2019 MBAs To Watch: Shan Luan, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Shan Luan

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

Everyone fails in life, but don’t let past defeats hold you back from future success.”

Hometown: Tianjin, China

Fun fact about yourself: I can tell a fruit fly gender with my naked eyes.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • University of Bath (UK), B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business, MBA, Marketing and Finance
  • Saint Louis University, Ph.D. in Biology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Post-doctoral Researcher, focusing in obesity and cardiovascular diseases, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? AstraZeneca PLC, Wilmington, DE

Where will you be working after graduation? Commercial Leadership Development Program as a Commercial Leadership Associate at AstraZeneca PLC

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Jacqueline Graham Student Scholarship (Merit-based)
  • Wilma F. Tabisz Endowed Memorial Award in recognition of demonstrated equanimity, productivity and helpfulness to others
  • Team lead and the first prize winning team for Katz Crane Case Competition 2018
  • Dean’s List for Academic Achievement
  • Katz Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During my last year of business school, I helped over 100 MBA and MS students prepare for their career search, especially for national career conferences. As an international student, I understand that the U.S. career search is a challenge my peers face. My past experiences of teaching undergraduate and graduate students have taught me the importance of knowledge and information sharing. During my second year of business school, I tried to impart to my international peers/colleagues my job searching experiences. My hope is to help the Katz community to seize every opportunity that comes their way. With help from me and my school, two international MS students secured their dream jobs at top auditing firms and others received great internship opportunities. Those students are also following in my footsteps and giving a helping hand to their peers. To me, contributing to the success of our Katz community is my biggest achievement.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my post-doctoral training process, I received my own research funding of $40K through the University of Pittsburgh’s Aging Institute. Through my past performances, grant proposal, and presentations, I demonstrated to a panel of judges that my research project on obesity and its comorbidities was novel and impactful to the current aging population. The biggest gain from this experience was not only the research funding, which enabled me to further research the obesity epidemic, but also helped me gain confidence in my communication abilities, reaffirming my decision to attend business school.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Pandu Tadikamalla—I particularly enjoyed Pandu’s humor. What he taught in Decision Technology Class was extremely practical. Through his class, I was able to apply the knowledge into the Crane Case Competition. In addition, his humor made the class material very memorable. I still remember his “abstract” drawing of beta distribution.

What was your favorite MBA Course? The Consulting Field Project, which is part of Katz’s Experienced Based Learning curriculum, was my favorite MBA course. My classmates and I took on the role of management consultants and dove deep into a company’s business issue. Through this class, I learned the importance of being comfortable with ambiguity. Every strategy should have a financial impact on the business. It is crucial to understand those impacts and their associated risks.

Why did you choose this business school? The overall high return on investment, as well as the proximity to my young daughter, made Katz the top choice on my MBA schools list. What really impressed me is the personalized career services, which I learned about during Admitted Student Weekend. Designed by the Katz Career Management Center (CMC), students joined the “Career Development Summer Boot Camp,” which started two months before the academic schedule. This proactive approach by the CMC team made me realize that I made the right decision in coming to Katz. The summer boot camp gave me my first taste of the MBA job search while working with the talented and well-connected Katz Career Advisors. The Katz CMC team offered full services from resume preparation to mock interviews via one on one Skype meetings. I benefited greatly from this high level of service.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be curious and be YOU.

Be curious about all opportunities. Business school is a great place to learn something that is completely different from your personal experience. A quote from my professor: “Business school is the last place to try something new and fail without serious consequences.”Being authentic helps you find lifelong friends who support you through ups and downs.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about my school is its lack of focus on the healthcare industry. The Katz School of Business offers a joint MBA/MPH program and an EMBA in healthcare. Moreover, Pittsburgh is a unique city with the presence of two health-care giants, Highmark and UPMC, as well as large pharmaceutical companies, such as Bayer and Mylan. Katz frequently partners with these organizations to provide students with industrial knowledge.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Be comfortable with ambiguity. Coming from a research field, I am used to a defined answer. The MBA experience taught me an important lesson on accepting ambiguity. I realized there are independent factors that we may not know to account for because we are not in a research setting where the environment can be tightly regulated.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The Katz School of Business transformed me from an ordinary post-doctoral fellow to a competent business professional. As a researcher, I am a detail-oriented perfectionist. I dove deep into complex biological questions and conducted research at the microscopic level. Business school taught me a breadth of knowledge, allowing me to zoom out and have a satellite view in business.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tony Wang—he is a courageous, honest, and well-spoken MBA, who shares my passion for healthcare. He is a veteran who served five years in Afghanistan and spent three years as an underwriter/account executive at Travelers. His unique experiences offer a very different perspective from mine. It is a great honor and pleasure to work alongside him.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father—he was daring and risk-tolerant because it was necessary. He saw business as the essential life tool that provided for his family. I took that lesson to heart by pursuing my PhD and then my MBA. As a young man, my father was dedicated to providing a better life for his family (his mother and four other siblings). He joined the “Down to the Countryside Movement” at the age of thirteen and worked as a farmer in the Chinese countryside. After seven years, he reinvented himself by pursuing an entrepreneurial career by fixing furniture throughout Tianjin City. He caught his break when a customer of his became his mentor and sponsored his educational training. At the age of 45, he was able to create another business focusing on computer programing, which provided for his wife and only daughter.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Pursuit of Happyness—the movie shows us that life will have its ups-and-downs, but it is important to not lose sight of the bigger purpose; therefore, we must always look at life from a glass-half-full point of view.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean?

MLOT: Money Left on the Table—Cash you could have earned in a time period from price-insensitive customers.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…looking through microscopes.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I cannot put a value on education. It is priceless. I finally found what I enjoy doing.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Earn my scuba diving certificate in Bora Bora or an indoor swimming pool in Pittsburgh.
  • Take my family to Iceland to see the Northern Lights.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like my peers to remember me as good person who contributed.

Hobbies? Tennis and photography

What made Shan such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“When Shan Luan sets a goal, her drive and motivation ensure that there is nothing that can stand in her way of obtaining it. Her problem-solving, leadership, and strong work ethic make her a natural born leader that can tackle anything with professionalism, compassion, and grace. She is the definition of what it means to be “Katz Ready.”

Having both her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in biology, Shan entered the MBA program wanting to combine her scientific research background with business to pursue project management consulting within the biotech or pharmaceutical industries. She made balancing an intensive MBA course load, almost full-time internship and job search, along with raising a toddler look easy, obtaining her internship and now full-time job at her dream company, AstraZeneca.

Shan is a Katz success story, but what makes her truly exceptional is that she is driven to share her best practices and advice with her fellow classmates to help them get ahead sooner. She regularly volunteers to serve on panels, works as a Katz Ambassador, and mentors students one-on-one who directly benefit from her knowledge and success. Her mentoring has helped well over 100 MBA and MS students prepare for their own job search, including national conference preparation, and our international women especially look up to her. She practices with them and helps to build their confidence as she understands the additional challenges of being an international student preparing for a U.S. job search. Her strong networking and relationship building skills have resulted in at least six of her fellow classmates being connected to AstraZeneca and other companies, leading to multiple internship and job offers.

Shan will graduate in April but is definitely leaving Katz a better place with her strong drive and work ethic, combined with her compassion to help others.”

Dana Romano
Associate Director of Career Management
University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

Are you a friend of Shan? Leave a comment to congratulate her.