2019 MBAs To Watch: Chenjie Ding, UCLA (Anderson)

Chenjie Ding

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

I’m a journalist-turned-techie who still dreams of being an artist.”

Hometown: Hangzhou, China

Fun fact about yourself:

  • I tutored English and Math in San Quentin State Prison half day/week for 4 months, helping inmates build a foundation of daily and professional skills before returning to society.
  • I haven’t been to a barber shop for years. I cut my own hair and my husband’s hair. That’s my special way of meditating.
  • I live reported Alibaba’s record-breaking IPO for three publications in three countries from the New York Stock Exchange.
  • After Hurricane Sandy, I made a short documentary about a New York sanitation worker rebuilding his house, following his journey of finding new hope and dreams. We became friends and kept in touch.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Fudan University, China, B.A. Journalism

Columbia University, M.S. Journalism (Digital Media Concentration)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?

Brightwire – Assignment Editor, Tech Journalist

Forbes China – Journalist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? AT&T, Dallas, TX – Leadership Development Program

Where will you be working after graduation? Amazon, Seattle, WA – Senior Program Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

Leadership Roles:

  • Section President
  • Executive Vice President – Anderson Ambassador Corps
  • VP of Career Development – Anderson Tech Business Association

Community Work:

  • Anderson Career Team Coach for Technology
  • Admissions Interviewer
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Women’s Business Club member
  • Seattle Tech Trek organizer

Honors:

  • Easton Technology Management Center Fellow
  • Anderson Exceptional Student Fellowship
  • Forté Fellow
  • Anderson Merit Scholarship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my involvement in helping international students adapt and grow in business school. As an immigrant who came to this country seven years ago pursuing my own dream, I know how intimidating it is to build a career from the ground up in a new environment. That motivated me to run for section president. I wanted to blend my global perspectives in leading a diverse student body and be the voice of all international students, who represent over 30% of Anderson students.

I initiated a discussion for international students a month after school started in 2017. Over 40 international classmates attended. I encouraged everyone to open up by sharing my personal stories first. It was a very thought-provoking session, where people found support, shared best practices, and gave feedback on the “Global Partners Program” (in which Anderson matches international students with domestic students to foster mutual support).

Last year, I was also a panelist at the International Women’s Day panel hosted by the Women’s Business Connection, advocating for women in business and gender equality around the globe, alongside three other international female students.

In the past two years, we’ve seen more international students running for leadership roles on all levels. One of them from the class of 2020 became a section president. Together we’ve made the community more open and diverse. What I want to see is all international students feeling at home, and after graduation, finding their voice in the larger society.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At the end of my summer internship at AT&T, I presented a creative product idea to executives of my business unit. The internship was my first real corporate experience, so I worked hard for months on this project. My recommendation included product design, cost and pricing analysis, and roll-out plan. The multi-million dollar proposal was well received by management. AT&T continues to test and implement my idea. Looking back, I would not have been able to conduct such an in-depth analysis without the business foundation I was able to build at Anderson.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Terry Kramer. He teaches two electives – Tech Management and Evolution & Innovation in the Global Mobile Industry, and I’ve taken both. A thirty-year veteran in the telecom industry, Professor Kramer has great insights about many companies, and he invited amazing guest speakers to class every week. Most importantly, he taught us to ask “so what“ of every point of discussion, a unique approach that pushed us to always think deeper. I applied his method well beyond the class. In fact, I used it as a framework to tackle the business problem I was given in my summer internship.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I love many Anderson classes. However, if I have to pick only one, I’d say it’s Tools and Analysis for Business Strategy. I learned R in this class. It’s my favorite because I conquered my fear for coding and data through the hands-on learning process. I can’t even describe how excited I was the first time I saw my code generate a plot! This quarter, I’m taking an advanced R class that allows me to apply my skills in deep customer analytics. Being able to say I know R is definitely my proudest academic achievement.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Anderson because I wanted to transition into tech and Anderson has a strong alumni network in the industry. Also, I was amazed by the opportunities provided by Anderson to do part-time jobs while at school. This is a unique resource for people like me who want to bridge a gap in their resume. Speaking of career resources, I also chose Anderson for its Parker Career Management Center. When I was deciding between schools, one day I walked into Parker asking if I could meet with tech advisor Phil Han. Despite his extremely packed schedule, he sat down with me for 10 minutes and shared his genuine thoughts on Anderson’s resources that could help me pivot. Since coming to Anderson, Phil has guided me through all the ups-and-downs in recruiting with nothing but patience and encouragement. He is always there when I need him. Now that I know how busy he is every day, it makes me even more grateful for the 10 minutes he spared for me two years ago.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Find your fit. Schools are like people – they all have a unique personality and traits. To find your best match, I recommend making a list of personal priorities. What are the “must haves” (a top-ranked career center, world-class professors, a venture accelerator, etc.)? What are you willing to compromise on (east coast vs. west coast, city vs. small town, weather, living expenses, etc.)? For people who have significant others, you may want to discuss this list together because business school is teamwork. After you have a list, compare that with what the school has to offer. That’s the best way to make sure you will feel happy and fulfilled in the program.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Anderson is best for people pursuing entertainment. Although we ARE a top program for entertainment, we are also very strong in finance, technology, consulting and social impact, among other sectors. This is one of the benefits of doing an MBA in LA, where so many industries come together to cultivate innovative ideas!

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school transformed me from a “one-man band” journalist to a leader in business and tech. My past career in media trained me to overcome challenges and deliver results as an individual contributor. I didn’t have many opportunities to think about leadership. During orientation in 2017, I had a conversation with Dean Rob Weiler. He challenged me to think about what leadership skills I wanted to develop the most at Anderson. “Think about it and work on them deliberately,” he said. Over the past two years, my mind kept going back to that conversation as I evaluated my personal growth and contribution to the Anderson community. Here are a few lessons learned during this transformative journey:

  • Give back. When I was a first-year, my career coaches Melody Akbari (‘18) and Harshal Patil (‘18) spent countless hours helping me and my classmates prepare for tech recruiting. I remember so clearly that Melody did a mock interview with me during her travel to Kenya for her capstone project. They both demonstrated Anderson’s culture of sharing success through a high level of commitment. Now a career coach myself, I’m following their steps to transfer my knowledge to the next class, helping them get through the most stressful time. I believe this tight connection between classes is what makes Anderson unique.
  • Learn from everyone around me. I realized soon after coming to business school that everyone has cool stories and I need to ask people more questions about themselves. My classmates’ hidden talents and amazing life experiences have humbled me. In addition, I’ve grown also by proactively asking for advice. Over the past year a half, I have built strong friendships with people who can hold me accountable.
  • Accept failure and learn how to fail gracefully. I understood in business school that failure itself doesn’t define people. It is their actions following the failure that sets them apart. It took me some time to realize that, but I’m glad now I know how to restore confidence and move on quickly.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is an extremely difficult question to answer because I admire so many of my classmates. To name a few, Debra Chang (‘19) devotes herself to creating a better environment for discussions around business ethics on campus. Jenn Ojeh (‘19) is a trailblazer in promoting diversity and inclusion at Anderson. Hari Anil Kumar (‘19) is an extremely talented yet humble person who I have worked closely with on many club projects.

If I have to narrow it down to one person, I’m deeply impressed by Gerald Sims. We worked together on group assignments, TA tasks, and Easton Technology Fellow projects. Whenever he sees you, he will always stop and give you a hug. He is someone I can always count on. I learned from him how to be a good listener. He embodies the best characteristics of a leader through his commitments to “leave it better than you found it.” Did I mention he is also the recipient of this year’s John Wooden Leadership Award?

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My grandfather had a big influence on my decision to pursue an MBA. As an architect, he designed some of China’s early skyscrapers. Now at 88, he is still actively mentoring young aspirational architects. He instilled a love of learning in me since I was little.

In my first year working as a business/finance reporter, I struggled due to my lack of financial knowledge. He encouraged me to invest time in learning finance. I started studying for the CFA. After spending hundreds of intensive hours, I passed level II before coming to business school.

Three years ago, when I realized I wanted to switch careers, he guided me in thinking through different options. In a society where stability is highly valued, he told me to never settle. My grandfather is truly one of my first role models.

What is your favorite movie about business? Up In The Air. It shows that in a world where jobs and even people seem to be expendable, finding where we belong has more meaning than chasing status.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? AA. It is not American Airline or Alcoholics Anonymous…it is Anderson Afternoon – our weekly social gatherings for all MBA students in the school. I had a few awkward moments when prospective students asked me during campus tours “What’s your favorite social activity at Anderson?” and I said “AA.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…interviewing tech companies every day and trying to get scoops on the next exciting deal/product in the industry.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I wouldn’t put any dollar value on my MBA education. The friendships and leadership mindset I developed through the journey is priceless.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Endow a multi-disciplinary scholarship at an alma mater
  • Paint portraits for my friends and family

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a genuine friend, a trustworthy colleague, and a fearless leader who is always ready to take actions.

Hobbies? Sketching and painting (mostly watercolor), listening to podcasts (one of my favorites is 99% Invisible which focuses on design and architecture), listening to jazz radio stations, people watching with a sense of wonder and empathy.

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

“I’ve had the good fortune of knowing Chenjie for the past two years in many roles – as a student, teaching assistant (TA), as a selected member of the Easton Fellows program. Numerous extraordinary qualities come to mind when I think of Chenjie but three stand out most notably:

First, her unique ability to operate across differing disciplines. Chenjie entered UCLA Anderson with a strong humanities background with both Bachelors and Masters degrees in journalism. She demonstrated a keen interest in technology as a tech reporter and assignment editor prior to UCLA Anderson. During her time here UCLA Anderson, she’s displayed an amazing ability to understand numerous technologies, related product/service innovation, business models and disruption opportunities/challenges via my classes in technology management and mobile industry evolution/innovation. Rarely do I see a student able to so masterfully demonstrate excellence in both technical and non-technical disciplines.

Second, Chenjie has taken a special interest in supporting our international students. As a standout example of a rising leader, Chenjie has supported international students in their orientation to Anderson, their academic successes here and ability to enhance the global and diverse aspect of our Anderson experience. This notable leadership trait has shown up throughout her time at UCLA Anderson including being selected as an Easton Fellow – working with the leadership team of the Easton Technology Management Center to think about technology leadership needs of our students –both today and in the future – whether it be in terms of curriculum, extracurricular experiences or alumni outreach.

Finally and hopefully self-evident from my previous comment about her, Chenjie is a unique “package.” She has demonstrated skills across multiple disciplines, is both a great thinker and doer, and displays expertise and leadership across a variety of environments. This unique combination of skills makes for an invaluable asset to UCLA Anderson.”

Terry D. Kramer
Faculty Director, Easton Technology Management Center
Adjunct Professor–Decisions, Operations & Technology Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management

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