When Lisa Chai was in high school, she was a self-described "geek" who loved math, technology and science fiction movies. She also devoured books on finance.
"I read anything to do with numbers," she says. "So I was reading lots of books on equity analysis, the stock market and stock market crashes."
She was in high school when the stock market crashed in 1987, and this event helped drive her desire to understand how markets work. In college, she took dual courses in finance and management information systems, and landed a job as a programmer at a computer consulting company.
After four years with that firm, she moved on to Wall Street. As much as she loved programming, she says, finance was her primary interest.
She merged her two passions by working as a tech analyst. Now, as a senior research analyst at Robo Global, Chai helps manage a portfolio of index funds with a strong focus on robotics, automation and artificial intelligence-related companies.
"Artificial intelligence is relatively new for ROBO," she says. "That's going to be a very big area in terms of investing ideas."
Chai knows she's a rare commodity in both areas of her career. "In the technology industry, in asset management, maybe less than 5% are female," she says. "But I've been incredibly fortunate that the men I've worked with have stood up for me, helped me get my promotions, and supported me professionally and personally."
Outside of work, Chai is a mentor and volunteer tutor for two organizations focused on lower-income students. Girls Write Now helps underserved high school girls find their voices through writing. GO Projects provides tutoring services for at-risk students in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.
"It's been very important to me to help out the younger generation," she says. "I've been fortunate that I've had great mentors around me, and I think that really makes a difference as to how I became successful."