Twenty years later: Class president veers from career in politics to business and tech

April 1, 2020 — by Shama Gupta and Allison Hartley

2000 alumnus Warren Wong finds leadership fulfillment through small team management in business.

Twenty years ago, Class of 2000 senior class president Warren Wong and his cross country teammates ran close to 6 miles on the streets around Saratoga High every day. Now, they meet up with their baby strollers to run 5ks together while laughing about memories and catching up with each other’s work and family lives.

Wong earned a bachelors of science from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., with a double major in economics and political sciences as well as an M.B.A. at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. He now works as a senior director at Marqeta, a company that develops payment platforms, in Oakland. Before joining Marqeta, Wong worked as a finance intern at for six months and at PayPal for six years in multiple roles such as a senior business analyst, the manager for analytics teams and the director of global mid-market merchant segment finance and analytics.

Despite his success in the business world, Warren never expected to be where he is now when he was in high school. 

Heavily involved in student leadership, he envisioned himself going into politics. A Falcon article even speculated his future run for the president of the United States. He later realized that he didn’t enjoy the bureaucratic nature of politics.

“Things took a very different turn,” Wong said. “What I ended up finding out was that business was a way in which I could manage a small team and still be a leader in a way that I had learned to be.”

Reflecting on his career path, Wong encouraged students to broaden their horizons during high school and not limit their pursuits based on what they experience in high school.

“[The high school experience] can just be a good experience to broaden horizons, to open up interests and to see different angles on different professional careers,” he said. “Life may or may not take a different turn or different angle than the one that you may have set yourself on back in the day.”

He believes that the opportunities available online and surrounding the Saratoga community can make finding an entry to new interests easy. 

“There's just a wealth of resources for folks to learn a little bit more to kind of poke around, whet their appetite and get their feet wet,” Wong said.

With access to all these resources, Wong encourages young people to first find “what makes them happy, and then find what they’re good at, and if they two aren’t a perfect match, figure out where the right balance is.”

Wong said he found his balance in college. He described it as a formative experience, one that helped him meld together the big data of Silicon Valley’s tech industry with economics and business. He learned how he could fit in as a leader in quantitative and analytical situations by managing teams in business settings. 

Today, he is continuously “finding the right ways to motivate [his Marqeta] teams, encourage them, and to also mentor and train them.” He is happily married with a 2-year-old and lives in the suburbs outside of Saratoga. 

Wong is also looking for opportunities to give back to his alma maters and the community he grew up in. He hopes to reconnect with Saratoga High by one day coaching wrestling, which he participated in all four years of high school and in college. 

Although the Class of 2000’s 20-year reunion has not yet occurred, Wong said he will begin planning it soon — assuming social distancing rules allow for such gatherings in the fall. Twenty years from now, Wong said he suspects he will be planning the next Class of 2000 reunion. 

“I plan on being pretty close to retirement, but we'll see if that's realistic or not,” Wong said. “Ideally, I’ll be in the Silicon Valley with my kids happily at Saratoga High or at another nearby high school.”