I had three very clear reasons for embarking on my MBA journey. I was already working in management consulting, but because my undergraduate degree is in journalism I lacked any systematic training in business or finance. This was becoming increasingly necessary if I wanted to continue moving up the career ladder. I had also never studied abroad or spent any time living overseas, so an MBA outside China offered me a great opportunity to enrich my global perspective. Finally, I was very keen to build up an international network of contacts.
Combining strong academics and a central city location, London Business School was one of my top MBA choices. I was eager to learn from some of the School’s top faculty. I had been privileged to meet Professor Lynda Gratton at an international client meeting in Budapest several years previously, where she gave an outstanding keynote speech.The chance to study at a business school with such world-class faculty was too good to pass up.
I expected the programme to provide rigorous academics; the School’s curriculum was a real standout for me. I was a blank canvas when it came to finance so I found the core courses in Corporate Finance and Financial Accounting very helpful. I focused my electives on corporate strategy, PE and M&A, areas that I wanted to pursue after my MBA. I initially considered staying in Europe after I graduated, but when I started my job hunt I realised that I had the opportunity to make a greater impact back in China.
I had worked for global management consulting firm Hay Group early in my career. After my MBA I saw a chance to add value by combining what I learned at business school with the company’s existing expertise. I now focus on advising companies on post-merger integration, and on helping PE funds improve the performance of their portfolio companies. There are tremendous opportunities in this area; Chinese companies are going through a profound transformation with private ventures encouraged to invest in state-owned enterprises (SOEs). I am currently leading a project helping one such PE-backed SOE to reform itself. With an increased understanding of business and management, I now have the practical skills and global perspective to provide better solutions to the challenges my clients face.
I was Chair of the China Club during my time on campus and am very proud that we launched the inaugural China Business Forum during that time. It was a massive team effort, with everyone pulling together to leverage contacts and consolidate resources. Utilising senior business contacts in China, we successfully invited more than 10 Chinese CEOs to London, including Mr. Wang Shi, Founder and Chairman of China Vanke, the country’s largest real estate enterprise. The School, the Dean and alumni were all hugely supportive, helping us welcome a number of very high-powered speakers to campus. We also arranged a full one-week business programme for our Chinese delegates, and a number of successful meetings with senior executives from key companies like WPP, HSBC, the Virgin Group, Blackstone, Fabergé and Christie’s.
I was keen to go on international exchange during the programme. I wanted an American experience to complement my European one and in the end I chose Chicago Booth. Both schools have a strong concentration on finance and economics so it sat well with my general academic focus. My biggest MBA gain is the international network I’ve built. In addition to having a number of wonderful personal friendships, I use my classmates as a sounding board for any issues at work.
My MBA changed my view of the world and my goal is now twofold. I aim to establish myself as a trusted advisor, someone who provides value-added services to client companies. My MBA has given me the skills to be a link between the Chinese and global markets, and the ability to bridge the divide between two very distinct business communities.
Yuan (Jenny) Zhang was a recipient of the MBA LBS Fund Scholarship