Having come to the UK as an immigrant at the age of just 10, Xudong Wang initially struggled to fit in. However, he quickly flourished, studying Physics at Cambridge before coming to London Business School to develop his skillset even further. With a passion for increasing social mobility in both education and business, he has co-founded numerous student groups and is now considering a future career in consulting.
Socio-economic diversity is really important to me, partly because I come from a disadvantaged background myself. I came to the UK as an immigrant when I was 10 years old and I really struggled to fit in initially. I was the first person in my family to go to university and at the time I didn’t know anything about careers. Everyone I knew had the mentality of ‘just go to university and focus on getting good grades and you’ll get a good job’. But I soon came to realise that university was about more than just grades, and could help in terms of searching for your dream career too.
Before I went to university, I completed my first ever internship. I worked at Bacs, the financial organisation responsible for the clearing and settlement of UK automated payments, between school years 12 and 13. I secured the internship through an initiative called Nuffield Research Placements, which aims to help bridge the transition between A-levels and university. The initiative supports people from underprivileged backgrounds to boost their prospects when applying to university.
After my A-levels, I studied physics at Cambridge; during my time there I completed three more internships. The first was at KPMG, working in technology consulting. The second was for a charity called upReach, which ran an investment banking and global markets summer internship. Most recently, I completed a consulting internship at OC&C Strategy Consultants over the summer.
During my time at Cambridge I was quite involved with two social mobility societies, both of which I was on the founding team for. The first was the 93% Club Cambridge, whose name accounts for the fact that 93% of people in the UK are state educated. Despite this number, the percentage of state educated people working in so-called ‘elite’ jobs, such as lawyer, consultant or doctor, is much lower.
There were already branches of the society in Bristol University and Durham University when we launched in Cambridge in July 2020. We got the society off the ground and ran a very comprehensive set of events for people in the community, as well as securing sponsorship from various companies.
I had a more direct role in the Cambridge upReach Social Mobility Society, because it was just me and one other person who founded it, so we had a much smaller team. We were affiliated with upReach, a social mobility charity that helps students break into top careers. Essentially, our role was to spread awareness of social mobility and help support eligible students with their careers by directing them to the available help out there. I think the big difference between people who are privately educated and people who are from a more disadvantaged background is the information gap. People from more disadvantaged backgrounds might not be as aware as others about the job application process and how to excel at it. For example, if they’re the first in their family to go to university, or they don’t have any advice from their parents, they might find it more difficult to navigate the process.
I joined Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London in the summer of 2019 and I was pretty active in the community. The not-for-profit organisation is primarily focused on helping students find top jobs, so I went to a lot of events in industries that I was interested in. I really appreciate the support SEO London has provided me with my career journey, and that’s another reason that I want to give back to this community as well.
Finding out that I’d been awarded the SEO London Scholarship at LBS was definitely a great moment, both in terms of easing the financial burden, but also because it felt like my work in the sector was being recognised. This wasn’t something that I was expecting, but it’s quite surprising and even more gratifying in that sense.
London Business School was the only business school I applied to. I knew the School was top notch in terms of business education, and it has a great reputation with employers and recruiters in the industry. It’s a very powerful brand. The careers options here are second to none, and the alumni network is really great. Plus, the fact that it’s just a postgraduate university means you get a really tailored experience.
When I first decided to do a Masters, I was initially debating between the MiM and the MAM programmes. I was leaning towards learning more about analytical management because of my background in physics, but then I realised that I would benefit more from a course that wasn’t tailored to topics that were similar to what I’d done in the past. My dissertation at Cambridge was a simulation of asteroid systems coded in Python (a computer programming language), so I felt it would be good to pivot away from programming, have some diversity and get a general business education.
So far, I’ve found the finance module of the course really interesting. Having come from a physics background, it’s something that I’ve never really done before, and I’m surprised at how mathematical it is, which I find really satisfying. We recently selected the elective courses we’ll be doing for the next two terms and I’ve picked ones that are focused on interpersonal skills. One is about negotiation and bargaining, and the other builds on traits of leadership and how to be a better leader. One of the primary reasons I joined LBS was to become well rounded and pick up more of these ‘soft skills’, so I’m really looking forward to those classes.
London Business School is an incredibly diverse school, and I say that as someone who went to Cambridge University, which is very diverse, as people from all over the world apply to study there. The diversity at London Business School was much greater than I expected; 90-95% of the whole cohort is from outside the UK, and there are 70-80 different nationalities. In terms of class discussions, this means that everyone brings a unique perspective to the table, which is so interesting.
After I graduate, I think I’ll go into consulting, although I’m also keen to explore other industries. I might apply for some internships in industries such as quantitative trading, data science & PE/VC, and I’m also looking to volunteer for a couple of months in a charity in the social mobility sector.
I think my time at London Business School will help me achieve my goals by giving me a really valuable network in the future. I’ve met so many new people since coming to the School; everyone’s super driven, and we all have high aspirations in life, so I think we’ll stay in contact and hopefully help each other with our careers as we move forward.