2016 MBAs To Watch: Yanyu Zheng, ESADE

Yanyu Zheng-ESADE-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Yanyu Zheng


ESADE Business School

Age: 27

Hometown: Fuzhou, China

Undergraduate school and degree: Beijing Sport University, Bachelor of Arts (major in journalism)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Football Club Barcelona, where I was responsible for communications with the Chinese market

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? N/A

Where will you be working after graduation? Alisports (Alibaba Group) as a Senior Product Manager

Community work and leadership roles at business school: President, Sports Business Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? With four other ESADE students (one MBA and three MSc), my team “ESADE5” won the Franz competition, a global sport innovation competition organised by Camp Beckenbauer (initiated by German football legend Franz Beckenbauer).

Our project is about reinventing gymnastics by bringing freestyle and modern elements to this traditional sport, making it more attractive to young generations and sustainable for growth. The project was presented to International Olympic Committee (IOC) executives, a glorious moment for a sports business enthusiast.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of having worked for Football Club Barcelona (the best football club this century) as its first Chinese employee since its foundation in 1899.

As the FCB has been my favourite sports team and top career choice since 2002, I had been working as hard as possible to get closer to this goal. When I graduated from university in 2011, I decided to leave China and crossed 10,000 kilometres to chase my dream in Barcelona. Months later, I succeeded in landing my dream job in FCB as my first full-time job.

Who is your favourite professor? Luis Vives is without doubt my favourite lecturer at ESADE because he was the most inspiring. His strategy theories opened a completely new world for someone without a business background like myself, and set the tone for the way I think of business.

From his perceptive comments on my projects, to his honest and encouraging feedback, Luis Vives gave me the right help at every key moment during my MBA. Although I have finished his courses and do not live in Barcelona, the important lessons I learned from his courses continue to help me make decisions and deal with challenges.

Favourite MBA courses? Competitive Strategy/Corporate Strategy. The strategy courses are the most comprehensive courses and mark the direction for all the rest. Also Communication Skills/Negotiations: soft skills training that really helps make a difference in daily business and leadership building.

Why did you choose this business school? I was working and living before my MBA in the city of Barcelona and I was very impressed by ESADE’s reputation and impact in the region, especially the influence of alumni in many sectors of society.

A friend told me many years ago that most of FC Barcelona’s presidents graduated from ESADE. From that moment, I had always been thinking that attending ESADE might help me become FCB president one day (laugh).

What did you enjoy most about business school? I greatly enjoyed being and studying with people from different backgrounds. All my past education experiences were with people who had similar backgrounds as me (usually in a classroom of journalists or sports marketing students). Being with people from different functional areas, industries, and countries really opened my horizon and inspired me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Everyone can succeed in his own way. Although we followed the same academic calendar, and often took the same courses and discussed the same cases, the takeaways for different people are very different. In the end, after we learnt the basics and a way of thinking from the school, we all have to explore our own careers by ourselves.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? It was the collaborative culture. In all my previous education experience, from kindergarten to university, classmates were the biggest competitors because we all targeted the same goals (best grades, admissions opportunities, even jobs in the same industry in the same city). In ESADE, there is no real competition among classmates and this favours an atmosphere of sharing and collaboration. I learnt as much from my peers as from the lecturers.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part for me was deciding what not to do. There are so many attractive opportunities (such as seminars, workshops, case competitions, and club activities) that it is very difficult to choose. Time will never permit us to do everything we want, and learning to “let go” of things is tough but necessary in order to concentrate on the really important things.

What is your best advice to an applicant to your school? ESADE is not only about a business degree or its ranking, but also very much about its values. It is necessary to understand the culture of the school in advance and decide whether it is right for you. This step is as important for any applicant as getting a great GMAT score.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… my previous knowledge base limited my career development potential.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would… continue living a life with clear boundaries.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I admire many business people, but there is a special one who is a close friend and who has a vivid story. Didac Lee is from a Chinese family and is a successful entrepreneur in the Spanish tech industry. We share similar childhoods and cultural values. He manages to integrate the best of both cultures and really make an impact in Catalan society. He is also the first Chinese-origin board member at Football Club Barcelona, and he is driving its transformation in the digital area.

What are your long-term professional goals? To make a positive impact in the global sports business world.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my mom for her unconditional love and support. She made many sacrifices to ensure my development as a person and as a professional. Thanks mom, I love you!

Fun fact about yourself: I have nearly no talent for doing sports (having failed lots of PE course evaluations) but I am still crazily passionate about sport.

Favourite book: The Ball Doesn’t Go In By Chance by City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano, also an ESADE alumnus. I read it last summer and it provides fresh insights from the perspective of football club management. His point of managing sports businesses with common business sense is quite disruptive.

Favourite movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Favourite musical performer: Pedro Moutinho, a Portuguese fado singer. I am a huge fan of this unique music genre from Portugal. Pedro has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard when performing live fado.

Favourite television show: “Crackòvia,” a satire programme produced by Catalonia Television. Actors dress like Messi, and many other sport stars, and parody the hot issues of the week. It is super hilarious and fun to watch.

Favourite vacation spot: Lisbon. I enjoy just walking in the already-very-familiar old town, talking to locals with my “Portugal,” and enjoying Atlantic seafood in a Fado house.

Hobbies? Zumba, karaoke, travel, gastronomy

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

“Yanyu is an exceptional student who has shown determination and passion to achieve her goals.

“However, rather than accomplishing her goals on an individual basis, Yanyu has involved many of her colleagues — giving them the chance to share her passion, inviting them to participate in sport business activities that she organised on campus, as well as leading the team that won the prestigious sports competition: Franz 2015. She is a true example of collaborative leadership and engagement, a quality that we really encourage among our MBA students at ESADE.

“Born in China, Yanyu wanted to work and learn in one of the major football clubs in Europe. She achieved her dream, working at FC Barcelona and managing to learn Catalan and Spanish. We value the development of global mindsets at ESADE and she is a great example.

“While studying her MBA, she wanted to achieve new highs. And her determination and hard work again achieved results. She started to explore new opportunities in Asia and she went for an exchange at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). She learned there that Alibaba was going to launch a new sports business (Alisports) and she convinced the CEO to hire her as one of the first employees.

“I wish we could have 50 students like Yanyu every year. It is difficult to find that passion and ability to combine hard work with empathy.”

Luis Vives

Associate Dean of the Full-Time MBA at ESADE



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.