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Tan Liu was born in Beijing, China. He moved to the U.S. when he was six and was raised outside Washington D.C. Unlike his sister who finished high school and got a scholarship to MIT, Tan took a less traditional path and went straight into the working world. He was employed as a bike courier after high school and later supported himself through college as a freelance photojournalist for networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. In addition to his professional life, Tan also spent many years volunteering as a youth mentor in D.C. and Inglewood, California.
In 2006, he completed his undergraduate degrees in economics and finance from the American University. He has worked for two hedge funds and a trading firm in Shanghai, but spent most of his career managing distressed assets for a bank. He officially exited the finance industry in 2015 and is now finishing a master’s degree in applied statistics.