2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Chng Yu Jean, ESMT Berlin

Chng Yu Jean

ESMT Berlin

Authentic, introspective, and a strong believer that businesses should create value for society.”

Hometown: Penang, Malaysia

Fun fact about yourself: I love social dancing and have been dancing for almost 10 years (swing, lindy hop, balboa, blues, salsa, bachata, tango). I also have a black belt in karate.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration from the National University of Malaysia

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Corporate Responsibility and Client Retention in Sodexo

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Not applicable.

Where will you be working after graduation? Not decided.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I co-founded the ESMT Women in Leadership Club that seeks to develop and empower women to take on leadership roles and to build a community of allies on advancing women. I was also a member of the Inclusive Leadership Roundtable (ILRT), an advisory body to the Executive Management Committee for achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion goals at ESMT.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In a year like this, as a mother to a 3 year old, I am thrilled to have made it through the MBA program. Even before Covid-19, working mothers have been doing “double shifts”, which means a having full day of work, then spend hours after that caring for children and doing household labor. The suspension of childcare due to COVID-19 has made things impossible for women, especially women with young children like myself. For me, the intensity of a one-year MBA (classes, assignments, tests, events, networking, etc.) has been compounded by additional childcare and household chores and I was spending at least an additional 5 hours of household work daily. Therefore, I am extremely proud to able to complete the MBA with exceptional results, to co-found and co-lead the Women in Leadership Club, and for the confidence from my classmates to be the Class Speaker for the graduation ceremony.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
I am most proud of the breadth of experience that I’ve gained throughout my career at a relatively young age. At 32 years old, I’ve worked for both a large global company and a high-growth start-up, part of the management team and a start-up pioneering team. I’ve held roles in Business Development, Client Retention, and Corporate Responsibility, and they have afforded me the opportunity to work with clients from various business segments, functional areas, and seniority (C-Suite to supervisors), as well as driving projects with global teams. Being adaptable, humble, and open to learning, has helped shaped my professional growth. Still, the world has yet to seen the very best of me and I’m looking forward to exciting challenges.

Why did you choose this business school? There were many reasons of why I chose ESMT. ESMT is one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe and the #1 Business School in Germany. I chose ESMT for its diversity and its small class size. I see myself as a global citizen and knew that I would fit right in. We had 23 nationalities in a class of 48 people and an opportunity to work with almost everyone through group assignments. You have a chance to get to know your peers better and to also have quality interaction with the world-class faculty. For me, this was important for a one-year MBA.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Difficult question but my vote goes to Guillermo Baquero who taught us Corporate Finance. His dedication towards teaching this subject is unparalleled. As the class had been moved online due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, he tried various ways to replicate and improve on the offline learning experience and outcomes. He kept us on our toes by making everyone keep their cameras on, cold-called students to answer questions, and recorded videos for us for more in-depth explanation. He gave weekly assignments to ensure our comprehension of the topics and when possible, he gave individual feedback on the assignment submitted. Learning this subject online may have been better than the offline class as we were able to watch and re-watch the recordings. Guillermo is also known as the professor who does tango. I think the class would have like to learn that from him as well!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? One of the most memorable events was the hiking trip that we did as part of the Building High Performance Teams course. Without giving away too much and spoiling it for the classes to come, it involves hours of hiking through unfamiliar terrains in winter with limited navigation tools at our disposal. This was one of the first courses we had for the MBA and really required us to place trust in new classmates that we barely knew.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could, I would take up all the electives that were offered by the school as every single one of them was interesting and would have added value to my professional development.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The 25 founding companies of ESMT may give the impression that the school is ‘traditional’, but ESMT is far from it. Its diverse faculty and student body means that everyone, no matter where they come from, will be able to find a place where they fit in. ESMT is also in Berlin, the start-up capital of Germany, so it’s a great place to start for people who want to pursue entrepreneurship as their vocation.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most was how approachable the faculty was and perhaps this is the luxury that comes from being in a business school with small class size. It was always possible to approach a professor to further discuss and share ideas, and seek clarification and guidance. Besides that, working in groups allowed us to learn from peers in a safe environment.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I’d say, be honest and reflect on your experience and what an MBA means to you and your future. Do read up on the school and see if you like what the school has to offer.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of the MBA classmate that I admire the most is Parag Saurabh, whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with in the first three months of the program. He is extremely intelligent and approachable and supportive at the same time. I have learned a lot from him in the MBA program and have no doubts that he will be an excellent manager to any company he joins.  

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Extremely disruptive due to the lack of childcare.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My decision to pursue an MBA was inspired by my mother and my daughter. In my family, I am a first-generation degree holder. My mother came from a small town and was the 5th among 11 children of a fishmonger. She was the first in her family to qualify to attend college, but she left the program after two weeks as she didn’t have a role model and couldn’t adjust. It was something that she has regretted ever since. My mother is very intelligent, and I too wonder what her life would be like had she graduated. I feel that I would be able to accomplish much more having done an MBA and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t regret not having done it. I hope to make up for my mother’s lost opportunities and to be an inspiration for my daughter.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? One of our professors said in class that performance follows passion. I think I would do really well in roles and companies that bring a positive change in the world where I can combine my experience and passion with purpose. I would also like to be able to open doors to others, especially to those who haven’t always been able to see that door that’s right in front of them.

What made Yu Jean such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Yu Jean demonstrates several characteristics that make her an effective leader in her class and in the school more broadly. Level-headedness, drive, charisma, creativity, intelligence. and fearlessness. What impresses me most is the effect she has on those she works with. She puts people at ease and draws the best out in them. She sweeps others along with her enthusiasm. I am confident that, after graduating, Yu Jean will continue to foment positive change in whatever organization she joins, and that she will make positive contributions to the work from day one.”

Jack Galloway
Student Services Manager
ESMT Berlin



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