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Master’s in Management: Winnie Wei Du, University of Southern California (Marshall)

Student Name: Winnie Wei Du

Graduate Business School: University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. Shanghai Jiaotong University Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry.

Describe Yourself In 15 Words:  Tenacious, careful, goal oriented, strategic, resilient, focused, caring, persistent, articulate, logical, analytical, thoughtful.

The Master ‘s Graduation Class: 2017

Undergraduate School and Major: Sichuan University, Advertising

Current Employer and Job Title: Alibaba, Product Operation.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Alibaba is the largest e-Commerce platform in China with over 900 million active monthly mobile users last fiscal year. As someone who manages product operation, I was involved in launching and promoting three products successfully at the national level in China. I used data analytics to develop insights on consumer psychology. Then, I used those insights to influence user habits and create new business opportunities. My job covers problem identification, customer segmentation, market research, new product incubation, product development, product implementation, and vendor acquisitions. 

I travel frequently in China to meet various clients, such as mobile gaming firms, ebook companies, dating apps, and more than 50 other top Chinese Internet companies. I listen to their needs and analyze their pain points. My team then proposes solutions based on Alibaba’s enormous resources and capabilities. Through this process, we are able to create new values for our clients.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: My biggest accomplishment as a graduate student is proving my ability to learn new things in a competitive, foreign environment. My one year in the USC Marshall was quite challenging for me. English was not my native language. I had limited understanding of subjects like finance and operations management. But I worked hard and demonstrated that I could accomplish my goals while also adjusting to a different culture. This experience greatly improved my confidence. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you?  I applied the joint ICCI program (Institute of Culture and Creative Industry) of Shanghai Jiaotong University and University of Southern California. Through a very competitive admission process, I was honored to be enrolled in this program. Students in this program spend one year in SJTU and the second year at USC. They receive a master’s degree of management from USC and another masters degree from SJTU. Through this program, students are able to learn business management, new technologies as well as creative industries 

SJTU is a top university in China while USC is a leading business school in the U.S. USC is very diverse with students from all over the world. The two locations are also unique. One is located in Los Angeles, a global center of cultural and creative industries exemplified by Hollywood. Another is in Shanghai, also a center of creative industries globally. 

Learning business management, new technologies, and creative industries, this program is able to enrich students experience and make them more competitive in an industry which is global and boundaries are increasingly blurred.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Management over an MBA? MBA programs require work experience while a master’s in management does not. I would not have qualified for a MBA program at the time when I graduated from college. The joint program of SJTU and USC provides excellent training for students in the competitive job market. helped me land a job first at Meituan (a publicly listed super APP combining Door Dash, Uber, Groupon,Ticketmaster, Expedia, Yelp) and later at Alibaba.   

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? Corporate Finance Strategy. This was a second-year MBA course, and it was my first high level financial course. It was a case analysis based course, which was quite difficult for me at that time. However, I learned to calculate company’s valuation for the first time and found it very interesting. I was very motivated and took every opportunity of faculty office hours and studied with team members in group projects. Though it was a very challenging class for me, I eventually received a very good grade. When I was in the job market, I used the valuation methodology to identify high growth companies as my internship targets. I selected Meituan as my first employer. When I joined Meituan in 2017, it was valued at $30 billion. In 2018, Meituan went public in Hong Kong. In 2021, Meituan was valued at $230 billion. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program?. Through the alumni network of USC and SJTU I was able to receive an interview opportunity in the Meituan’s campus recruitment in 2017. The recruitment was a highly competitive process. Business analysis capabilities were highly valued. The interviewers asked me to draft a business plan of 30 pages on “How to help Apple Pay win the Chinese market” in a limited time. The interviewers wanted to see if applicants were able to synthesize the issues and offer solutions. This was very similar to the case analyses at USC. The proposal that I submitted was highly praised by several key lead managers of various departments. As a result, I successfully received the special offer from Meituan with a higher pay package.       

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? We did homework together and learnt from each other. Some of my classmates were MBA students and some were from other specialized master’s programs. Often we had students from other schools of USC. Some of my classmates are good at computer data analysis, and some do well in rigorous logical modeling.Through this team project experience, I could learn a lot from my classmates.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Professor Baizhu Chen frequently met with us to discuss course selection, career path, internship opportunities, as well as campus life. Professors Chen, Shantanu Dutta and Tianshu Sun were conducting a research project based on NetEase Music real data as well as survey data. I was hired as a RA for the project. I assisted in literature search, methodology design and survey question drafting. Through this project, I learned a lot on data analytics and market research. This experience was frequently brought up by recruiters when I was interviewed by Meituan and Alibaba. Recruiters often asked me to describe this research and they were often impressed that I had the opportunity to get involved in such an interesting project. 

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? An applicant should demonstrate her/his ability to learn new things in a very challenging environment. She should show her authenticity and curiosity.  

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? Hiking in Griffith Park to the Hollywood Mountain with friends on weekends, standing on the wet sand without shoes on Santa Monica beach to see the sunset, or simply walking on the empty beautiful USC campus in the early morning on a weekend when it was raining.

DON’T MISS: MEET THE MASTERS OF MANAGEMENT