Jumping into the Metaverse
Elysia: Hi everyone. Welcome to Life is Digital. I’m your host, Elysia Cadorniga. So get ready today as we learn about digital marketing, we share our knowledge and perspectives on different trends, best practices and actual tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. So I’m really excited today. I’m here with Sharon Bui, she’s the software product manager at Lenovo and former Shark Tank alum. So yeah, Sharon, I’m so excited to have you on today.
Sharon: Yeah, thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Elysia: Oh, fun fact for the audience. So back in Sharon’s Shark Tank days, she was actually… we were sorority sisters at NC State University, so I got front row seats to see your success during that time, so… yeah, no, it was awesome.
Sharon: Go Pack. Should we sing our sorority songs for the listeners?
Elysia: Yeah, I’m gonna like not bless them with that today. It’s crazy that I actually still remember all of that too, which is insane, I literally think about it and Backstreet Boys and all the remixes we did… it’s too funny. But yeah, no, I’m so excited to have you on. I think the topic, just like big word, big word, going on in the industry right now, Metaverse, and just how businesses are shaping up the landscape here and I’m really excited to dive into that with you today. So really quick, just for the audience… before we get started, tell me a little bit about your background. I know a good bit of it, but just your history as just a motivated entrepreneur and how you kind of fell into the tech world…
Get to know Sharon as a fashion entrepreneur and Lenovo tech mogul.
Sharon: Oh gosh, yeah, I’ll try to not make this three-page long resume, but I studied fashion, which will surprise a lot of people, but I studied fashion at NC State University. I always wanted to work in fashion, always… I wanted to work at Prada, one of those big names in New York. You have the corporate life, and then when I was in the sorority with you, I just saw this big issue where we were being forced to buy these outfits every year, and we are broke college students. I was spending $500 for rush week on our outfits and nails and shoes, and so I was like, this is a problem, I just wanna fix this. Then it actually became a business, and it was a lucrative business that doubled every year. I only started with $350 in my personal big account, and it just grew and grew and grew while I was a student, it was insane, we had a flash website, not even an e-commerce website, which I… I know all of you out there are like oh my gosh… which when I look back now, I’m like, man, we could have made so much money with an e-commerce website, not like this Chevron flash website. But it’s okay, it’s alright. We all live and learn. And so then I graduated and almost… I actually interviewed with Lenovo, which is kind of funny now, for a rotational sales program, and I hung up on the phone with that interview one day, and I was like, you know, I really wanna pursue this start-up and just see where it goes. Let me just see where it goes. It’s already successful. What am I doing, interviewing? And so for about two to three years after college, I ran that business and in that time, we applied to be on Shark Tank, because I failed calculus three times, and I wanted to prove to myself like, “hey, I’m still smart, so I’m gonna try to get on Shark Tank.” And so we were on and we gotta deal with Barbara and Kevin and it was great, and about that time, when we aired… was the next year. And we had been in business for five years. So from the age of 20 to 25, I had this business, and again, we were young, and I learned everything off of Googling everything, and so I was pretty burnt out by then, and I grew up always wanting to have a corporate job, I just… I’m wired that way. My parents kind of… the culture in my home was kind of that way, and I always had the latest tech gadgets, my brother and I always had the latest tech gadgets, we would watch the Apple conferences in September, like it’s a Super Bowl, like we would just text each other in real time and be like, “Oh my God, he just said this. Oh my God, they’re gonna do this.” We were such nerds over that kind of stuff, so tech was always something that I loved… I always loved the latest gadgets, etcetera, so I sold my business at the age of 25 and I kinda messed around for a year, I felt like I deserved it because I was hustling for five years and just dragging very heavy rolls of fabric everywhere. So I went to California for a little bit, I worked in reality TV behind the camera because I love the Bachelor. I’m one of those girls. And so I was like, my dream is to work on the Bachelor, and then I just learned that I didn’t like 12-hour production days, it just wasn’t for me. I knew I wanted a family, back to that corporate life, so then I did Greek t-shirt sales. Didn’t love that- was good at it, didn’t love it. And during that time when I didn’t love it, I was like, okay, I wanna get into tech. But if you’re listening out there and you’ve tried to get into tech from a different industry, I had a background fashion, it’s really hard. So I started to teach myself how to code at night, and then I put that on my resume that I was teaching myself and so Cisco, I got hired with Cisco, Cisco with a “C,” not “S,”… let’s not get confused with food, love food, but also love IOT. So I was a contractor for Cisco for a year, and then I got laid off. I loved what I did. I think it was just budgeting and re-org issues, and then… so I worked for Red Hat and I’ll hold my opinions on that, and one day, I was very miserable at Red Hat, so I pinged, who is now my boss of three years… I forgot to say I interviewed with him a year or two before, Cisco, I can’t remember, and I got the job, but they also went through re-work, so I hit him up again on LinkedIn when I was miserable at Red Hat, and I was like, “hey, I’m miserable do you have anything?” And he was like, “hey, I actually was talking about you the other day,” and I was like, oh, dang. It had been like three years. So I got the job at Lenovo and now I’m a software product manager. I work on an app called Vantage, if you have a Lenovo device, please open Vantage every day. It helps my KPI’s, thank you very much. But I work on the app, Vantage, I work on the content on the dashboard of the app, I work on the SaaS products that we have in app. Shout out Lenovo Smart Privacy, shout out Lenovo Smart Performance…they will enhance your life. Go buy it right now. And I also work on PC notifications. Which I think when I left fashion, that’s when I just felt like I wasn’t changing the world anymore, and not saying you can’t change the world with fashion, but I personally did not feel that way anymore. So with the PC notifications, I honestly have the capability to send out to the whole world that owns a Lenovo PC, it feels really powerful. Our app has millions and millions of users across the whole world, and that’s just really cool for me, and so that’s where I am now.
Elysia: Yeah, that’s awesome. You’ve had such a crazy journey, and I can’t imagine the amount of… I mean, it’s so valuable when you can jump into the job you have now with all the background and all the trial error you learned along the way with your own company, I just feel like that builds such character in your process and all the cool stuff you got to do. What’s your… just curious, ’cause you know, you talk about PC notifications and the tools that Lenovo provides for their users to work and operate more efficiently, so what’s your biggest… what do you feel like is the biggest impact that you’re making in someone’s life, helping them with these tools that Lenovo provides within their hardware?
What do you feel is the biggest impact that you’re making in someone’s life with what you do at Lenovo?
Sharon: Yeah, so everybody knows in 2020, the world kinda shut down. And we launched this product called the Lenovo Smart Performance. I went in with not a lot of expectations, the world was closed, we’re all sitting at home, etcetera, but people really bought it, it just exploded, and I think the thing about it is it’s automated PC performance, and it includes a lot of things. It fixes malware and there’s all kinds of stuff for the user in the background, so they don’t have to think about it, it’s like a system mechanic, right? Instead of them having to go to Best Buy… it doesn’t magically fix their computer, but it does a lot of fixes in the background to enhance their experience on their PC day-to-day. And to me, that’s really cool ’cause we were in a time period where people were scared to go to, say, a Best Buy desk and get help. So there’s that, and then we just launched Smart Privacy in September of this past year, and we won an award at CES, which when I was an entrepreneur, CES was always my dream. I always wanted to go to. See, the funny thing is, 10 years later, I find out a CES tickets is only like 100 some dollars. I don’t know why I was like, “Oh my God, it’s my dream.” I could have done this, quote, dream, a long time ago, if I just looked into it, but I just gawked at it from afar for so long ’cause I thought it was so cool. But… yeah, we won a CES award, which is a big deal for a privacy product, and I think in the age we’re living with, especially with Web3 coming and everything else, to have a personal VPN to protect our privacy to see what accounts are getting hacked. So I obviously signed up for it, paid for it, and there are some emails connected to me and my husband, I didn’t even know were created, I think maybe his friends created it as a prank, and I’m like “excuse me, did not know this is happening.” I got to see all my accounts that have been hacked and my passwords that have been hacked and all this stuff, so I just want other users to be able to have that for themselves and to protect their privacy. It’s really important these days.
Elysia: Yeah…no, I mean… I have not even done that, I get notifications through Google, you know, ’cause I have G-Suite products and they’ll let me know if they have detect that something I have is compromised. But on a more global scale with my computer and maybe I’m just not using it, I don’t really have something set up, so I can’t imagine the value and importance of that, especially with data privacy now. It is… people have no idea just how talented hackers are, so yeah, that definitely changes people’s lives, for sure. For sure. That’s awesome. So we’re talking about this transition after post… we’re still kinda in the pandemic, but we’re two years into this whole transition, and you and I were talking earlier, just the impact that it’s had on just everyday human life. And I think one of the things that is interesting timing during this period of our lives is this transition to the virtual world. I’m seeing everything about it, Zuckerberg has been hosting conferences about it for the past decade, and I really think that we’re jumping into this new landscape. Is there anything… and maybe it’s stuff you can or can’t share, but is there anything Lenovo, you know, is preparing for or anticipating in the meta-verse or in this new virtual world, and I just wanted to… I’m just curious.
Is there anything that Lenovo is preparing for or anticipating in the Metaverse or in this new virtual world?
Sharon: There is nothing I’m aware of. There’s no project I personally work on at Lenovo in regards to the Metaverse, but my personal opinion is that I do think Lenovo and big brands like Lenovo should be getting on a train to the Metaverse, in the Metaverse… and if they’re not, they’re behind, and so I really hope that’s where Lenovo is headed. I really hope they’re thinking about it and considering it, and I have a lot of ideas for it, and I do hope that they go down that path.
Elysia: Yeah, yeah, no, it’s crazy. Even in the digital space here, so obviously you do digital marketing and you do marketing at Lenovo for their products, just like us, we’re thinking about what that’s gonna look like for us, and even in the next three to five years as people start to adopt this Metaverse way of living, and even digital marketing, there’s already services being done to build avatars and to design buildings within the Metaverse, So I know it’s like a loaded question, but I’m curious to know your thoughts on this. How do you think the Metaverse impacts just like the everyday person, and what do you feel like some of the biggest life changes will end up being…
How do you think the Metaverse impacts the everyday person, and what do you feel some of the biggest life changes will end up being?
Sharon: Yeah, this is a loaded question. If any of you as nerds…
Elysia: It’s so interesting though. It’s crazy. It’s hard to wrap your head around at times.
Sharon: It’s huge. It’s loaded. I believe that we’ve been creating office spaces and retail store front is gonna be really important. There’s some big name brands that are starting to do this, and Walmart is thinking about it, and we all know how huge Walmart is. And you mentioned before Meta/Facebook, and then Instagram just came out with build your own avatars, we’re gonna have our own avatars in the Metaverse to be able to go to these stores. So I think it’s really going to change and shift the world, it already is, and to be honest, I’m gonna put this caveat out there, I’m not Gary V, I’m not this super, huge, Metaverse expert. To be honest, I’ve obviously, I’ve heard of AR VR, I’ve heard of meta, I’ve heard of all these NFTs for a while, and I just ignored it ’cause I didn’t think it’d be real. And then I was watching TikToks over my Christmas PTO, and I saw a bunch of NFT TikToks, where these kids that are like 10, 11, 12, 15, they’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars. And these people that are 10 years younger than you and I are retiring… retiring! They are retiring, and they’re like 20 years old, because they’re making so much money off of mining Bitcoin mining, Crypto, NFTs, NFT collections…. And it’s just insane to me. So I started to research the crap out of it, every day after work, I was like, “what is this… what’s going on? Why is a 10 to 15-year-old making X amount of times as my salary… this is so wrong. What am I doing with my life?”- Is basically what happened to me. And so between my cousins and friends and even my boss at work, they’ve educated me a lot on Crypto, on Meta. I’m sad, I wasn’t on the train earlier on a lot of these things and on some of the platforms, they’ve educated me about, but I’m gonna try now, and I think everybody should get on or… it’s at full speed. It has left the train station.
The current reality of the Metaverse and what’s in-store for the future.
Elysia: Oh yeah. Yeah, it’s amazing hearing massive companies like Walmart’s rolling out their own their own coin, which obviously you know will play a role in this Metaverse, and I think these big companies are gonna be the ones to set the precedent or to set the standard of… the way of life inside this new world, I think it’s gonna be a new way to operate commerce and trade is just… it’s insane. We have a client who shared with me… they’re a university here in the area, and they do a lot of legal tech and innovation, and they were giving me the example that they work with a law firm that’s pretty national, they have their multi-locations across the nation, and they’re setting up, they’re buying their own buildings, they’re designing them, they’re creating their conference spaces so that you can remove the barrier of in-person interaction and be able to meet with clients and consult them in their conference rooms virtually for those that tap in and wanna see legal help, so it’s just… it’s something that is just… it’s like a phenomenon that we’re gonna have to be able to just accept and tap into this world and this world of possibility, and even jobs like big companies are gonna be able to have staff inside the Metaverse, like in stores. You know what I mean? So it’s just-
it’s already here and it’s already being built, and I think this is such a cool topic to discuss because we’re really in this pioneer phase of it, and we gotta get ahead of it on the digital side … we have to know, wait, we’re gonna be creating probably our own NTFs, for companies to then… sell. We actually should be getting into that kind of space because that’s what meat is needed. All those graphics. It was funny, I was watching, I don’t know, have you seen Ready Player One?
Sharon: I have not, I need to watch it.
Elysia: It’s really cool about the virtual world it’s obviously, it’s a movie and it’s theatrical, and it’s done by, I believe it’s Steven Spielberg, but their special effects are out of this world… but the coolest thing about it is you’re watching this and you’re watching them play in this virtual world and buy things in the virtual world, and then you look around, you’re like, “oh, all these graphics that you’re watching in this world have been designed and they’re considered NFTs,” that’s what an NFT is, and so… you’re watching all this happen, you’re watching Iron Man, you’re watching all these iconic characters that are in our everyday world, in the tangible world, in this virtual world as specific design. So it’s just fascinating, to kind of like… wrap your head around it. So it’s just, there’s so much… it’s an endless discussion. So I don’t know, and I know there’s gonna be so much business strategy and new businesses created, just at the sheer fact of this, so we gotta get on the train, Sharon.
Sharon: Yeah, I really think with this real estate… what these realtors, or land- excuse me, Metaverse real estate, landscape owners, whatever you wanna call… whatever they’re called, right, like the lawyer office you’re talking about, they’re gonna start selling things like Times Square, like you know in Times Square, there’s all those digital ads everywhere around you. I think what we’re gonna see is we’re gonna be able to data of which avatars and who’s visiting the most retail storefronts, etcetera, and then those retail store friends can easily start selling ad space outside their storefronts.
Elysia: Totally, absolutely, and running their own ads probably through some sort of like the other Metaverse… .like the environments to the audience that they know is coming in as foot traffic virtually. So it’s like you’re gonna get even more precise on your target audience as a whole and as a business, ’cause you’re just in the amount of data that you can… to have to make that happen is just… it’s incredible. It’s big stuff. I love talking about this, and I know we’re coming up on our time, but what are like… and just us talking about all of this… and just your journey as an entrepreneur, and now you’re in the tech world and you’re kind of seeing this digital shift, is there anything that you feel like as a key take away or something you wanna leave with the audience? Maybe it’s something you learned or just something to think about as they continue to move on and this progresses.
Are there any key takeaways that you want to leave with the audience?
Sharon: Go buy an NFT now. No, no, no, even I struggle with what NFT do I buy… I have a bunch of NFTs that are just sitting in my open sea that in… I don’t even know what to do with them. A few of them I’m sitting on them because it’s like… for example I have a few Paris Hilton ones, and then I have a McDonald’s job application one… McDonalds is getting into the space, so my hope in dream is like, oh, hopefully they buy my job application. Caveat- I do not aspire to work at McDonalds, I love working for Lenovo. But it’s just being strategic like that, I follow a bunch of NFT Instagram accounts and Twitter accounts, and embarrassingly TikTok. I get a lot of NFT education from TikTok, obviously, YouTube and Googling, and my family and my boss and friends, so I guess my key takeaway here is… they’re calling it Web 3, Webs3 is here. It’s now. If anybody watched the Super Bowl, it was all about crypto and it was at all about electric powered cars. Shout out Tesla, love my Tessie. You’re either on the train or you’re not, but you’re gonna get left at the train station, so… go study, go figure it out. I’ve been trying to figure it out, and I learn something new every day, and it’s not an easy formula, but I definitely would see how can you involve yourself or how can you change somebody’s life with NFTs? And that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. And I currently have an idea for it that I’ve been pitching, and I don’t wanna share too much because it’s not solidified, but at a high level, my idea would be helping autistic students, and so I just haven’t perked up in years about any entrepreneurial idea I’ve thought of until now, because truly, I would love to help autistic students and marry that idea with NFTs.
Elysia: That would be… that would be cool. I think it’s… to your point, not knowing the details, it’s gonna open up possibility for people to go beyond what they they thought was possible for themselves, ultimately, you know?
Sharon: Yeah, and I think that’s what TikTok has shown us or even the pandemic- is that anybody, they can be anything and you can live off of being an influencer or making a digital-related salary, so…
Elysia: Yeah, exactly. No, that’s good stuff. This has been so fun talking about. I really appreciate you hopping on and obviously, we’ll make sure if anyone reaches out, we can always get you connected with them. And it’s just been so good to hear from you, Sharon, and I know we’ll continue to do work together, and I just really appreciate you jumping on today.
Sharon: Absolutely, thank you so much for having me.
Elysia: Yeah, thank you. And as well to the audience, we appreciate you joining us today for this episode of Life is Digital. Once again, I’m your host Elysia Cadorniga, please remember to rate, review and subscribe to our show. And until next time, don’t stop marketing.