An ever curious mind can never be cliché.
Dr. Woody Wu is a professor, CEO, and a poet.
He is also a film critic, composer, and polyglot (he speaks many languages), as well as a practitioner of Zen and ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arranging), a photographer, and a marathon runner.
He has taught for 15 universities and colleges, has served as the CEO of the consulting firm Hightechteam, Inc. since 1998, and counts Taiwan’s leading telecom company Chunghwa Telecom among his clientele. He also holds five globally granted patents for mobile phones.
Dr. Woody Wu is Lead Faculty at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) Forbes School of Business and Technology.®
We recently had a lively discussion with Dr. Wu on what makes for a good leader in today’s ever-changing world, the importance of persistence, and the pitfalls of professional hubris.
Get to know this dynamic educator, perennial seeker, and industry leader.
Pragmatic Patents and Compassion in Tech
Each time you use your cellular device, you utilize two of Dr. Woody Wu’s five globally granted patents for mobile phones. Perhaps the most famous — the patent that allows a person to make an emergency call regardless of security lock or a delinquent bill — presented as a solution to a very real problem.
What happens when you need emergency assistance and the only phone available is locked or disconnected from service? Dr. Wu had the solution. Create open access to emergency calls without the sacrifice of security.
“I care about people,” he says. “I do not worship the phone. I really want to make sure that the machines we use best serve people.
“This generation, we should try to use the machine or phone in a good way — for education, for online learning, for learning a foreign language. I say this not as a lecture to my students, but as a reminder to myself,” he laughs.
With his top-to-bottom experience in the world of telecommunications, Dr. Wu offers UAGC students a comprehensive and invaluable perspective. He jokes that he has worked in telecom since 1G, but that’s the truth. As an engineer, he taught part-time until the dotcom bust in 2000. After that, he became a full-time educator.
“Critical thinking is attained by experience,” he says. “We are not born with it — neither professors nor students. A professor needs to have diverse experience academically, personally, and professionally to deliver skills and inform upon critical thinking to our students.”
Dr. Wu says he believes that the most capable leaders are those who actively seek out diversity in experience. Potent leaders cherish the joy of learning, he says, and see new experiences as opportunities to hone the crucial skill of critical thinking.
There is a danger in believing that one’s way of thought or action is always the best, Dr. Wu warns. Pride can be a serious limitation, he adds, and hubris holds us from progress. Instead, he urges students to actively pursue and cultivate themselves and their interests, and to discover new interests.
“When I interview a PhD student, I ask, ‘What do you think of your dissertation?’” If they say that it is tough or bothersome, Dr. Wu says he becomes confused.
“I really enjoyed the writing of my dissertation. Instead of thinking that it is time-consuming, I want students to keep the passion about learning and tackling something new,” he says.
Left: Dr. Wu performed at Allen, Texas’ first “Make Music Day Allen.” He played guitar and sang an hour-long set of popular songs from the 1960s including the Hank Williams, Sr. classic, “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” On right, Dr. Wu and his wife on their travels to Alaska.
Setting a Poetic Example
In addition to critical thinking, Dr. Wu challenges his students to engage in different modes of thought and expression. He uses the example of world-renowned Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.
“Everybody knows [Dalí] was a famous painter, but how many people know that he was also an exceptional jewelry designer?” he asks.
Dr. Wu emphasizes the need to challenge oneself to grow and to improve in pursuit of new skills and experiences.
“That’s how I encourage my students,” he explains. “I say, ‘But how about traveling somewhere and staying there for a little bit longer, so as to experience how the people live there to truly experience their different living style, different food, different thought-patterns, different everything?’ Students need to have deep thinking, too.”
His relationship to poetry is testament to his faith in this belief. Dr. Wu writes one poem a day. When asked about the impetus for the activity, he answered at considerable length:
“The point here is that [poetry] is a reflective [type of] thinking,” he says. “It asks what’s happening in the world and what does that have to do with me? If you are going to write a poem every day, you are going to force yourself out of your comfort zone. You have to equally learn different and new material even if you are not familiar with it or don’t really like it — as long as you don’t hate it. That’s fine.
“Poetry is an activity that reveals yourself and helps you to be persistent. Persistency is every time you do something, you make it perfect. That’s very potent. Lifetime learning. How about the lifetime of writing a diary or a poem?”
Dr. Wu and his family celebrating his daughter’s graduation from Harvard.
Never Overlook the Fun of Learning
“Professors tend to think of advancing their careers and career change when considering education. But in addition to that, there’s the fun of learning new things. The fun of learning cannot be replaced with a high-pay or high-titled job. We would never want to overlook or ignore the original fun of learning.”
“I have lots of students say, ‘I have a strong family. I want to be a role model for my kids. That’s why I am studying for this PhD.’ That’s very good, but in addition to that, you also should enjoy the fun of learning.”
He urges that there is no need to stop at a PhD.
“Once you are so satisfied with your own achievements, you may not keep going or you may block yourself from the chance of learning from other people. That’s dangerous for a student or professor.”