2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Oliver Chen, HEC Paris

Xiaoxiao (Oliver) Chen

HEC Paris

A realistic dreamer, an empathetic listener, an energetic explorer, and a decisive leader.”  

Hometown: Mianyang, Sichuan, China

Fun fact about yourself: I’m not bothered by unread emails. Currently, I have 99,224 unread emails on my iPhone Mailboxes app, which have been used as a “weapon” to annoy some of my friends.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Tsinghua University, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. I also have a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senseonics, Manager of Algorithm Development

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Decided to travel in 15 countries in Europe instead of taking an internship during the summer of 2018.

Where will you be working after graduation? Medtronic, Product Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President of MBA Tournament (MBAT) 2019: I was elected President of MBAT 2019, where I oversaw the planning and organizing of Europe’s largest annual MBA gathering with a budget of ~€500K, 1500 participants, and 36 core team members. After the three-day sports competition, events, and celebration, we received 82% positive feedback from participants through a post-MBAT survey. 
  • VP of Public Speaking Club: Through our club activities, we continued the legacy of the newly established Public Speaking Club, increased students’ engagement, and most importantly, let our students realize the importance of public speaking skills and how to improve them.
  • HEC Paris Leadership Award: I was extremely humbled and honored to receive this leadership award as it was voted by my classmates, representing the trust and recognition of my fellow MBAs.   

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Successfully organizing MBAT is my proudest achievement during business school. What I’m proud of is not only the fact that we threw a great event to entertainment 1500 participants with 82% satisfaction rate but also lessons I’ve learned through this experience:

  • People management with an empathetic ear: With 36 core team members from 17 different cultures, people management was my biggest challenge. I was constantly presented with difficult situations or conflicts while having to move the project forward without major delays. I always tried to have an empathetic ear, an open heart and mind, and a willingness to listen to people’s stories before providing my feedback.
  • Transparency: When we first announced the plan to charge HEC MBA students for MBAT for the first time in the tournament’s 29-year history, we faced a huge backlash. Only through timely communication and full transparency, we regained the trust and support of our fellow MBA students.
  • Work under pressure: My teammates probably won’t agree with me on this, but one of my best memories was the early morning meetings during MBAT. We faced a severe water shortage problem on Day One due to communication failures. In order to avoid this from happening again, I called an all-hands meeting at 2 AM to fix the problem for the next two days.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I helped my company, Senseonics, achieve the FDA approval for the world’s first long-term continuous glucose monitoring system, Eversense. Because we were a small company, I was involved in almost all aspects of the process – algorithm development, clinical trials, data analysis, and regulatory affairs. I was also a triage lead during the FDA panel and couldn’t be prouder when I heard the unanimous yes votes from the panel members to recommend our product.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Peter Ebbes – Although I had a background in statistics, I still learned a great deal from Professor Ebbes’ stats class. He not only taught us the basics of stats and how to use SPSS in a very structured way but more importantly, he could always tell a story for each case and keep us focused on why we were doing these analyses. I constantly referred to Professor Ebbes’ notes when I had SPSS questions and I will always remember to “make friends with the data first” as he perfectly put.

Why did you choose this business school? When I started my research on business schools, I mainly focused on European schools with the idea of having a European experience. HEC Paris quickly came to mind as it has been constantly ranked as a top MBA program in Europe. With its strong ties with the corporate world, the 16-month program length that suits my schedule, and the opportunity of being exposed to the French culture and an extremely diverse student body, HEC Paris ultimately became my top choice.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Sixteen months flew fast! Think carefully what you want to get out of the MBA, plan your job-hunting or entrepreneurship milestones in advance, and be ready for a challenging but rewarding experience with a diverse group of lovely people. Your plan may change throughout the journey, but the experience will for sure change your life for better!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Start networking as soon as possible. By networking, I mean having a coffee chat or chat on the phone to talk about careers, not just conversations at parties. I’m proud that I know every single person in my class and had at least one conversation with them but I truly regret that I didn’t schedule coffee chats with many of them to get to know their careers and professional experiences.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Amanda Moritz – Amanda is not just a close friend but also my inspiration. At the beginning of the MBA program, Amanda and I were assigned to the same group for public speaking training. We were asked to present our personal brands and I remember clearly one of Amanda’s personal brands was resilience. When we started to work together for MBAT, the resilience she showed was unequivocal. She was one of the reasons for the successful events during MBAT, despite the inclement weather and a shortage of personnel. As a strong ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Amanda co-hosted multiple diversity & inclusion talks, co-organized our school’s first Diversity Conference, and led the fundraising for the UP/SIDE/DOWN/TOWN project to display public art piece celebrating LGBTQ+ collective memory and urban culture in Paris. Truth be told, she has done so much more to the LGBTQ+ community than me, who is a member of the community.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Mirasol Panlilio, who is the VP of Global Sales and Marketing in my previous company and a great friend. It was Mirasol’s approach to marketing, her ability to bring people together, and her encouragement that made me decide to pursue an MBA with a focus in marketing.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Become a thought leader in my industry and work in all aspects of marketing.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Drunk Oliver is fun to be with; sober Oliver is someone you can trust and depend on.

Hobbies?Film (art/indie/drama/sci-fi), TV (reality/drama/comedy), traveling (29 countries and counting), hiking (hiked 180km of Camino de Santiago in 9 days), running (finished three international marathons – DC 14, NYC 15, Paris 19 – and multiple half marathons), and international cuisine.

What made Oliver such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Oliver was president of MBAT 2019, 29th Edition in May 2019. He was very professional in his function. During 7 months he led the team, he developed his soft skills and grown into a professional Leader. He managed a team of more than 30 people and made a huge success of this event with his team. As Leadership Officer and academic Coordinator of the project, I was impressed by his skills and involvement during all the preparation and also during the event.”

Mégane Diot
Leadership Officer – MBA Program
HEC Paris


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