“A social / multicultural butterfly and an open mind who believes in people first.”
Hometowns: Meaux (France) and Wenzhou (China)
Fun Fact About Yourself: My parents tricked me into learning our family restaurant menu by heart, so if you give me a number between 1 and 200, I’ll most likely be able to return the name of the corresponding dish!
Undergraduate School and Major: Masters in Management at London Business School and Bachelors in Business Administration at ESSEC Business School
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Block Renovation, Analytics
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? Having gone to business school for my Bachelor’s and Masters in Europe, I knew there was really only one school that would allow me to build on my existing knowledge base. Booth, through its flexible program, allows me to do just that. I do not need to retake Accounting 101 – instead, I can focus on more advanced topics and tailor the program to my entrepreneurial needs.
This flexibility and the focus on entrepreneurship were keys as I intend to start a venture while at Booth. From “Entrepreneurial Discovery” to “Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity”, I can ensure that the knowledge I gain in class is applied to my future venture in a timely manner. Having the possibility to secure +$500,000 of funding through the “New Venture Challenge” made Booth a no brainer!
What quality best describes your MBA community and why? The most obvious quality is the pay-it-forward culture that reigns at Booth. It is hard to explain why this is so prevalent, but my guess is that without a curriculum that puts everyone through the same core program, students are a little more left to themselves. As a result, 2nd year students naturally offer their help to 1st year students to navigate this choice-based environment, and I found this sense of camaraderie to be present among alumni too.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far? As a Management Consultant at A.T. Kearney, I was often staffed on challenging projects around the globe, but my biggest accomplishment so far stems from balancing that career with my family business.
Back in 2016, I took over the management of the family real estate portfolio when my parents moved from France back to China. I remember a building showing cracks on its façade and a leaking roof, causing internal damage to our properties and reducing the quality of life of our tenants. That was the trigger for me to request a six-month leave of absence in the midst of my early career at Kearney to turn around the situation.
I ended up divesting a few assets (the ones with high condominium fees), renovating multiple properties, and hiring third party service providers to help us with the remote management of the company. The process was exhausting – sourcing and supervising renovation companies, transitioning tenants in and out – and definitely opened my eyes to the problems of the real estate renovation business (hence why I joined Block Renovation).
Three years later, we finally saw the fruit of our hard work, with improved top and bottom line as well as stable cash flows. This experience taught me to be creative and think in the shoes of an operator, planning for the long term while sorting out the day-to-day operations. Arguing and finding a compromise with contractors and tenants also helped me become a better negotiator.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? My close friends will tell you that I work off five-year plans. The past five years were all about honing soft and hard skills gained through consulting while getting a foothold in the start-up space. My time at A.T. Kearney helped me do just that as I got involved in our start-up hub (pro-bono for social impact start-ups in London), so my next five years were going to be spent on turning an idea into a business.
What I had not planned on was meeting my now wife and moving with her to the US. Had I not moved, I would have tried my luck right away in Europe, but being in a new country made the MBA a suitable route to rebuild a network and benefit from a reasonably risk-free environment to explore entrepreneurship.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Booth? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I am very excited about the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at Booth. You don’t naturally associate Booth with entrepreneurship, but the school has done a great job at nurturing the entrepreneurship ecosystem with entrepreneurs in residence acting as mentors, great courses allowing you to work on your idea in class, and strong ties with VCs.
Aside from that, as an eternal student, I look forward to the academic experience at Booth – I can just pick what I want to learn!
As for what makes me most nervous… it’s probably balancing my personal, student, and professional life.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? Growing up in France, you end up consuming a lot of American culture, from TV shows to music and more. A big part of that American culture is portrayed through American universities. I quite liked the buzz around acapella groups whenever they showed up on TV. While I will probably not be part of the singing body, I can’t wait to join the acapella group at Booth (“Economics of Scale”). Perhaps, it’s my way of realizing my “American dream”.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Wharton and Columbia.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I cannot recall specific challenging questions… However, the whole application process was grueling. I was waitlisted in Round 1, and finding the energy to stay motivated to prove my commitment to Booth was at times difficult (I ended up retaking tests, getting additional recommendation letters, recording a video, etc.)
It was all worth it in the end as I ended up getting into Booth on a scholarship!
How did you determine your fit at various schools? It was mainly through interacting with alumni (e.g. Is that person responsive? Do I admire this person? Do I enjoy the interaction I have?) and current students that I formed my opinion of the fit at different schools.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? At 15, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease that had flared up for the first time, leaving me stranded at the hospital for a couple of weeks. I have been watching my health and taking meds ever since. As a result, I also haven’t drunk alcohol for 15 years and I make a conscious effort to stay fit and healthy.
Following my illness, I naturally became more picky, allocating time to things that mattered most and getting rid of the “noise”. This mentality helped me get where I am today by focusing on the right relationships and activities.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Travel Sentry is a great business to look at. Many of you will know the little red diamond sign on your luggage near your lock but few will know how strong the business model is. It is effectively a security standard that leverages the needs of the Transportation Security Administration and air travelers. While I can’t go into the specifics, I would invite you to look it up – it was one of the early platforms solving problems for two sides of a marketplace (but really, it’s more of an ecosystem). What will you learn from them? It comes down to how to create a very well protected business model.
DON’T MISS: MEET CHICAGO BOOTH’S MBA CLASS OF 2022