2019 MBAs To Watch: Apricot Wilson, CEIBS

Apricot Wilson

CEIBS

CEIBS MBA student and development finance professional with lots of enthusiasm for learning and Asia.”

Hometown: Norwich, UK, but I haven’t lived there for quite a while now!

Fun fact about yourself: I come from the UK, but I’ve now lived in 7 countries and speak 5 languages.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Cambridge University – MA in Modern Languages – This might not be a conventional route for going into business, but I’ve found it gives me a different perspective and certainly my languages have opened many doors for me.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Investing for Development, Assistant Investment Manager, Luxembourg – and I’ll be going back when I graduate. Before this, I completed the graduate training programme at Aberdeen Asset Management.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Roland Berger, Munich

Where will you be working after graduation? Investing for Development, Deputy CEO, Luxembourg

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Section Representative and Student Ambassador
  • Dean’s List
  • Represented school at Roland Berger International Case Competition (and won) and Kellogg Morgan Stanley Impact Investing Competition (and was among the finalists)
  • Awarded the Shanghai Municipal Government scholarship and Merit scholarship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Although winning the Roland Berger Case Competition was an amazing experience, I am most proud of being a finalist in the impact investing competition. We put together a business plan for funding a genuine problem which exists in today’s society in China – that of food waste. The solution we put together is certainly actionable and I hope we might put it into practice soon!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of making the switch from a large brand name into a smaller firm in the social impact sector. I realise this might not be the ambition of many MBA students, but having made the move, I was able to take on much more responsibility and progress much faster. In this capacity, I’ve also been able to help to get capital into places where it is really needed, from Mali to El Salvador. In this role, one of my proudest moments was organising an event to raise awareness of impact investing – whose attendees ranged from Luxembourg royalty to EU diplomats. It’s good to know that an event that I organised had such a wide reach.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Zhang Yu has been a great Professor. He teaches strategy and, having worked in Europe and America, he has a very interesting internal and external perspective on Chinese businesses. He is also very good at integrating practical examples into class and even developed an innovative elective, taking us into the field in Shenzhen. Moreover, he has been very supportive when it comes to competitions and helped us no end with the Roland Berger case competition.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Given my previous answer, it may come as no surprise that I enjoyed our strategy courses the most. Working in a smaller business, we have a lot of ideas, but are not so sure of all the ramifications. Studying strategy has provided me with a lot of frameworks, which I’m sure I’ll find useful in the future. Our strategy class also had a lot of practical elements, from sampling Chinese Greek yogurt to exploring telephone component malls. The largest takeaway? It’s all very well to learn theories and frameworks – but to truly understand them, it’s best to see them in practice.

Why did you choose this business school? In my job, I frequently work with developing economies. These countries are increasingly influenced by China, but few people have a good understanding of the Chinese agenda. I thought it would be useful to study in a business school which gave me a good perspective on this and which would enable me to build links with Chinese businesses at a later date. Of course, CEIBS’ reputation and what I experienced during the campus visit were other crucial factors.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Learn some Chinese before you go! This will show you have a genuine interest in the country and will prove invaluable when you arrive.

What is the biggest myth about your school? CEIBS is just a school for those wanting to work in China.

It’s fair to say that I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to jobs, having chosen to go back to Luxembourg to work, but CEIBS certainly opens doors beyond China and is likely to do so increasingly in the future.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Grades don’t matter (that much). Having always been at competitive schools and universities, it was quite difficult to change my mindset. In reality, you learn more if you take a risk, and do subjects which are outside your area of expertise, where you can learn a new way of doing things and might not necessarily get the top grade.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Of course, an MBA allows for a lot of personal development and reflection. For me, the biggest transformation is the fact that I now have a global network of contacts on whom I can rely.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Our classmate Shailesh is someone I really admire. He has already had a very successful career in finance. While at business school, he has focused on developing a business blog, which provides all sorts of useful insights on China – and he was recently voted to be Your Story’s Top Emerging Voice on Asian Macro and Markets. But it’s not just his knowledge and creative thinking that I admire. It’s the fact that he is so generous in sharing his knowledge and supporting other classmates.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? When I worked at Aberdeen Asset Management, my role model was Anne Richards, who has subsequently gone on to be the CEO of Fidelity International. While working at Aberdeen, I saw the way she structured her thoughts and how she was knowledgeable on so many topics had built up close networks. She had also not come from a business background, but was highly successful in finance. Her example made me see the immense benefits that an MBA can bring to those who had not initially studied business or finance.

What is your favorite movie about business? I do enjoy both the Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street, but the main lesson from both these films is how not to do things! The prevailing “greed is good for you” attitude, which makes for great films, does not make for such great societies and we should learn to use our capital more wisely.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? It’s not goofy and I don’t feel the need to be sarcastic here but the most useful thing I learnt is that Chinese BATs are certainly not cute little creatures. BATs stands for Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, three firms which dominate the Chinese tech space.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working, of course! But my MBA is allowing me to go back to my old firm in a position with much higher responsibility. Given everything I have learnt I hope I’ll be able to give much more to my company when I come back.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I am not sure that a dollar value should be placed on an education from CEIBS. We are looking at an RMB valuation instead, as our future worth is likely to be tied to China’s rise. Certainly, my MBA is worth the RMB I paid for it and I hope that I’ll be able to bring a lot more value to my company post MBA. However, I think years into the future, when China plays an increasing role in many of the emerging economies with which I currently work, I’ll receive increased dividends from my MBA.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Launch my own development finance fund. When working in development finance previously, it was interesting to visit micro entrepreneurs and see how our fund had made a difference to their lives – allowing children to go to school or businesses to expand. Yet, development finance goes way beyond microfinance. In the coming years, I would like to launch a fund which can help to resolve other global development issues.

Get my Mandarin fluent – or at least get my HSK 6. I’ve come a long way while at CEIBS. However, I have a lot of work to do before I am able to work in Mandarin.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Friendly, enthusiastic and bright – and I hope that my peers will always know that there is a door open for them when they need to know what is going on in Europe.

Hobbies? This won’t come as much surprise given my profile – Travel and learning languages. I’ve found that both have offered up so many opportunities and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today (which just happens to be on a train between Xi’an and Beijing), if I hadn’t put so much time into both these hobbies.

What made Apricot such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Apricot was an outstanding model student for the MBA class of 2019. She showed her academic strength by making the Dean’s List and she was part of the CEIBS MBA team that won 1st place at the IESE – Roland Berger’s International MBA Case Competition in 2018. Serving as section representative and student ambassador, Apricot has also been extremely active, helping to shape the student experience for both current and future classmates.”

Ms. Sherry Wu  
CEIBS MBA Senior Program Coordinator

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