Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Bo Chan, MIT (Sloan)

Bo Chan

MIT, Sloan School of Management          

I’m most energized when I’m outside my comfort zone – I’m always looking for a new challenge!”

Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia

Fun Fact About Yourself: One of my all-time favorite trips was a month-long homestay in Fiji when I was a teenager. I spent the weekdays playing with kids at a local orphanage and the weekends exploring the archipelago country. I also spent a few years fencing competitively!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Southern California, Communication & Marketing

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Native Union – Head of Marketing & Communication

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? I was intrigued by MIT’s emphasis on driving change through innovation. I knew that I wanted to work on projects that had a deeper impact on communities around the world after graduation. At Sloan, every corner is dedicated to the advancing society’s most pressing issues. Whether it is through clubs like Net Impact or resources at The Legatum Center for entrepreneurship, MIT is the premier place and platform for change. Sloan’s tight-knit community and small class size also attracted me. I wanted to make sure that I was able to cultivate life-long friendships with my classmates!

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How have your experiences with the Sloan program thus far reinforced or upended these early impressions? The first thing that comes to mind is technological innovation and community. MIT is always, without fail, at the forefront of addressing some of the world’s biggest problems. My experience throughout the application, and more recently, the AdMIT journey, reinforced my initial perceptions. Not only is Sloan the home of innovation but it’s also home to the most intelligent, humble, and helpful community.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Compassion – every Sloanie I’ve spoken to has an inherent desire to create positive change and impact within their community. Whether it means actualizing a life-changing business idea or being a resource for one another over WhatsApp, this quality is hard to miss. During the summer, many of my classmates created interest groups and professional communities to help each other out. It’s incredible to see the community the incoming class has been able to build before school has even begun! Becoming a part of the Sloan family feels as if I’ve gained countless lifelong friends, champions, and mentors.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Creating tech products, from idea to launch that are sold at Apple stores and over 1,122 retailers worldwide has been one of my biggest professional accomplishments. The most rewarding aspect of my role at Native Union, was being able to listen to people’s stories and turn their everyday frustrations into product solutions. Aside from bringing over 30 new products to the market, I also had the chance to introduce a new product launch process that streamlined the company’s development schedule, eliminating re-occurring bottlenecks so that the team could focus on doing what they do best.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? In my most recent role, I had the opportunity to lead a team of six product and marketing professionals. I realized that to be an impactful and compassionate manager, I needed to broaden my skill set and knowledge to lead effectively and confidently. While I had spent the last five years honing my skills in brand and customer marketing, there were aspects of the business that I needed more exposure to such as operations and finance. Without a thorough understanding, it was impossible to represent both my team and be an effective change-maker within my organization. An MBA will expose me to new opportunities designed for personal growth while providing a structured environment to learn more about the different fields of management.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley, Yale

What was the most challenging questions you were asked during the admissions process? For me, the most challenging (and most rewarding) aspect of the application wasn’t answering any one particular question. Instead, it was trying to uncover my personal story and why I’ve gravitated towards certain roles and challenges in the past. Life happens so quickly sometimes we don’t have a chance to think deeply about our actions or string them into a coherent narrative. Reflecting on the “why” helped me with preparing the right stories for both the essay and interview questions.

What was the most important factor in choosing a business school? How did you evaluate fit according to that factor? The most important factor in choosing a business school for me was a cultural and academic fit. Like most, I felt that leaving my job and spending two years going back to school was a big deal, so I wanted to make sure that I selected a program I truly belonged in and could help me achieve my professional goals. To gauge the culture, I made sure to speak to as many current students and alumni as possible. I also spent time reading about each school’s values and made visits to each of the campuses. I knew I wanted to continue a career in tech, so I also made sure to take a look at employment reports and course offerings that would help me become more well-versed in the industry. Finally, I knew from experience that I preferred a more tactile approach to learning which fits perfectly with MIT’s philosophy of Mens et Manus.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school?  Moving across the world to Hong Kong to reconnect with my heritage and start a new role in a new industry was an eye-opening experience. Hong Kong redefined my idea of what it meant to live in a multicultural city. The plethora of culture that existed from all corners of the world eclipsed that of anywhere I’d ever lived. At work, I learned to navigate the nuances of varying cultural dynamics while trying to learn the ropes of hardware product management. I had managers, coworkers, and peers from France, Korea, China, India, Finland – and more that brought their unique working styles. Not only did this new setting teach me how to succeed within diverse cross-cultural teams, but it also led me to examine my own identity and values.

Before moving to Hong Kong, I held the belief that culture shock was something I wouldn’t experience. Despite immigrating to Canada at the age of 4, I was born in Hong Kong and felt I had a good understanding of the local people. I quickly realized how wrong I was. While my family had maintained many of our ancestor’s traditions, there was much I still had to learn about life in the city and the culture. I sought to immerse myself in the community by volunteering with a non-profit organization as a teaching assistant for inner-city kids and a STEM coding instructor.

I know that the skills I learned in Hong Kong will be invaluable during my time in business school. The next two years will be filled with opportunities to work with talented classmates from all over the world with differing communication and working styles. Coming to understand my strengths and values from my time in East Asia will also allow me to contribute in the most impactful and meaningful way at Sloan.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from studying it? As someone who gets excited by social innovations and projects that uplift communities, Google X and Salesforce are two of my favorite companies. I think students can learn a lot about asking the right questions and how to create the most value for end-users from these two businesses.

DON’T MISS: Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2022

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