Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Sijia Hao, London Business School

Sijia Hao             

London Business School

“Passionately committed to sustainability and a lifetime of learning. Cooking is my love language.”

Hometown: Canton, Michigan, USA

Fun Fact About Yourself:

In this past year, I’ve worked as a line cook in a Michelin-starred restaurant, a yoga teacher to an inner-city high school’s track team, and a cricket farmer supplying crickets to local restaurants.

Undergraduate School and Major:

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Clean Energy Capital, Associate

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I found the flexibility of the LBS MBA appealing – I want to use the next two years to explore multiple potential career avenues, from entrepreneurship to impact investing, and get first-hand experience with different job functions across multiple industries. LBS not only provides ample resources and support for entrepreneurial endeavors, it also facilitates internships both in the summer after first year and during the second year of school by allowing a highly customizable schedule. I have found that I oftentimes narrow in on my next job prospect by learning what doesn’t work for me, and LBS provides the opportunity to experiment in a variety of areas that interest me.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? I’ve found my classmates to be incredibly open-minded and curious. So far, everyone I have met has come from widely diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. This makes for very interesting conversations because we all bring our own unique perspectives to the table. However, the diversity of the class also promotes a culture of acceptance, which allows us to be more comfortable and willing to share our more personal experiences and thoughts, ultimately fostering a better learning atmosphere and connective community.

What makes London such a great place to earn an MBA degree? London is one of the biggest business, culture, gastronomy, and art hubs in the world, making it an epicenter for innovation. There’s no industry or activity, no matter how niche, that can’t be found in London. Studying in London allows me to access this hugely diverse and international range of opportunities and learning experiences. Additionally, London is a prime location that provides access to other European destinations, which allows for easy traveling for both work and play.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment has been self-educating about, networking into, and successfully landing at the top energy storage startup within the renewable energy industry – despite not having any previous background or formal education in energy. I was able to succeed in this endeavor because my passion for sustainability drove my discipline for learning the industry from scratch, and my genuine interest in the industry really shone through in my networking and interviews. This led to five years working in renewables, with experiences from enabling that energy storage startup to get acquired by the largest energy company in Europe, to serving as a financial advisor to, among others, a multi-million solar energy project in California.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I started a cricket farm business and while working on it throughout this past year, I came upon many questions and roadblocks that, quite honestly, I had difficulty finding solutions for, given my inexperience in the food industry and entrepreneurship generally. I believe an MBA would provide me with more foundational knowledge, as well as the support, network, and resources, to better tackle problems and uncertainties that come with starting a business.

Additionally, I’m interested in exploring new directions to take my career, after gaining experiences in marketing at America’s largest railroad company, business analytics at a burgeoning energy storage startup, and financial advisory for municipalities building out renewable energy projects. An MBA on a different continent with an international community gives me the chance to learn what else is out in the world.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford GSB

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Given that I’ve already started working on a business idea with my cricket farm, why wouldn’t I skip the MBA to continue to work it?

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Honestly, I had been single-mindedly set on London Business School ever since I started considering MBA programs three years ago because of its international culture, program flexibility, and location in London. Having immigrated to the U.S. from China at an early age, I belong to both cultures partially, but neither culture fully, and I’ve always wanted to find an opportunity to live in a community of others with similar multicultural backgrounds and experiences. When the time came to apply to LBS, I talked with various student ambassadors and former students to hear their perspective on the school. I also attended a campus event to see the school itself and visit London, helping me ascertain that LBS was the best fit for me. I also applied to Stanford GSB because of its strong entrepreneurship resources and its proximity to tech and innovation in Silicon Valley.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Aside from studying the requisite pre-courses and getting acquainted with my classmates via Zoom, I’ve been reflecting upon my career and the experiences that I can uniquely contribute to the program, my goals for what I want to get out of the experience, and how I want to show up in this new environment and community. I hope this helps me remain centered and authentic for when term starts and I’m pulled in every which direction by the multitude of new shiny objects that the MBA has to offer.

I have also been spending some intentional time away from school-related activities (my life will be filled with them soon enough!) to be with my parents and siblings, who are once again all living together in the same house in this Coronavirus-quarantine era. In a unique way, work-from-home and cancelled summer plans have created an opportunity for us to be together before I leave for the UK.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I left my stable, well-paying, socially-laudable job in financial advisory to pursue an uncertain, open-ended, and somewhat-strange cricket farming project, without knowing whether I would succeed or how far I could take it. I had been gestating this idea for quite some time, and it was the ultimate passion project for me because it combined my two greatest interests: sustainability and food. In the past year, I’ve established a production schedule of my stock, incorporated the business, and had been working with local chefs to develop dishes unique to the ethos of their restaurants… before ultimately shutting down the project due to mass-scale COVID-related restaurant closures.

Nevertheless, in taking this step in my career, I gained more confidence to take risks and try something radically different, stronger conviction to pursue my own interests regardless of what others may think, as well as being more adaptable to uncertainty and change.

DON’T MISS: Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2022

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