McCormick Magazine

Success by the numbers

Banking on the versatility of their McCormick education, these alumni are thriving in their careers

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Daryl MoreyA lifelong love of sports and statistics lands Daryl Morey his dream job
As a young boy growing up near Medina, Ohio, Daryl Morey could often be found rooting for his home state teams the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers. That interest in sports soon led him to study the numbers. "My favorite team was the Indians, and I wanted to figure out which players were good," Morey says. "I was looking for ways to rate and evaluate players because my Indians lost every year, and I didn't understand why."

Twenty-odd years later, the same questions still intrigue Morey, who in May 2007 became the general manager of the Houston Rockets. Morey is the first statistician in the NBA to fill the general manager position, a role typically held by former coaches or players.

Explaining the field of analytics, Morey boils it down to a strategy for risk management that is more reliable than human decision making. "Whenever there's a young star player coming out of the NBA everyone says, 'Oh, he reminds me of so-and-so and so-and-so who was good,'" Morey says. "Quantitative analysis can tell you that he's similar not just to the great player, but also to these other eight players who failed. By doing that, it gives you a better sense of the real probability and risk you're taking in a decision."

Morey's first chance to apply his interest in statistical analysis to sports came when he was a freshman at McCormick. As luck would have it, he was reading a book by Bill James — a renowned baseball writer and statistician considered the "godfather" of quantitative analysis — when he flipped to the back page and discovered that the author's sports statistics firm, STATS LLC, was located in nearby Skokie. A few weeks later Morey – along with a calculus classmate, Ellen, who would later become his wife — secured a job there through the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program. Morey answered phones, entered transactions, and eventually started giving trade advice to clients participating in the firm's fantasy baseball operation. By the time STATS LLC expanded into basketball a few years later, he was forecasting and building complex statistical models.

After graduating with a degree in computer science in 1996, Morey served a stint as a consultant in the defense industry before going on to earn his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It wasn't long, however, before his path once again led back to the world of sports. Equipped with his business degree, Morey took a consulting job at the Parthenon Group, where he helped broker sports-team related deals. When a group of investors and Parthenon clients who had worked with Morey ended up buying the Boston Celtics, they invited him to come on board.

Morey moved to the Rockets in 2006, and a year later was named general manager. He has high hopes that his unique perspective will translate into a competitive advantage for the Rockets: "We're trying to differentiate ourselves on technology and information, having better data on everything done in basketball around the world. If a shot's being taken somewhere in the world, we're tracking it."

Morey is quick to credit his background as an engineer for the basic critical-thinking skills necessary to his post, and he says he draws on his McCormick education as a computer scientist every day. "Having a computer science degree and being a software engineer is enormously helpful as I'm leading and guiding the staff here. Everything we build is proprietary, and designing and building our software in a foundationally strong way is critically important."

So how does it feel to be the NBA's star statistician? "It's a great job, a dream job," Morey says. "I never complain and I get angry at anyone in our organization who does, because at the end of the day we're working on a game. How bad can it be?"

Yie-Hsin HungA knack for complexity underpins Yie-Hsin Hung's achievements
For Yie-Hsin Hung the decision to attend Northwestern was a family affair. Her father earned his PhD in civil engineering from McCormick, and after graduating from high school in Pittsburgh, the younger Hung headed west to follow in her father's footsteps.

As a mechanical engineering major at McCormick, Hung was especially driven. Carrying a heavier-than-usual class load and working at IBM each summer, she was able to earn her degree in under four years and was accepted into Harvard's MBA program straight out of Northwestern, one of an elite cadre of incoming Harvard students to earn the honor.

At the time, Hung says she didn't know that her career direction would veer towards finance. "Harvard was one of the few schools that had a general management program, so I could get exposure to a number of industries," she explains. While in Boston, Hung met classmates who had Wall Street investment banking experience, and their stories piqued her interest. After spending a summer working at supercomputer company Cray Research in Minneapolis, Hung was hungry to broaden her horizons. "I had gotten the exposure to the technical side of the business, so next I wanted exposure to the financial," she says.

Following that curiosity led Hung to where she is today: at the New York world headquarters of Morgan Stanley, one of the world's largest investment banks and global financial services firms. As managing director and head of global strategic acquisitions and alliances within Morgan Stanley's Investment Management division, Hung leads a major part of the effort to grow the business of her division, which oversees $600 billion of Morgan Stanley's $782 billion in total assets under management.

Hung got her start in the industry in 1986 at Dean Witter, a small investment-banking group. Beginning as a generalist, she later focused her efforts on the real-estate market. In 1989 Congress created the Resolution Trust Corporation to bail out scores of insolvent savings and loan associations, and, in turn, sell off their assets. The change made real estate an extremely appealing sector of the market, Hung says. "Suddenly there were large portfolios of property available at distressed prices, and for the first time entrepreneurs could access capital in the public markets. Equity investors became interested in real-estate companies, and that combination created lots of interesting opportunities and enormous merger and acquisition activity."

Hung says she especially enjoyed structuring transactions to address the unique complexity of the companies she was advising, a preference that harkens back to her days as an engineer. "Each company has its own tax and ownership idiosyncrasies, and a lot more analysis is involved in working with real-estate related companies than with other types of enterprises. I think my interest in them is reflective of my engineering background — I wanted to get into more complex situations."

Morgan Stanley absorbed Dean Witter's investment-banking unit in 1997, and Hung continued on as a real-estate banker until 2000. Afterwards she held several positions within the Investment Management division before stepping into her current role in late 2006. In this position Hung is responsible for developing and implementing MSIM's growth-by-acquisition strategy, identifying and attracting strong investment companies and teams to bolster the firm's already-extensive capabilities.

During Hung's tenure, the Investment Management division acquired a minority stake in Avenue Capital, a sizeable hedge fund focused on investing in distressed securities, and purchased FrontPoint Partners, a group of about a dozen hedge fund teams. While the decisions to add investment teams entail a certain amount of risk — "As the saying goes, 'Past performance does not guarantee future results,' and you make bets on people and their likelihood of success," she says — Hung clearly relishes, and has excelled at, her work. "It's very rewarding when it works — when you bring on a team and as a result of the combination of Morgan Stanley's global footprint and the team's capabilities, you're able to grow the business."

Hung is quick to make the connection between how she spends her days now and the instruction she received more than 20 years ago at McCormick. "A lot of the training in engineering is about problem-solving and identifying the opportunities and issues that need to be addressed," she says. "I learned a tremendous amount that I still leverage in my work today."

–Josie Raney