2019 Best & Brightest: Nana Mohan Zhou, Cambridge Judge

Nana Mohan Zhou

Cambridge Judge Business School

“Energetic and positive because I believe I can learn from every person and every experience.”

Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I am not good at cooking and the only recipe I can confidently make is a traditional Chinese soup that takes five hours that my mum repeatedly taught to me.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Toronto, Bachelor of Commerce

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? PwC Canada, Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Prior to the MBA, I was working full time at PwC Canada.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am considering a few options in management consulting or private equity.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am co-chairing the business school’s Women’s Leadership group and am on the leadership team for the entrepreneurship and the private equity/venture capital groups. I was also awarded an entrance scholarship as well as the Ruth Whaley’s Award for Women in Finance in association with the MBA.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my involvement in college rowing. It is a new experience for me that took me outside of my comfort zone. I have had limited experience with team sports since high school as I focused on running and swimming in recent years. Rowing in an eight-boat with my college has taught me that collaboration is sometimes about synchronization rather than comparative advantages. This contrasts nicely with the competitive advantage focus taught in the business school and keeping my perspectives broad.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of a project that took place during my secondment to South Africa. I was brought in as an assistant manager for PwC Johannesburg and worked on a client that was a large energy and chemicals company. I navigated a steep learning curve to quickly understand the client’s complex operations and to integrate into the local work culture. Without disrupting the local norms, I was able to integrate several teamwork techniques that were effective from my experience in Canada. My consciousness of and respect for local cultural norms led to my proposed changes being accepted and smoothly integrated. This led to effective multicultural collaboration and the successful delivery of synergies. I am most proud of this because in an increasingly connected business world, the ability to combine best practices from around the world will be a sustainable driver for success.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It’s difficult to choose a single professor. If I must choose one, I think it would be Jochen Runde who taught us Microeconomics. Jochen condensed a large volume of complex economic concepts into 12 hours of dense but entirely captivating lectures. Jochen taught the economic principals and helped us see business applications. Having completed a major in Economics during my undergrad, I expected the course to be repetitive. However, Jochen made it very helpful and understandable for students with all degrees of backgrounds. Other than Jochen, Lionel Paolella who teaches Strategy, and Mark de Rond, who teaches Negotiations, are also amazing. It really is quite difficult to pick only one.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Cambridge for three main reasons. First, Cambridge truly has an internationally diverse class. In the increasingly globalized world, I want to build an international network and develop the ability to work with people from all around the world. Cambridge’s diverse and small class size ensures that close relationships can be built within a year. Second, Cambridge values hands-on learning to complement the theory teaching. The projects at Cambridge will ensure that I can apply theories in practice while still in a learning environment. Lastly, Cambridge is a historical city with immense access to brilliant minds. This environment would facilitate my cross-disciplinary learning. While I take a year to focus on personal development, Cambridge is not only a business school but also a fully immersive learning experience.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself in the application process and attend the interview day in person if possible. The MBA has been great primarily because of the wonderful group of people with whom I have had the opportunity to study. The program seems to have found a group of people who truly want to engage with the school and with each other. Interested applicants should assess whether they enjoyed meeting other potential candidates and consider whether they want to live in Cambridge for a year.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had planned for the MBA right from the beginning with a focus on both professional and personal development. I am very glad for the core professional development from the MBA but appreciative of the personal growth derived from interactions with my classmates and the wider Cambridge network more. If I had focused on the opportunity for personal development more, I would have saved lots of energy that was used to compare schools.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The most transformative part of the MBA has been from my interactions with my classmates. The cohort has interesting and diverse people who found success in so many different ways. Working alongside and socializing with them has given me exposure to learning from everyone else’s work styles, cultures, and industries. This has given me a broader range of understanding of the business world and has increased my curiosity.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of my classmates, Julie, was pregnant at the beginning of the MBA and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl during the Christmas break. In addition to managing the full course load, Julie calmly balanced her pregnancy and her son, who is an energetic toddler. I imagine that her personal life must be very happy but also very busy. I admire Julie because she was always so well balanced. It exemplifies the ability to maximize both her personal and professional lives and is very inspirational.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Many people have influenced my decision to pursue business over the years. If I must choose one person, it would be my mum. She studied biochemistry and began her career in science but transitioned to business shortly after. While growing up, she helped me see the value of cross-disciplinary collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas. I became interested in business because it always seems to have a role in bridging ideas from fiction to reality.

What is your favorite movie about business? Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows. This was a great movie that I always enjoyed but re-watching it for elements of game theory was both entertaining and educational.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? A WhatsApp gif of one of the MBA’s adorable son holding a thumbs up. The entire MBA class is in a single WhatsApp group chat (which generates endless conversations and notifications). One of the MBA students sent in a gif of his son holding a thumbs-up. It is now frequently used by other MBAs who have saved it and we use this instead of the original thumbs-up emoji. It is very cute!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably preparing to apply to business school. I decided during my undergrad that I wanted to go back to school after getting some business experience and with hindsight, it was truly a great idea.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? It is worth about the amount paid for the business school itself, but the Cambridge MBA also gave me access to the authentic University of Cambridge experience. This historically rich institution has so much to discover that I am learning as a professional while also growing as a person.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Hugging a Koala in Australia and whale watching in Iceland.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A friendly person for chatting about the meaning of life and an inspiring partner for collaborations.

Hobbies? Running, hiking, swimming, wine tasting, discovering boutique cafés, and a recently added sport – rowing.


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