Ying Zhou is the executive director of the Tech Incubator at Queens College, which currently has 20 companies in residence, including SIMMER, the program which created Seasonal Sammy. Ying is an information technology professional with broad experience in project and program management. She is passionate about cross-sector and interdisciplinary collaboration, innovation, design and design thinking, emerging technology, entrepreneurship and digital transformation. Ying helped bring our app to life. We decided to interview her because of her extensive background in technology and emerging interests in learning more about food through combining food and tech. 

Q. We know you run the tech department at Queens College, please tell us what your duties include and what your average day looks like.

A. Tech Incubator aims to help startup companies and entrepreneurs to build successful technology companies, which in turn creates more job opportunities and drives innovation and technology development in New York.

My duties include bringing in new companies to the incubator, help member companies to address their business needs, connect them with mentors and advisors and funding sources, outreach to communities, connect students and faculty to the industry, and organize events, workshops and classes to provide technology and entrepreneurship training to the companies and the community at large.

My average day consists of a series of meetings with existing and potential member companies, partners, and sponsors, conversations with students, faculty, and administration, as well as administrative tasks, including issues resolution.

Q. We know you co-founded SIMMER. Please tell us about the other projects you had and why you thought it was a good idea.

A. Many of the companies are attracted to the incubator because we have talented students. Many of our students do not have real world experience working for technology companies. I started a series of projects for students to apply what they learnt in classrooms and get real world working experience by interning at the incubator and with member companies. By working on a project, or facilitating a class, students quickly learn how to work in teams, how to communicate, and how to take a problem and think of alternative solutions to solve it. They also benefit from the mentorship they receive from their internship. These projects have helped our students land on external internships and jobs.

Q. Tell us why you value accessible tech apps, such as open source platforms, providing different classes, and how tech makes things accessible to all.

A. Given our students’ demography, i.e., many low-income, immigrants, first generation in college, few actually know about or have access to career opportunities in tech and other industries. Through open source and other tech related projects the students get to work with a diverse team, connect with mentors from industry, broaden their horizon of job opportunities, and gain practical experience and industry knowledge and business insights that they otherwise would not get.

Q. We know you’re not a foodie by trade, so why were you interested in including food in tech apps?

A. I think food connects us in many ways. By putting food in tech apps, we were able to bring non-computer science students and computer science students together to work jointly on this project. The resulted learning is much better. I myself have learnt so much about food, nutrition and healthy living through this project.

Q. We know you’re Taiwanese- do you have different seasonal foods?

A. I actually came from Beijing, China. In the Spring, we have mulberries, strawberries and cherries. We have super sweet and juicy peaches and apricots in the summer. 

Q. Do you have any new projects coming up?

A. I am working on a technology and entrepreneurship certification program, a technology exploration talk series, and to bring AWS Academy program to Queens College. For more information visit https://techcollectives.com/

By Penina Langer, Seasonal Sammy App