Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Emily Kwong, University of Washington (Foster)

Emily Kwong

University of Washington, Michael G. Foster School of Business

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m Possible’!”

Hometown: Hong Kong, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love to sing… anytime, anywhere. I’m just not particularly good at it.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Nevada of Las Vegas; Bachelor of Science, Hotel Administration

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: RealSelf, HR Business Partner

What makes Seattle such a great place to earn an MBA? Seattle is home to a plethora of vibrant communities and diverse cultures. In addition to the opportunity to support and learn from these groups, Seattle also offers access to some of the most innovative companies. Whether it is legacy brands in technology and retail or startups disrupting various industries, Seattle offers all the key components for a transformative MBA experience. 

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? The culture at Foster was the most important factor in my decision. Foster’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident in the profile makeup of every class. Students are not only diverse in their professional backgrounds but also in the social causes or activities that they are personally passionate about. During multiple class visits, I also recognized the emphasis placed on inclusion and collaboration through faculty instruction style and the curriculum.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am most excited about joining Women in Business. I participated in Forte MBA Launch as well as the Forte Conference prior to my MBA experience and was inspired by finding like-minded women supporting each other in their journey. My Forte community played an enormous role in my application process. I hope to be a part of propelling women in business forward during my time at Foster.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I launched an employee resources group called “Women Who Lead” during the second month of my most recent role after identifying a need to build a community for the women in our organization. The group gained a lot of momentum and we secured one of our female board members as a guest speaker. This group eventually led to my appointment as the lead for a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) task force, and a budget for DEI programing.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As an HR Business Partner, I gained a lot of insight into how senior leaders view human capital as it relates to financial implications, branding, social impact, and how solutions based on these views affect an employee’s sense of belonging or commitment to the company’s mission. The more exposure I gained to how decisions were made, the more I realized how much more I had to learn. In order to be a true partner of the business and offer strategic guidance on workforce planning and development, I needed a deeper understanding of all sides of the business.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was prepared for the most frequently asked questions like why MBA, why now, and why this particular program. However, the question that stands out as most challenging happened during my video interview. I was asked to describe what a smart phone is to someone from the early 1900s. I quickly realized I had no idea where to start because of how far we’ve come technologically since then.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Class size, community, and culture were some of the most important factors for me. Interviewing current students, learning about their backgrounds and their pivots to employment opportunities really helped me identify fit. I wanted a small class size so that I would be able to form strong bonds with my classmates, a supportive alumni network as a resource, and a collaborative environment where I could contribute and create lasting impact.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Prior to my career pivot to HR in technology, I had spent seven years in hotel operations. I was part of the pre-opening team for a highly anticipated project in the city and it was my dream role. A few months prior to our opening date the project was terminated, and I found myself unemployed. I was directionless and terrified. After a lot of soul searching, I mustered the courage to transition into HR, a field that I had wanted to gain experience in for years. There was a lot of rejection along the way, but I learned an important lesson in resilience. Life never goes according to plan, adapting to ambiguity and change is part of the adventure.

What special ingredient do you see yourself bringing to the Class of 2022? How will that enrich the MBA experience? It would be my curiosity in people. I genuinely love learning people’s stories and understanding the reasoning behind their perspectives. I hope that my curiosity will enable me to build strong connections amongst my teams and foster a safe environment for us to exchange ideas.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? The Walt Disney Company is one that stands the test of time and demonstrates continued innovation and progress. When people hear the name Disney, it often evokes an emotional attachment or childhood memory. Even for those that may not be familiar with Disney’s traditional movies or characters, the company garners very strong brand recognition. Throughout the past five decades, we’ve seen successful theme park developments to strategic acquisition of iconic brands to adaptive expansion in online streaming. In studying the history of Disney, MBA students can learn the importance of defining a clear brand that is relatable and memorable, building a strong foundation by honing our skillset to support our brand, while learning from our experiences to expand and or make a pivot within our brand.