This spring, APS Development Assistant Erin Seamans spoke with Ethan Chiu about the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship program, a scholarship program run by the American Philatelic Society. YPLF supports young philatelists, offers them unique opportunities to attend stamp shows across the country, and connects them with experienced mentors in the philatelic world.
Ethan Chiu graduated YPLF in the Class of 2015 as a Donald & Bonnie Lee Fellow on the Exhibitor track. Ethan is currently attending University of California, Berkeley where he will earn a B.A. in Computer Science in 2021 and plans to work at GitHub as a Software Engineer post-graduation.
Erin: Why did you choose to apply for YPLF and what did you expect to accomplish?
Ethan: I learned about stamp collecting from my father. He had a passion for collecting stamps from Hong Kong. I was always fascinated by the beautiful designs and history behind these stamps whenever he showed me. When I was a Cub Scout, I visited the Spellman Museum in Weston, MA with my troop and learned about the basics of the American stamp history. Fast forward, I found out about the YPLF Program around 2012/2013 when I was looking for opportunities to get more involved in the stamp hobby and to learn the ropes about exhibiting. I was particularly interested in building my collection of Treaty Port stamps from Hong Kong (British Hong Kong stamps that were overprinted with "China") and creating an exhibit about the rich history of Hong Kong stamps.
Erin: What did you learn about philately through YPLF? Can you recall a moment or memory from your time as a Fellow that was significant in your learning process?
Ethan: Although it was a long time ago, I remember vividly how kind and wonderful everyone in the stamp community was. From the dinners with past, present, and future YPLF Fellows to visiting various workshops and exhibits, I learned so much from everyone about various aspects of the stamp hobby. There are so many different avenues a collector can pursue in the stamp hobby - I always was so happy hearing and seeing all the different types of stamps people collected and the history behind them. One specific memory I had while being a YPLF fellow was selling stamps in the 2014 APS Show in Hartford, CT. I don't remember the exact conversations but I remember having such a fun time interacting with interested buyers, organizing our stamps for sale, and chatting with other YPLF fellows such as Casey Cook, Truth Muller, and Evan Schlosser.
Erin: What did you learn during your time as a Fellow that serves your involvement in the hobby today?
Ethan: I learned so much about how important the community is for promoting and sustaining a hobby. Looking back, I felt so welcomed and happy as a YPLF fellow. I felt that I had all the resources at my disposal for learning how to build an exhibit and eventually building my own. Special thanks to Gretchen Moody, Alex Haiman, Jeff Shapiro, Donald & Bonnie Lee (my YPLF sponsors), all the amazing staff at APS, WALPEX stamp club, and all of the YPLF fellows I've met for all their support and helping support such a wonderful community of stamp collectors.
Erin: I see that you currently are attending school for Computer Science at UC Berkeley. What drew you to this field?
Ethan: Computer Science is such a broad major and it allows you to pursue exploring all these different and amazing areas that you can build technology in. Over the summer, I had a conversation with Omoju Miller who serves as a Technical Advisor to the CEO at GitHub and she shared with me how she viewed programming as a superpower. I also believe in this - during previous internships and projects, I learned how much impact you can have on your community by building tools that tackle challenging problems users face. There is so much good you can do with programming and I'm excited to continue building software that helps millions of people.
Erin: How has your time as a Fellow informed your work in Computer Science and as a software engineer ?
Ethan: I learned a lot from the people at YPLF. Surprisingly there's a lot of overlap from what I've learned in YPLF to what I will do as a software engineer when it comes to interpersonal skills. One of the most important skills a software engineer can have is communicating clearly with your designers, product managers, and managers on your team when it comes to identifying key customer pain points and planning new products / features that tackle these pain points. One key driver of clear communication is empathy and listening. Everyone I met in YPLF were such great people who really cared about others. I learned so much from just hearing and watching how the other fellows and leaders in YPLF interacted with others in the hobby. Having just ended middle school / started high school, being exposed to such brilliant and smart people early on really helped me understand the importance of communication when it comes to building and sustaining a community.
Erin: What are your long-term goals in philately?
Ethan: I want to pass down my personal stamp collection and my father's stamp collection to my offspring and keep the hobby alive for generations to come.
Erin: What would you say to someone considering joining YPLF?
Ethan: Apply! This opportunity was so amazing. I met many wonderful friends and mentors and learned a lot.
Erin: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience of fellows, alumni, donors, and potential applicants?
Ethan: Thank you to everyone I've met while I was a YPLF Fellow. Everyone was super kind and supportive around me. Thank you to the donors for their continued support of this wonderful program and helping promote this hobby for generations to come. Especially, thank you to Alex Haiman and Gretchen Moody and the YPLF Fellows for creating such an amazing program for youth to get involved in the stamp hobby!
If you or if you know anyone who might be interested in learning how to program, check out these free resources and initiatives: https://education.github.com/pack and https://fellowship.mlh.io/
If you want to hear more from me, follow me on my blog and Twitter where I share my thoughts on various topics: https://ethanchiu.xyz/blog/ and https://twitter.com/ChiuTweets