoing while some wanted to study more. I learned to try and find common ground with everyone.

What would you say is the best resource available to HNC students?
The HNC provides you with a community of people that all care about bettering themselves. They want to learn, or they want to go to the gym, or they want to advance in their career - everyone wants to better themselves in some way. I think that this is a really healthy mindset and a good thing to promote and it is great to immerse yourself in that type of community.

What piece of advice would you give current and prospective HNC students?
Take a day or two to completely explore the Center. There are lots of nooks and crannies that I found throughout the year like the study room on the fifth floor with the 阳台. I didn’t know about that initially, so I usually studied in the library but having more options means that when one of them is full you still have other places to go. You should also take a day or two to explore around the Center. Walk out to 金银街 you can see all sorts of print stores and hostels. It’s just a good idea to acquaint yourself with your surroundings. As for prospective students, I would say spend more time speaking your target language before you go. I mean a lot more!

Written by Benjamin Miles, MAIS '19