2020 MBAs To Watch: Yann Biehler, CEIBS

Yann Biehler

CEIBS (China Europe International Business School)

“While born European, my work across the globe brought me to China to improve patients’ lives.”

Hometown: Strasbourg, France

Fun fact about yourself: During my CEIBS journey, among all the recognition I have received (scholarship, Dean’s list, top clubs etc.), the one I take most pride in is my award for being the “Romantic Gentleman.” It was bestowed on me by the student committee.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Pharm.D from the University of Strasbourg and Master’s in Intelligence Marketing from HEC Paris.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was an International Marketing Manager at Sanofi-Genzyme, Cambridge, US.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Bayer, Shanghai, as a Senior Consultant.

Where will you be working after graduation? Bayer, Shanghai, as a Senior Consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice President of the Healthcare Club
  • Introduced CEIBS to over 40 prospective students through one-on-one meetings and small group discussions.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud of the help I provided to my classmates who wanted to transition to the healthcare industry. Through the Healthcare Club, together with my team, we were able to organise multiple visits, talks, master classes, forums, and so on. However, I take most pride in the one-on-one meetings I had with my classmates, which helped them to understand their own needs, strengths, and how they can set in motion their career transition to healthcare. I had an extensive background in healthcare due to my experience in hospitals and pharma companies in five different countries. As a result, I was able to help my classmates navigate between the different functions that are specific to this industry, plan their post-MBA careers for the following five years, and connect them with people working in the industry within and outside of China. Although these interactions were extremely time-consuming, I did not limit them to my MBA batch, but also extended them to other batches as well as exchange and prospective students, helping over 60 students find their way into the healthcare industry.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My aim in life is to have a positive impact on patients. Therefore, I highly value my achievements linked to this goal. While working as a sales representative for AbbVie in the UK, despite the limited scope of work for the sales force, I was able to develop a communication method that helped improve the lives of over 600 patients in the UK.

The drug I was working with treated long-term conditions such as arthritis; treatment courses were usually long, leading to high drop-out rates. From a business perspective, we could increase sales either by encouraging increased prescription of a drug treating chronic diseases or by retaining our existing patients on their therapy. Using my pharmacy background and marketing experience, I identified a unique opportunity to retain patients through an innovative communication method that focused on helping them to better manage their conditions. I was confident that by improving patients’ lifestyles, there would be a noticeable increase in their response to the treatment, thus helping to keep patients on their therapy for longer and boosting sales. I had to challenge conventional thinking, as this method presented a risk that could have increased our competitors’ shares. However, I was able to negotiate a test run of my concept by conducting a controlled pilot. This initiative was met with great success, increasing sales by 7.4% vs 0.1% nationally. Following the results, I convinced management at AbbVie to extend the pilot across the UK where it positively impacted approximately 600 lives in 2017.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The professor I admire the most is my economics professor, Dr. Bala Ramasamy. He is a talented professor, kind-hearted, and close to his students.

  • Talented Pedagogue: Professor Ramasamy teaches about the economy in a way that changes how you consider the subject. However, he does not limit this transformation in thinking to just the economy. By dismantling some of our most entrenched beliefs, he enables us to think critically about society.
  • Close to his Students: Several professors are known to be close to their students, but Professor Ramasamy is one-of-a-kind, inviting large groups of students – about 10 to 12 – to his home four times a year to share in a Malaysian cuisine dinner and discuss the futures of the students present.
  • Kind-hearted: He founded FLAME (Foundation for Leadership and Moral Empowerment), an initiative that aims to foster the development of responsible young leaders from less fortunate communities in Malaysia. The project has already hosted over 75 camps and has positively impacted the lives of more than 3000 children.

His attitude and warm nature have inspired me to be a better human being.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favourite event was the Tengger Desert competition in China. With 29 of my classmates, we participated in a 3-day, 72-km race in the Tengger Desert. This competition gathered around 3,000 students from MBA batches from business schools around China. This was an incredible adventure where we worked side-by-side to overcome obstacles. Racing is often seen as an individual sport, but this was not the case here. We raced together and helped each other during the hard times to recover and to treat the injured. Sharing this experience with other local business schools at such an amazing location was truly rewarding.

Why did you choose this business school? My aim was to transition into the healthcare industry in China, and CEIBS provided all the opportunities that I needed the most:

  • China Depth: China is the largest consumer market in the world and its influence is only spreading wider. The only way for a foreigner to understand this country in transition is to be in the country itself. The expert talks combined, with the day-to-day exposure to this constantly-evolving environment, is the only way to obtain this China depth.
  • Healthcare Specialisation: With around 20% of students working in the healthcare industry post MBA, as well as with the multiple healthcare electives, career events, and healthcare club activities provided, CEIBS can help equip its students with significant insight into the healthcare industry.
  • Geographical Transition Opportunity: CEIBS provided me with all the support I required to move to China. The Mandarin classes, alumni network, the opportunity to consult for a local company, and the Career Development Center have brought me closer to my end goal.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? All our MBA students have a story that is based on a goal they want to accomplish. You need to be clear and determined about what you wish to achieve and ensure that you demonstrate your passion and how you believe that CEIBS will be a catalyst to achieve your goals.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the myths I heard was that CEIBS is a school for Chinese students and not international students. It is true that CEIBS is strongly linked to China and Europe and more than half of the student population is from mainland China. However, that’s what allows the CEIBS MBA to stand out from other MBA programmes.

  • A strong international student community: CEIBS has a much higher percentage of international students than top American business schools (such as Stanford and Wharton for MBA 2021).
  • Increased international exposure through electives and school exchanges: Every CEIBS student needs international exposure in their courses in order to graduate.
  • Faculty: CEIBS has an international faculty who ensure that students work on problems in Asian, European, and Chinese contexts.

Finally, China is growing fast, and it has a significant worldwide impact. Understanding Chinese culture and business in an international context is key for any future world leader.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?

There is no experience that I regret. Early on, I was guided through my MBA journey by the previous batch (2019) and they helped me make the right choices: learning Chinese early and actively, engaging in alumni and club activities and choosing the right electives. The only thing I may regret slightly is not having flown to China two months before the beginning of the program to begin learning Chinese.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The person I admire the most in our batch is Dawn Yang. She is one of the smartest, most hard-working people and dedicated mothers I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She came to CEIBS with her one-and-a-half-year old daughter and was pregnant with her second daughter during the MBA course, all while her husband pursued the same MBA courses at CEIBS. She managed to be there for her daughters while taking all the classes and actively engaging in social activities at CEIBS. Despite juggling all these responsibilities, she went on to become one of the top three students in the promotion activities of 2020, actively contributed to the innovation incubator and delivered her second child in September 2019.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? David Cameron and the 2016 Brexit referendum influenced my decision. My wife and I were in the UK in 2016, and after completing her MD/Ph.D., my wife was unable to secure employment there. The expected decrease of investment in research from the EU led many research labs in the UK to freeze their hiring processes. She was hired to work in China, and I made up my mind to join her. An MBA at CEIBS became the catalyst for my transition to China.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My aim is to provide patients with access to innovative drugs and medical education.

  • I look forward to creating a patient access program that allows patients in Asia with an income of less than a dollar a day to access innovative treatment and receive proper treatment for their ailments.
  • My goal is to become the country manager of a pharmaceutical company in Asia that actively engages with the government and medical corporations to enhance the prevention of disease and provide early treatment.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I wish to be remembered as somebody who has always been there for others.

Hobbies? I am fond of military history and tactics with a specific focus on 16th-century Asia and the Three Kingdoms Period in China.

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

“I have known Yann for one-and-a-half years. He took my Organizational Behavior MBA course. For several reasons, I think you will find Yann to be an excellent candidate for the award.

First, he has been a great student who is very active in class discussions and came up with many interesting issues to discuss, and demonstrated extensive knowledge of leadership and team management. He also demonstrated excellent skills in terms of teamwork and always took up responsibilities with a sense of diligence and commitment.

He is very proactive and he interprets things very positively and views challenging work as a new opportunity to grow. In addition, he actively seeks experts’ opinions and wisdom about leadership and is highly passionate to grow as a great leader in the future.”

Tae-Yeol Kim, Ph.D.
Chair, Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
Philips Chair in Management


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