At The Spike Lab, we work tirelessly to build a team of world-class coaches. This is part of a series of coach profiles blog posts introducing them to you.
Daniel is a software entrepreneur and startup/technology consultant. Formerly a tech lead at Palantir, Daniel spent six years in technology and innovation in Silicon Valley before striking out on his own to build products while traveling the world as a digital nomad. As a consultant, Daniel’s clients trust him to bring a rare blend of product management, technology leadership, and swift execution. In the last three years, Daniel has lived in eight countries, studied Spanish, French, and Chinese; and now lives and works in Taipei.
Daniel graduated early from Stanford with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science, with concentrations in AI, Computer Security, and Computer Systems. He has been selected to be a Fellow in prestigious entrepreneurial programs such as Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Summer Fellowship and Harvard Medical School’s InciteHealth Fellowship; and served as Lead Engineer for Stanford’s StartX.
1) Why did you become a coach with The Spike Lab?
I believe that we each have something unique and exciting to share with the world, and that discovering that something and helping others to discover their somethings are among the highest callings that we have as human beings.
Despite all of my accomplishments, my own unique path is something I started to explore much later than I could have. It took realizing that I was unhappy with my first job after college to recognize that maybe I was following someone else’s path rather than having the courage to face the uncertainty of embarking on my own.
I became a coach for The Spike Lab because I want to help students find their own paths, to explore themselves, and to express and share their unique gifts with the world. I hope to teach them the tools and the frameworks they need to translate their visions for the world and for themselves into reality.
2) What is your proudest professional achievement?
In 2017, I completed an Ironman triathlon on the island of Cozumel in Mexico. The Ironman is a single day endurance event involving 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and, finally, a full marathon of running. The distance was literally so long that in order to get 112 miles out of the cycling leg, we had to bike nearly three full laps around the island. After training for nearly two years I completed the race in just under 14 hours, in the greatest feat of self-discipline, perseverance, and courage of my life to date.
Much of that discipline, perseverance, and courage has served me well in my professional and entrepreneurial lives, but if there’s one really important lesson I learned, it was this: the journey is what makes you who you are, not the destination. The actual experience of crossing the Ironman finish line is horribly underwhelming. At first, you think you’re just tired and numb so maybe reality has sunk in yet. Later, however, I realized that crossing that finish line isn’t actually what made me an Ironman. Instead, it was the early mornings cycling long distances up and down mountains before work. It was the grueling training runs that never seemed to end. And it was those times I had to desperately fit a swim in between chunks of meetings that really made me an Ironman. That journey is what reforged me into who I am today, and it has become its own reward.
3) If you could give one piece of advice to your high school self, what would it be?
Worry less about what others want you to do, and instead, think more about what you want for yourself and why. And in pursuit of what you want, don’t be afraid to fail.
Especially with the pressure of college looming it can be easy to get caught up in conforming to what you think other people want or expect of you–college admissions officers, your classmates, your teachers, your parents. These voices are all important opinions to consider in life, but they must never drown out the most important voice of all: your own. Taking the time to cultivate that voice and listen to it is crucial, and the earlier you start the better.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to fail in pursuit of what your inner voice demands of you. Schooling teaches us that failure and success are binary and opposite, and trains us to be afraid of failing. The truth is that “failure” is often a prerequisite for “success”, and that virtually all great lessons in life are learned, at one point or another, from failure. Your success is not defined by if you fail, but rather the strength of character you display and how you choose to respond when you do.
4) How did you choose Stanford for undergrad?
Initially, when I was considering where to apply I actually biased strongly against Stanford despite the fact that my father is a Stanford alumnus himself. I had a somewhat silly reason: the Spanish architecture of the campus reminded me too much of a bad experience I had had during a school trip to San Diego’s Old Town when I was very young.
However, I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak paired with a desire to make the world a better place. In my later years of high school, my father brought me with him to a Stanford alumni conference. During that conference, I had the chance to hear several very impressive and famous people speak including Bill Gates and Condoleezza Rice. Truthfully, however, I don’t remember a single thing that either of them said. The speaker that really stood out to me that day was Jane Chen, founder of Embrace, and a student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (coincidentally now also a Spike Lab Coach!). I remember what she said very clearly — she told us about creating a product to help incubate babies in developing countries and how Stanford helped teach her the skills and gave her the resources she needed to make Embrace a reality.
Despite my initial biases against Stanford, after that experience, I realized that Stanford is a place uniquely positioned to teach fledgling entrepreneurs the skills they need to make an impact. Many years later, I have no regrets about that decision–Stanford turned out to be the school that best fit my interests and my personality by far.
Want to work with an innovative coach like Daniel? Book a consultation here.