With an exemplary track record of fostering economic growth and business innovation, Patrick Lin brings diverse knowledge and expertise to the role of AmCham President. Apart from having experience working in multinational companies, startups, and government, Lin holds an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California.
TOPICS Senior Editor Julia Bergström sat down with Lin at the Ghost Island Media recording studio in late July to discuss his vision as AmCham President, the power of mentorship, and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. An abridged version of their conversation follows. To listen to the extended podcast version, visit topics.amcham.com.tw/listen.
Although you were born in the U.S., you have lived and worked in Taiwan and East Asia on multiple occasions. What has brought you back and forth between this region and the United States?
My parents are Taiwanese. I first moved to Taiwan when I was one year old, and later went to Taipei American School until sixth grade before moving back to the U.S. I later returned to Taiwan to spend time with family early in my career. My original plan was to spend around a year here, but then things snowballed – I started making friends and worked on starting a company here. One thing led to another, and I met the Chairman of Lion Travel, Jason Wang. He was interested in my work and asked me to join his company. To make a long story short, I accepted the offer and later helped with the company’s IPO, which was an amazing experience.
After that, I decided to go to MIT because I wanted to find a way to gain more global influence. My classmates were all very accomplished, and the experience helped me find my professional grounding and confidence. Around a month before graduation, one of my professors pulled me aside and suggested I go to mainland China to gain more experience in the region. I decided to take his advice and joined Ford in Shanghai, first within the corporate strategy team before working my way to heading the autonomous vehicles team. Thanks to my work with Ford, I was invited to join the U.S. government as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow.
What is the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program and what did you do as a Fellow?
It’s a program that pairs top innovators from the private sector, nonprofits, and academia with counterparts in government to find solutions to problems and deliver them quickly. I consider myself blessed to have been chosen to be part of this program – working with the federal government gave me a heightened sense of autonomy and agency when approaching various projects, including things that were happening in Taiwan. Because of my background, I was chosen to work on projects related to autonomous driving, automation, and artificial intelligence.
We were also offered the chance to take part in cross-agency activities. As a child, I loved NASA, so I looked for projects at NASA and was lucky enough to get to work with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech and other NASA centers on exciting projects. It was an amazing time – I got to work with some incredibly intelligent people who were passionate and dedicated to public service.
Your first interaction with AmCham Taiwan was as a company representative and member of the Travel & Tourism Committee while working at Lion Travel. What inspiration do you draw from that experience now that you are leading the Chamber?
When I first came to Taiwan – my first real work experience in Asia – AmCham was a lifesaver. It was a guide, a wealthy source of knowledge, and like a professional home to me. I met some of my best friends and mentors through AmCham.
AmCham Taiwan’s connections with government and business provided me with exposure I probably wouldn’t have gotten if I were at the same point in my career in the U.S. Andrea Wu, who’s now our Standing Vice Chairperson, was AmCham President at the time, and she set the gold standard for what I aspire to be as President now. I have tremendous respect for AmCham Taiwan, and returning to lead the Chamber is a chance for me to pay it forward.
Why did you want to be the President of AmCham Taiwan, and what are your long-term goals for the Chamber?
I’ve always sought to make an impact on matters I care about. Taiwan is one of these matters, and one of the best ways I found I could help during my time with the U.S. government was from the outside. AmCham Taiwan is probably one of the only channels in Taiwan where I feel truly empowered to do something that could make an impact. If, in some way, I manage to move the needle even a little bit regarding Taiwan’s relations with the world, that would have a lot of meaning to me.
As for my long-term goals, I want to make AmCham the most trusted voice in the room. I’d like us to be critical partners in government decisions in terms of providing sound and trusted advice. Before I lay out a broader vision beyond these goals, I look forward to understanding our members and hearing what they want AmCham to do for them.
How would you describe your approach to leadership?
I’m a strong believer in the power of mentorship – developing a relationship where you care about each other’s success is a highly nurturing experience. Without my mentors, I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am today. Nowadays I meet a lot of young Taiwanese and Americans at the beginning of their careers asking me for advice, which I’m grateful for because it allows me to witness and participate in some of the most talented people’s career journeys.
Regarding my management style, I’d describe it as something akin to servant leadership. As an individual contributor early in my career, I was highly focused on making sure I could stand out by reaching the highest metrics and accomplishing my KPIs. But being a manager is all about facilitating other people’s success. That’s where I’ve found most of my enjoyment – helping others succeed.
You’ve been part of building a number of companies. What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
A great description of what it’s like to start something new can be found in the book Zero to One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel. Conceiving something is infinitely harder than iterating whatever already exists. You will inevitably face tremendous challenges and make mistakes, and you need to get comfortable with that. You’ll hear the word “no” a thousand times before you get a “yes,” so you’ll need thick skin.
But don’t think of setbacks as failures – view them as learning experiences. If you try something and it doesn’t work, move on to the next thing. Work as hard as you can and pull strings with every relationship you have. The worst thing for an entrepreneur is regret – it’s lying awake at night wondering if you would have succeeded had you only tried that thing you didn’t dare to do. Just try it and see where it takes you.
You describe yourself as both American and Taiwanese. What does that mean to you?
Whenever I’m in Taiwan, I feel very American. I think people look at me – the way I dress and act – and know I’m a foreigner. Similarly, I feel Taiwanese when I’m in the U.S. But moving back and forth between the two has allowed me to identify clearly who I am and what I’ve gained from both cultures.
When I lived in Shanghai, people would ask whether I was American or Taiwanese, and I’d always reply that I’m both. Their response would be something along the lines of “But they’re so different!” I’d argue that the U.S. and Taiwan are not so different from one another. Sure, they have their own characteristics, but I see a lot of similarities too. Both the United States and Taiwan are driven by technology, innovation, and democracy. That kind of embraces my values and who I am as a person.
Being AmCham President is a busy job, but you can’t always be working. What do you like to do when you’re off the clock?
I love to travel – it’s a passion that grew immensely while I worked at Lion Group. I find traveling and gaining new experiences to be some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. I also really love music, and I’m always in search of a good jazz bar or classical music performance. One of the things I enjoyed growing up in Taiwan is our fabulous National Concert Hall and the many noteworthy performers who choose to come here.
Another passion of mine is skiing and snowboarding, although I broke two ribs and my ankle snowboarding at Lake Tahoe in April. It’s quite ironic because I skied all over the world last season – from Davos in Switzerland to Japan – but got hurt on home turf, where I ski the most. Still, I can’t wait to hit the slopes again. There’s something about surfing down a mountain with beautiful views that clears my mind.