In the U.S., world-famous engineers like Harry Shum just don't rank as high as TV celebrities.

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Harry Shum heads development of search products at Microsoft, but a search for him online is likely to turn up an unrelated young dancer named Harry Shum Jr., who plays Mike Chang on the hit TV show “Glee.”

In the U.S., world-famous engineers just don’t rank as high as TV celebrities, Shum knows.

“When I grew up in China as a little kid, all our heroes at that time were scientists,” said Shum, a corporate vice president at Microsoft and recipient of a 2011 Asian-American Executive of the Year award.

Shum, 44, grew up in Shanghai and came to the U.S. in 1991 to study robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. He lives in Bellevue with his wife and two children.

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Shum said that he saw the United States as a beacon, with its top-flight universities and opportunities for anyone with talent. The U.S. is a country made by immigrants, he said, and “a lot of Asian-American engineers are making contributions to this country in very successful industries, from Boeing to Microsoft to many others.”

That said, Shum, who holds more than 50 patents, knows that the technical world is not the only path to excellence. “I think times have changed, even in China.”

“We need all kinds of different role models,” he said. “I think this Harry Shum Jr. happens to be a great dancer. I’m happy for him.”

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