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“5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry” With Dr. Hae Hyung Lee

I think thought leadership helps establish credibility and, to some extent, admiration. It might sound basic, but I believe that if you start a new company, you have to do so in an area that you are knowledgeable and passionate about. The next step would be to recruit people that have the skills you need […]


I think thought leadership helps establish credibility and, to some extent, admiration. It might sound basic, but I believe that if you start a new company, you have to do so in an area that you are knowledgeable and passionate about. The next step would be to recruit people that have the skills you need to further expand the company. Because I have confidence in the ability of our product, it will build trust and credibility in my employees and in the industry, which in return will increase revenues and profits. It will also open doors for additional business opportunities through partnerships with other companies that have strong backgrounds in their own fields.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Hae Hyung Lee, founder of Stratio, creators of LinkSquare, a smart handheld spectrometer and BeyonSense, the next generation short wave infrared (SWIR) camera that enables the human eye to capture the invisible. Prior to Stratio, Inc., Dr. Lee was a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group and Samsung Electronics, where he was responsible for improving the organizations’ positions by helping to solve problems, manage change and improve efficiency through AI. Dr. Lee also worked as a software engineer for Alticast Corporation developing software solutions for the media entertainment industry worldwide. Dr. Lee holds a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I was a typical PhD student with a degree in Electrical Engineering who came to the United States in hopes of pursuing a career in my field. At the time, my dream job was to become an engineer at one of the largest IT companies in Silicon Valley, or maybe a professor at one of the top universities in the United States or South Korea. However, it is amazing how life can throw you a curveball and take you into a completely different direction, and all in a matter of a couple of years. I spent seven years at Stanford University advancing my studies, and during that time, I came to have a desire to change the world and make it a place where dreaming big is encouraged and dreams can come true. I wanted to become an example of someone who followed their dreams and became successful, creating a path for others to follow. Alongside a few of my fellow classmates, I started my own company, Stratio. Today, we design, develop, and manufacture infrared technologies.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

When I started in the business world, I thought that in order to fulfill my vision, I should first understand who I really was. From an early age, I was excited about searching for the truth and was naturally drawn to science and technology. I became an engineer and specialized in areas of device physics, nanofabrication, image sensors, CMOS, and MEMS. When I started thinking about starting my own company, I took the time to think about what I could do to better the world. One day, while having a conversation with one of my co-founders, we stumbled upon the idea of how a new sensor material called germanium (Ge) could be responsive to infrared light waves in real life. We consulted various experts and conducted countless experiments, and are currently making the world’s first Ge-based infrared sensor that is of low cost, portable, and has a low power consumption.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of my most interesting stories is also an example of how we can’t let failure define or stop us. I experienced a major setback when my company didn’t hit the milestones we had set forth for our first round of investments. It was perhaps due to the lack of experience in making this unprecedented semiconductor product, however it did not stop us from moving forward. This setback instead acted as a catalyst to reach out to the rest of the world and forced us to work harder to secure our next round of investments and continue development. We went to Europe through a program called French Tech Ticket, South America through Start-Up Chile, China through Brinc, and Myanmar through KOICA, which runs a program in partnership with the Gates Foundation. These opportunities have allowed me to fly from continent to continent, be in a different country every other week, and have the thrilling opportunity to meet with a variety of talented individuals and get to learn about different startup cultures around the world.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we started incorporating in other countries, we had a list in mind of where we wanted to start. We did research into how the process worked in these countries and thought we were well prepared. However, we quickly ran into complications. While we had planned on having to create a deposit for capital investment funds, we didn’t count on banks requiring photocopies of our investors passports, including the head strategic investor. We tried to explain to them that it was hard getting a passport copy of the CEO of one of the top semiconductor companies in the world, it would be like getting a copy of Larry Page of Alphabet’s passport, but in vain. The lesson to be learned in this case is to be prepared to jump through hoops to get things done in a foreign country, as they might have different requirements and laws to which you will need to adhere.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Being an influencer is about possessing a wide “audience” to affect purchase decisions, while being a thought leader is about possessing knowledge and expertise in a certain domain, providing guidance, insight, and inspiration to people. I think being a thought leader does a better job of touching people individually.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

I think one of the benefits of being a thought leader is that you have the power to influence others and are being seen as an example, someone for others to look up to. Your actions can inspire other individuals to pursue their dreams and take that next step in their careers. I have invested time and energy to educate the industry about infrared sensors and by doing so, have earned credibility when it comes to that industry.

While it may cost us more time and effort than we thought it would take, it was worth it. I truly believe that one can influence others by becoming an example himself.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

I think thought leadership helps establish credibility and, to some extent, admiration. It might sound basic, but I believe that if you start a new company, you have to do so in an area that you are knowledgeable and passionate about. The next step would be to recruit people that have the skills you need to further expand the company. Because I have confidence in the ability of our product, it will build trust and credibility in my employees and in the industry, which in return will increase revenues and profits. It will also open doors for additional business opportunities through partnerships with other companies that have strong backgrounds in their own fields.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. DECIDE WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO. Many young students tend to follow the dreams of their parents or society. Know who you really are and do what you want to do. Once I decided to dream big, I dived in to start my own company.
  2. DEVOTE YOURSELF TO THE AREA YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE. If you simply follow the trend, you may become an influencer and not a thought leader. In order to build a trusted infrared technology company, I first built my own expertise in the field. I studied the technology, talked to peers and experimented to get a full picture of what infrared technology was.
  3. BE AN EXAMPLE YOURSELF. If you want to be a thought leader, you have to make sure your words match your actions. Continue to dream big and take steps to make your dreams come true. I try to attend conferences and take advantage of every opportunity I can to learn from others.
  4. TRUST YOUR EMPLOYEES. I think this is one of the most important strategies to become a thought leader. You must surround yourself with talented and experienced people. Teach them what you know, but also listen to what they have to offer and learn from them. If you don’t trust them, they will not give you honest feedback nor will they stay around.
  5. HAVE FAITH AND BE PERSISTENT. I have seen quite a few people give up on their dreams when the road gets bumpy, or they feel a better opportunity lies ahead. If you truly believe in what you do, be persistent and don’t give up.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

The most famous thought leader to me would be Steve Jobs. Steve has been tirelessly named by many other entrepreneurs as a great thought leader and an example for their own startups. His craziness (I like to call it madness) for creating an intuitive design for IT products seemed impossible to many in the beginning. However, few would doubt the influence of his products now. Look at how the iPod changed how people use portable technologies, and how the iPhone paved the way for consumer smartphones. We at Stratio Inc. are trying to revolutionize the way people use infrared technologies by making infrared imaging products as intuitive as possible.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

Personally, I think it is important to differentiate between a thought leader and influencer. Secondly, those who want to consider themselves thought leaders should continue to hone their skills to be true to the name. Specialize in your field and continue to learn, thought leaders aren’t stagnant, they are continuously looking for ways to evolve.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

First of all, I think it is important to have a drive and purpose. Secondly, try to surround yourself with people who share that same purpose. Thirdly, and on a more personal note, learn how to manage stress; an activity such as exercising will help increase your productivity. Lastly, reach out to those closest to you, like a partner, family, or friends, and be sure to communicate with them and include them in your journey. You can also develop friendships with your coworkers or join community groups, giving you the opportunity to talk to like-minded people.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Be a leader by setting an example. Don’t just preach your ideas and visions, take actual steps to accomplish those ideas. No matter how little that step might be, if you take action, others will follow.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My life lesson is a quote from Steve Jobs: “Believe in what you’re doing so much that other’s opinions are irrelevant.”

We, as entrepreneurs, may start off dreaming big, but only a few work towards accomplishing that dream. Some people eventually give up and others decide that there are easier options out there so they follow a different path. This quote of Steve Jobs helped me start my company in my last year as a PhD student in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Everyone said it was a crazy idea because I had other lucrative options in hand, but if you truly believe in what you’re doing, you have to be persistent and ignore the people who doubt you or want to see you fail. Focus on the positive energy in your life.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would definitely say Steve Jobs, but as he is unfortunately no longer with us, I would like to have a lunch or breakfast with Elon Musk. He is also a role model for many hardcore R&D startups in the world and I hope to consult with him regarding addtional steps I should take to make Stratio, Inc. more successful!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Stratio’s Website: https://stratiotechnology.com/

Stratio’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LinkSquareIR

Dr. Lee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jae-hyung-lee-6b815616/

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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