Western New York is full of innovative people, often blazing a new trail and building a better Buffalo along the way. To celebrate these WNY Trailblazers, Be in Buffalo is participating in a blog series with a coalition including 43North, Aleron, Forge Buffalo, and TechBuffalo.
Yexi Liu is the Chief Information Officer at Rich Products. We caught up with him below about his career in tech, time with Rich Products, and favorite things about Western New York.
What would you tell other people interested in a career in tech?
The world as we know it is changing dramatically. Digital technologies, like big data, artificial intelligence, 5G, robotics, etc., have fundamentally changed the way we live and work. In the midst of a global pandemic, digital technologies are redefining everything… academics, health care, business priorities, distribution, how we communicate, work and even how we eat. Post-pandemic, none of this is going away. COVID has accelerated the rate of change we’ve experienced and technology’s role in change will only speed up. The world needs more tech talents… which is why a career in technology has never been more exciting. You have the ability to learn, build and deploy different technologies and directly see how they positively impact businesses, associates, customers, the environment, and so much more. Careers in tech bring opportunities to constantly learn new concepts and skills, not only in technology itself, but also in other areas like effective collaboration with others, self-confidence, empowerment, critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical and leadership skills.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Buffalo?
I enjoy walking in the summertime to explore the city and its many neighborhoods, seeing different architecture and buildings in downtown Buffalo, the Theatre District, Allentown… and beautiful lake views at Canalside. I enjoy lingering at open-air cafes and visiting farmer’s markets in the Elmwood village, or simply walking and jogging in Delaware Park. You can see and feel the Queen City is full of history, character, and heritage.
And I can’t forget to mention the excitement of Buffalo Bills football, which was so contagious this year, creating a very special sense of community at a time when I think we needed and appreciated it most.
What have you learned most in your role at Rich’s?
One thing I’ve learned most about Rich’s is about its unique culture – one that’s authentic, inclusive and collaborative; customer-obsessed, truly innovative and so much more. I’ve said before – culture is not a poster; culture is how we act... and I’ve seen this very concept in action at Rich’s, day in and day out.
During this global pandemic, I’m proud of how our leadership team put associate health and safety first and foremost, led with transparent communication, and how we pivoted to support our associates at every turn. Beyond Rich’s, even in this most challenging time, we also never stopped supporting our communities; we led with donations of time, in-kind food products and financial support across the U.S. and across our world. And really – this is just part of our core values as a company. Whenever I speak with leaders from other companies, I always feel incredibly proud to share what it’s like to be part of this great organization.
Why did you pursue a career in tech originally?
Even at a young age, I was always fascinated by and interested in technology in its many forms. My passion was always to apply new technologies to the real world and make a difference in society, in the environment, in business and in people’s daily lives. That passion eventually led me to start my career in tech after school.
Beyond that, as I reflect back today, I recall applying for an MBA program in the United States (I’m from China originally). I remember it was the first time the internet was available at my university. I used it to research and communicate with universities in the U.S. and I was amazed by its power. From the internet itself to how the technology guided me through the application process… It truly changed my view of the world. And now looking back, as Chief Information Officer today, I’m pretty confident technology was the right path for me.
What are you grateful for?
After living through this (hopefully) once in lifetime pandemic, I am grateful for being part of the Rich Products family. Like so many, COVID-19 has been personally challenging for me, with my loved ones so far away and our related plans on hold, however, throughout the past year, I was touched by the kindness, support and friendship from across our organization.