Her experiences in retail at Walmart in China and particularly in e-commerce with Alibaba in Moscow had led Chao to analyze her skill set and identify where she could bridge what she saw as gaps. She had encountered a very different cultural background and working environment in Russia, prompting her to search for an MBA where she could develop as a leader and gain a wider international perspective.
The importance of getting the best possible education at the best schools was instilled by her family, particularly her father – a businessman and entrepreneur whose achievements have inspired her.
“My father’s story has had a huge impact on me. So I decided to be someone just like him, to set up something and do something in your life.”
To build on her first degree in business and management with a major in accounting, an MBA seemed to be the right route and IMD in Lausanne the right place.
She feels the one-year MBA is a good fit for someone like her, well into her career, as it enables her to focus on leadership and general management. The whole experience is exposing her to different cultures, ways of communicating and interacting with people, and allowing her to address the gaps she identified.
The degree of cultural diversity with over 35 nationalities in the 2023 cohort was initially overwhelming, but at the same time rewarding as Chao sees it as an integral part of her learning process.
“Observing how the cohort react or how they behave, I think that’s quite precious. I may never have the second chance to experience, to observe, and to act on that.”
Chao is also finding out a lot about herself, her limits and the paths that could open up to her in the near future. She was surprised at how many emotions are involved in her MBA journey and sees this as a positive outcome, giving her the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.
“You have to understand your own limits. You have to manage yourself in a way that makes you comfortable. Otherwise you cannot lead the people around you.”
As an active member of several clubs that extend the reach of the MBA beyond the classroom, Chao is taking full advantage of this additional platform to enjoy exchange on a broad range of disciplines and industries. In particular, the Sustainability Club has given her the opportunity to cultivate her interest in the topic and to connect with experts among her professors and peers.
Before setting out on her MBA journey, Chao didn’t have a clear idea of what her future might hold, but by taking a break in her career she has also been able to take a step back and contemplate her next role.
“I would say maybe I’m not there like 100%, but I’m in the process. I have a clear picture about what I desire and what I want to be.”
In the meantime, she is keeping a close eye on the job market, networking with IMD alumni and making plans. She feels the MBA is already opening up doors – personally, professionally, and geographically.
This MBA candidate is very much looking forward to the future and the rest of her time at IMD: “But I’m also feeling a little bit sad that I’m going to finish this in a few months – time flies so quickly.”