Catching up with alumnus Liam O'Hagan '04

Breck Communications

After leaving Breck, what did the next part of your journey look like? What brought you to China? 
After Breck, I attended Harvard University and hoped that my degree would provide for a future of more certainties. In 2008, however, Father Time had other ideas, particularly for some of my classmates looking to start their careers in finance. The firm I had interned with the summer before graduation was forced into liquidation, so I too was challenged to be more opportunistic with my next steps. Fortunately, I had the option to play more football for Minnesota coaching legend Dennis Green, who led the UFL's club in Northern California. While living there, I met my future boss and soon joined ChinaVest, a merchant banking firm in Shanghai for the off season. The Chinese language program at Breck and years of practice with Derek Yang and Margaret Wong prepared me well for this adventure, which has turned into nearly ten years living and working in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

How did you take your passions and turn them into a career? 
From a young age, I felt comfortable participating in team activities, and learned that as a member of a team, it was most important to try your very best, even if it meant making mistakes. Our teams at Breck were generally successful because we always had guys that shared this idea and enjoyed playing hard for helpful coaches who loved watching us succeed. After Breck, more athletic teams were replaced with group projects and then professional teams, but the formula didn’t really change. If you always gave your very best effort, things would have a good chance of working out. Being engaged in team activities, whether playing sports or pursuing goals in business are always fulfilling in their own way and give you purpose. 

What lessons have you learned as you are living through COVID-19 in Hong Kong? 
This will be my second major global crisis in my adult life, and must say the environment I am living in now, with my wife who is from Hong Kong, has made this one much more manageable. The 2008 financial crisis was marred with so much uncertainty, especially for a young adult looking to start a career. As for the COVID-19 situation, while most of the world is finding best ways to manage day to day life, Hong Kong has more experience dealing with these issues, and was on the offensive as soon as news from Wuhan broke. Everyone was wearing masks, thoroughly washing hands, applying sanitizer, vigilant of their surroundings, and smart about their daily routine. For most of February and March, other than the surgical masks donned by residents in busy commercial areas, Hong Kong was business as usually. However, recently we have learned not to be complacent, as many residents and students studying abroad are now returning and bringing a second wave of infections from other parts of the world. It's important not to let up, even if it looks like life is back to normal.

What has helped you to stay positive over the past 2 months? 
This is a great time to double down on self improvement! Using our down time for more exercise, sleep, more reading (less Netflix), deeper spring cleaning, and trying new skills has helped us balance out these awkward days. For example, because we haven't been spending as much time and money eating lunch and dinner out, we bought a sous vide unit and have been creating new and nutritious recipes to enjoy. Further, making sure to get outside for some fresh air, sunshine or going for a drive between conference calls has helped a lot. Finally, I have found this to be an excellent opportunity to catch up with family and friends, including teachers and classmates from Breck. #MustangsUnite

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