Isabella Tang (Class of 2011) is a singer-songwriter and consultant at McKinsey & Company in Los Angeles. She has just released her debut album If I Could Tell You in digital stores and earlier released her first single and music video “Passenger.” You can find If I Could Tell You on iTunes, Spotify, and other major digital stores, and watch “Passenger” on YouTube. For more information and social media links, visit www.isabellatang.com.
Tell us about yourself in a tweet – 140 characters or less: Singer-songwriter, management consultant, full-time frolicker and pun enthusiast. I love line integrals ‘cause they look like rollercoasters.
What drew you to music? I could say it was 3rd grade science class. My first song was about the birds and the bees (literally — we had just learned about tree ecosystems that day). In seriousness, my mom was the one who brought home our first book of poetry and our first keyboard. I really fell in love with both. From there, it wasn’t hard to begin writing my own songs.
Fast-forwarding 10 years, I had the great fortune of being selected to perform at the Stanford freshman talent show. It was my very first public singing performance, which just so happened to be in an 800-seater auditorium. My classmates were wonderfully encouraging — in fact no one told me that when you wear a white dress under bright stage lights, it can have rather – ahem – revealing results…. (I didn’t find out until years later, reviewing old videotapes of the performance). But at any rate, after the Fro Show, I was hooked and began to write and perform more and more.
Tell us about your new album: It’s a collection of 6 songs, and I’ve experimented with different styles. If you like pop, electro-pop, classical cinematic scores, or piano ballads, there’s something in this album for you! And the album cover is inspired by a Matisse painting called The Fall of Icarus – I’m also a Greek myth nerd.
Tell us about your recent music video: The “Passenger” music video features a whimsical, Wes Anderson-inspired adventure about traveling through life’s adventures side by side with the person you love. We drift through crazy worlds – planets and nebulas, a colorful floating art gallery, stumble into a miniature dollhouse in the middle of surreal rolling green hills… we even filmed some sequences in the legendary “Batcave” in Hollywood’s Bronson Canyon. My goal was to express the idea of a true partnership – being able to experience all of life’s adventures, through both the fantastic and the mundane, side by side with the one you love. I am really fortunate to have worked with a fantastic team for both the album and the video, with Ace Salvador for video direction and Konscious Studios in the album production.
What has surprised you the most in your time as a management consultant? My biggest takeaway is that opportunities come to those who ask for them. Nearly 2 years ago, I walked up to a McKinsey Partner, introduced myself, and said that I wanted to work less and drastically reduce my travel so that I could spend time on music. For those unfamiliar with management consulting, it’s an industry well-known for its demanding hours and a norm of traveling 4-5 days of every week, frequently out of state. But because I told people about what I wanted, my coworkers were able to help make it happen. Since then, I’ve been able to take songwriting courses, perform across Los Angeles venues, record my album, and make my first music video. It’s by no means an easy balance, and I still slip up every now and then, but I am learning more and more how to set boundaries and make the most of my time.
How have your professional experiences have been shaped by being a woman? Blatant sexism is nearly universally condemned, but I’ve found that unconscious gender bias can often be as crippling, if not more. Not only are we all susceptible to bias, but also, how do we correct a wrong if we don’t realize it exists? It’s great to have a strong network of female friends and mentors with whom to share common experiences and reflect on how to take action. Whether in academic settings (e.g., Cap and Gown, sororities, etc.), or in the work environment (e.g., at McKinsey we have West Coast Women get-togethers), these communities can be incredibly inspiring and energizing, especially when complemented by a movement that engages both genders to take part in the dialogue.
Any advice for our current Cap and Gown members?
1. Ever since I started growing bangs, I’ve been able to save so much time on eyebrow maintenance.
2. I would also say that we, fresh out of college, and hungry to prove ourselves, can often fall into a trap of confusing our career success with our personal self-worth. The more that we’re able to separate the two notions, the more we free ourselves to take risks, both in and out of the office.
Isabella’s debut EP If I Could Tell You is available on all major digital stores including iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.
Watch the “Passenger” music video on YouTube.