Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Xibei Zhang, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Xibei Zhang

Preferred First Name:  Carol

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“High energy and globally oriented individual who is undaunted by taking on any challenge.”

Hometown: Harbin, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: Last year, I lost 20 pounds and ran a half marathon on the Great Wall!

Undergraduate School and Major:

Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, BS in management information systems

University of Birmingham, MS in money, banking and finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:Thermo Fisher Scientific, Project Manager, Pratical Process Improvement And Project Management Office

Aside from your classmates, 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? It goes without saying that UNC Kenan-Flagler is among the best MBA programs in the world, with a renowned faculty, challenging curriculum, and convincing employment records. However, if there is one thing that quickly propelled UNC Kenan-Flagler to the top of my list of preferred MBA programs, it was the school’s community programs and activities. I always have believed that education is a multi-faceted process – with as much learning occurring outside as well as inside the classroom. The Center for the Business of Health, for example, is a multidisciplinary initiative that brings together expertise from across UNC from the schools  of medicine, public health, pharmacy, etc. to convey knowledge and address the complex challenges in healthcare. Given my interest in healthcare, the center will significantly contribute to my industry knowledge.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? My UNC Kenan-Flagler classmates are determined and resilient. Among the dozens of students – domestic and international – who I have met virtually, I have been impressed by their can-do spirit and their user-friendly demeanor.  Due to COVID-19, a lot of international students’ plans to pursue an MBA in the U.S. have been greatly impacted. However, I still see a lot of my international classmates managing to stay positive during this difficult time, actively involved in virtual career and leadership events, and continuing to seek creative alternatives for connecting with each other. I am eagerly looking forward to spending the next two years with them and creating relationships that will last a lifetime!

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am looking forward to joining Carolina Women in Business (CWIB), the Consulting Club, and the Healthcare Club. CWIB serves as a great platform to empower women in business by facilitating career opportunities and connecting alumni with current students. The Healthcare Club is well-organized with leadership and members who have rich experience in various healthcare fields. Last, but not the least, the Consulting Club holds a variety of activities including Career Trek, How to Make a Case Workshop, and mock case competitions that will help members succeed in a consulting career.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When I was at Thermo Fisher, I led a project that re-designed “the quotation to cash process” to solve customer complaint and bad debt problems, leading to $3 million+ in bad debt recovery and 5% annual warranty cost reductions. The project was shared with multiple teams in different countries and won the Global PPI Excellence Award in 2019.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Over the past five years, I have held several management positions in internal strategy and finance in both education and the healthcare industry. I enjoy working collaboratively in a team to drive new opportunities or solve complex problems for business. However, to advance in my career, I realized that I needed to grow in three areas: business acumen, hands-on experience, and international perspective and networking. After talking to UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni and learning about the program, I am convinced that a UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA is the best way to achieve all three.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Duke University

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was asked to talk about an experience in which I failed and what lessons I learned from it.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The main factors I considered when I evaluated MBA programs were: 1) curriculum design, 2) culture fit, 3) outside the classroom opportunities, and 4) location.

You can research MBA programs by reading the university websites, chatting with students and alumni, and attending info sessions. However, I think the best way to evaluate culture fit is to visit schools on campus. I attended a UNC Kenan-Flagler campus visit program; this gave me a chance to talk to faculty and staff, sit in a class and talk to students, and mingle during social hour. The experience really convinced me that UNC Kenan-Flagler was the right place for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? One of the defining moments in my life was when I did a career switch from education to healthcare. I was thrown into a week-long company strategy development workshop on the fifth day of my new job. What was worse was that I sensed some real resistance towards our office due to misunderstanding and mistrust.

I must admit that at the time I was feeling lost and frustrated. For a few weeks, I searched for every piece of information I could find about this new industry. I was even reading Science magazine until 3 a.m. on some days, even though I had no idea what those advanced chemistry or biology concepts meant! (I was a finance student.) However, I worked through the experience and managed to establish trust and develop thriving partnerships with my internal clients. I came to realize I did not need to be a scientist to succeed in my new role. I can bring unique value to the company by being able to bring together experts in each individual area to diagnose business challenges in a holistic and systematic way and drive the team to achieve a desired business outcome.

In business school or in my future career, I am sure I will be faced with many situations where I do not know everything about the subject, but working collaboratively in a team will achieve better results than individual heroism.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? My favorite company is Alibaba.  I have great respect for this company because it brought together a massive number of SMEs into a dynamic, highly effective on-line B2C and then B2B business model. Alibaba established a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation that gradually but steadily has come to permeate all aspects of China’s digital economy. I am particularly taken by Alibaba’s decision to enter into the retail grocery business, where it offers both great prices and great variety to its clients.

DON’T MISS: Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2022

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