I was studying at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing when I started hearing about the LBS experience. There are usually seven or eight graduate students who go on to LBS from UIBE every year, and they talked about the Masters in Management (MiM) a lot, as well as the School’s diverse ethos. I was drawn to the MiM because although my background is in financial management and I’ve had internships in finance and consulting, I wanted to improve my business know-how and develop my management philosophy.
Soon after I arrived at LBS, I discovered the Out in Business Club. In China, we can be pretty conservative when it comes to sexuality; people tend to avoid talking about LGBTQ+ topics in public. Because of that, I lacked a certain confidence in discussing issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. But I felt encouraged after speaking to the President and Vice President of Out in Business: they were eager to highlight the club’s diversity, and encouraged me to join.
I became Director of Early Careers for Out in Business soon after joining the School, which meant taking the lead in the recruitment and marketing of the club with the Early Careers programmes. I helped organise events and participated in several such as the EUROUT Conference and talks to new cohorts during Orientation.
My time at LBS and my experience with Out in Business gave me new perspectives on how to view society. Before the MiM, I had very limited interactions with people from different backgrounds. But at LBS, I made friends with people from different cultures; people with different mindsets and ways of looking at the world. It led to me delivering a speech on World Coming Out Day to my cohort. I felt obligated to speak out for early career LGBTQ+ students, especially for Asians; I was the only Asian that year on the Out in Business Executive Committee. I wanted to challenge and dismantle assumptions about the LGBTQ+ community in China, and spoke about how I’d developed a sense of identity at LBS and how the LBS experience helped me break away from the stereotypes I grew up with. After the speech, I received a lot of encouragement from the wider LBS community, which was a true testament to its diverse and accepting nature.
“The global LBS network was not only useful on campus, but after graduation too: it gave my CEO a lot of confidence in my ability to take on a truly global role”
After becoming involved with Out in Business, I contacted a leading Chinese LGBTQ+ platform called BlueCity and ended up working with them for two years after graduating. The experience was hugely rewarding. The app is a one-stop service provider for the LGBTQ+ community and has over 50 million users worldwide. I joined as assistant to the CEO, but some months later, the COO resigned, which meant there was no one taking a leading role in strategy, product development and coordination. I told the CEO that I could help formulate a strategy and manage the execution; I wanted the opportunity to lead the team and try new things. As I’d already demonstrated, I could deal with fundraising, new revenue stream planning, M&A negotiations and globalisation strategy, and I was assigned to a new role, which involved leading about 30 people. It was my first time dealing with tech operations and tech product development, although I did have some understanding of product development in tech after founding an online transaction platform with my high school friends providing groceries and food delivery to students.
I took a lot away from what I’d learned at LBS: from a curricular perspective, the Performing in Organisations elective helped me develop a systematic view of people’s performance and how to motivate a team. It was the first time I’d comprehensively reviewed my personal leadership style and used scientific analysis to enhance it. Likewise, the Global Capital Markets and Currencies elective had a profound impact on my mindset, particularly when I began doing cross-border business negotiations and raising international funds.
After four months at BlueCity, I was promoted to Vice President, which meant increased responsibilities around globalisation, commercialisation, user growth and business analytics. I worked on restructuring the team, repositioning the product and expanding to a global market more aggressively, and in June 2020, we successfully went public on the Nasdaq, which was hugely rewarding. The best thing was that what we were doing was so meaningful; the app added value to the LGBTQ+ community across the world and contributed to driving equality in society. I’m so grateful for that experience.
Before LBS, I was on track for a career in investment – but because of my entrepreneurship experience and my passion for corporate business, my LBS Career Centre mentor encouraged me to be open to opportunities in strategy and small businesses. I’d been speaking to him about the experience of pitching a stock called MatchGroup, and I talked a lot about their products, such as OkCupid and Tinder. He urged me to keep going in that direction. It was important advice and helped me find a position that was the right fit. What also made me brave enough to take on the VP role at BlueCity was the diverse experience I’d had at LBS, particularly with the Out in Business Club. I learnt not only how to do business, but also how to be myself and deal with some very tricky issues around confidence and identity.
“I learnt not only how to do business, but also how to be myself and deal with some very tricky issues around confidence and identity”
LBS has given me a lot of very useful networks and lifelong friendships. When I was working for BlueCity in China, we did a lot of international business in New Delhi, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok and Mexico City. I joined the alumni network in New Delhi and Tokyo, and made contact with ex-LBS Indian and Japanese entrepreneurs who introduced me to local advisors (financial and legal) to avoid potential challenges. The LBS network was not only useful on campus, but after graduation too. It’s a personal advantage in my day-to-day work and gave the BlueCity CEO a lot of confidence in my ability to take on a truly global role.
I’ve since moved on to work for Alibaba Group as a Senior Product Expert. After BlueCity went public, I knew my next step needed to be with a more international and powerful platform; this was what would help me upgrade my business philosophy and strategy. Alibaba is the largest company in Asia and I work with varied industry teams to develop a marketplace product that improves operational efficiency and user retention. In tech firms, product management is a little like the role of a CEO: you have to cultivate sharp business acumen, develop logical solutions, drive growth and achieve business goals. Many skills can be transferred from business school but I now need to dive deeper into business to become a good product manager – particularly when it comes to process management, quality assessment and tech knowledge. My expectation is to keep learning from the extraordinary individuals I work with and keep growing professionally.
“Explore opportunities across all programmes, from the MBA to the Masters in Finance to the Sloan, because the students will have different skillsets you can learn from”
My biggest lesson from the MiM is to be open to different mindsets, leadership styles and business management approaches. Learn about different industries, get acquainted with different business models and get to know people from different backgrounds. The programme is so diverse that I can’t think of a case study I worked on at LBS that didn’t help me solve a problem at work after graduating.
To anyone considering coming to LBS, I’d say even if it’s initially a little daunting talking to students from different backgrounds, go for it. Take advantage of the School’s diverse culture and cohort. Make friends and learn from different mindsets – it will really contribute to your personal growth and career development. Through the networking opportunities available with electives, clubs and societies, explore opportunities across all programmes, from the MBA to the Masters in Finance to the Sloan, because the students will have different skillsets you can learn from. Seek out different clubs, activities and forums: it’s this breadth of knowledge that will give you the opportunity to push yourself forward and harness your unique talent, whatever that may be.