2016 Best MBAs: Philos (Phil) Jeong, Arizona State W. P. Carey

Phil Jeong ASU Carey

Philos (Phil) Jeong


Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business

“Guiding followers in the right direction requires a different set of skills than offering insights and analysis to a supervisor. From dealing with teammates’ personalities to understanding how to impress a prospective employer and network with executives of different firms, the MBA education has been immensely helpful to me to realize how to build personal relationships in different settings.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT

Undergraduate School and Degree: John Hopkins University – BA in Economics and International Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The Cordish Company, a commercial real estate development firm that specializes in mixed-use development. Roles: Financial Analyst, Liaison to an International Development Project, Director of Lease Administration

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas, Nevada

Where will you be working after graduation? E & J Gallo winery, Senior Financial Analyst (Finance Leadership Development Program)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • Various volunteer activities with Ronald McDonald House Charities in Las Vegas, NV and Phoenix AZ metro area.
  • W.P. Carey School of Business MBA Association board member
  • Inductee of Beta Gamma Sigma honor society

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Quarter two of the first year was described as the “hell” quarter. Not only was the work load rigorous, the internship interviewing process picked up, and all four classes demanded many teamwork-oriented projects. Teams for all four classes were assigned and I had a Chinese teammate who is a bright student, but struggled with his presentation skills. Especially, because of his lack of artistry in the English language, he informed me at the time that the interviewing process was a tough one to tackle.

Although I was born in the United States, I moved to South Korea for seven years as an adolescent. Hearing his story reminded me of the times that I struggled when I returned to the United States in 2001. I was able to come up with a mini-program for my classmate to improve his general writing skills and speaking ability. It has been great to witness how far he has come, and it has been especially rewarding for me as we have remained great friends throughout our journey in the full-time MBA program. That is what matters to me most: the ability to help one another for each individual’s personal development.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Early on at the Cordish Company, I was primarily a financial analyst but the firm also had an opportunity in South Korea. A new city was being built through a reclamation project, and the South Korean government reached out to Johns Hopkins University to become the primary operator of its first envisioned international hospital. The Cordish Company luckily was provided with the opportunity to lead the development project, and since I was a recent graduate, I played a role as a liaison to the chairman.

The initial major project at the time was deciding upon a general contractor for the development, which we would receive a consulting fee from, and which was narrowed down to two South Korean conglomerates. Our executive team went back and forth in terms of which firm to go with, as one firm offered a better monetary deal but we preferred the management team of the other firm. I was able to conduct an extensive due diligence process at the time and discovered that the firm offering a better compensation package had major financial issues and there was the possibility of the firm getting bought out. I was able to document my findings which played a key role in assisting the chairman to choose the company whose management team we preferred. In fact, it became sort of a validating moment for us when the firm with the financial issues ended up getting bought out by the firm we signed with a year later.

Favorite MBA Courses? Mindful Leadership, Ethical Issues for Managers, Valuation Techniques (Finance)

Why did you choose this business school? I received full merit-based scholarship; geographical reasons (preference to live in one of the western states); small cohorts and intimate class sizes; and exceptional amenities provided by the business school.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I have truly enjoyed the multi-dimensional and multi-level human interaction aspect of a MBA education, which I believe will be hard to find in other educational platforms. This element stands out to me as I now fully recognize the challenges that I may potentially face when many former “MBAers” will face the challenge of transitioning into management roles with numerous subordinates to lead. Guiding followers in the right direction requires a different set of skills than offering insights and analysis to a supervisor. From dealing with teammates’ personalities to understanding how to impress a prospective employer and network with executives of different firms, the MBA education has been immensely helpful to me to realize how to build personal relationships in different settings.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was surprised how there was not a mandatory course in business writing. We often preach to each other how effective communication is important as the brightest ideas sometimes miss the mark when the ideas are not communicated well. If that is the case, one would assume how teaching those abilities would become quite important, but I found that was not the case. Especially, I noticed many international students where English is not their native language at times struggle with even simple grammatical concepts. Part of working in the real world requires writing effectively to colleagues, and I wish there was more emphasis on this aspect of a business school’s curriculum.

What was the hardest part of business school? Business school was absolutely a testing ground for me in terms of learning the art of prioritizing. I recently read an article written by a consultant of McKinsey, where the current age of “information overflow” is causing top level executives to become ineffective leaders, as they don’t allocate enough alone time to critical decision-making processes. I certainly agree with that notion, and I have tried to implement a system for myself as I plan out my day in the morning. What are the key things that I need to spend ample enough time to accomplish? What are some of the busy tasks that I need to complete but not allocate a lot of time to it? And finally, the hardest part is at times simply learning how to ignore certain things that are going on. I still tend to struggle with prioritizing as I try to get to as many tasks and activities that I can, but I am certainly getting better at it!

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? If you are a candidate who has an idea of what type of function and industry you would like to pursue, make sure to ask the question to the institution you are applying to if there are firms that directly recruit at campus that can help you realize your dreams. As crazy as it sounds, since many individuals head back to business school to bridge the gap to find that next special job, it was surprising to me to find out how much of this aspect of the business school application process gets overlooked. An applicant should prefer to attend an institution where many of his/her preferred employers come to campus for direct recruiting. If that is not the case, he/she will have to recognize the fact that the road to landing the dream job may require extra work and effort by the candidate.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my lack of knowledge in the finance discipline impinged on my ability as a contributor to my former employer.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working at the Cordish Company or possibly would have joined a start-up company that my high school friend started in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Many people talk about a great idea he/she has, but it is less common that people actually pursue those ideas or work towards the realization of those ideas. From that perspective, I admire Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Elon Musk once stated in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that many people simply do not even try out novel ideas they would like to pursue. He shared how initiating action just to simply try something is a huge element of entrepreneurship. In addition, I appreciate Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, where he states that he knows he has to change when too many days go by when he is not excited to go to work in the mornings. These have had a great impact in my life for me to become less immune to risk taking.

What are your long-term professional goals? My long term professional goal is to follow the footsteps of my father and head back to a university and receive a Ph.D. in management and teach college students leadership practices and theories.

I am particularly interested in two areas of leadership. The first subject would be how leaders can facilitate in creating a work environment where information flow and communication are relatively free from title of an employee as often firms operate where the majority of the contributions come from the top level executives. Second, the theory of service leadership has gained some popularity in the field recently where leaders have to be much more aware of the mental and emotional well-being of their followers. These two subjects are areas I would like to research and discuss with students and potentially guide firm’s behaviors if I receive the opportunity to do so.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My father. My father is a professor who teaches philosophy (hence my name is Philos) in South Korea. We always did not necessarily get along when I was a child. When I became a teenager, my family consciously decided to send myself, my brother, and my mother back to the United States, so that my brother and I could pursue our lives in the United States. My father stayed in South Korea to continue his career and support us. Since my father and I were not seeing each other day-to-day, the lack of a paternal relationship constrained my relationship with my father even more to a certain extent. However, as I have become older, our relationship has become much better.

It is somewhat of a well-known caveat that Asian parents tend to be strict and closed off, where one cannot at times discuss certain personal issues such as relationship struggles, etc. That has not been the case between my father and I. When things get rough or I face crucial life decisions to make, my father has been the “go-to” guy for me as I find his insights very helpful to guide me to make decisions. Also, even from early on, my father would tell my brother and I that anything is possible and how we should pursue big dreams, which has helped me to shape up as an individual who is not afraid to try different things life has to offer. I thank him for instilling those qualities in me and hope to develop our relationship even further.

Fun fact about yourself: I sang at a wedding in Almaty, Kazakhstan for a friend from college.

Favorite book: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Favorite movie: Godfather II

Favorite musical performer: The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eric Clapton

Favorite television show: Entourage

Favorite vacation spot: St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Hobbies? Poker, sailing, and various workout activities

What made Sean such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Phil was a student of mine in a class known as Mindful Leadership, where MBA students receive the exposure to different leadership theories and practices through their participation in leadership case discussions, presentations, and even meditational techniques to boost self-awareness. Ultimately, students should be able to understand and engage in effective leadership behaviors as they embark on their careers as managers in the near future. As the number of students in the class was less than a typical MBA classroom, the intimate setting provided me the opportunity to get to know the interests and characteristics of each student well. Often, Phil was the student who stood out to lead and progress many of the case studies that we covered in class.

I was especially impressed with Phil’s ability to draw back from his previous personal and professional experiences and provide relatable comments to our case discussions. In a specific instance, one of the cases involved a supervisor’s ability to effectively manage talent at a multi-national corporation. Different customs and lack of personal engagement between employees and supervisors on a daily basis will add complexity to the supervisor’s effectiveness in demonstrating leadership capabilities. Phil shared a valuable experience in how he was able to help his employer to decide upon a general contractor for a multi-million dollar development project in South Korea −− demonstrating sharp instincts of his and how he properly managed personalities in a global context that assisted the firm’s chairman to make a quality business decision. Phil’s insights motivated deeper discussions among students.

It has been a pleasure to teach Phil. He possesses the aspirations to become a researcher and scholar in the field of Management one day.” — Zhen Zhang, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management, Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business


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