2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Xiangshi Guan, University of Chicago (Booth)

Xiangshi Guan

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

An upbeat doer and lifelong learner, driven to empower the world with technology and business.”

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Fun fact about yourself:I always dreamed to be a rocker in my early 20s despite not being super musically talented and did not receive much music training. I taught myself guitar, started a band after college, got used to embarrassing myself on stage and performed at several venues in NYC, including Lincoln Center and Time Square.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Johns Hopkins University, Applied Math and Economics double major

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? PM at Bytedance

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?  Microsoft, Seattle

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft, PM

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

* Co-chair of Booth Technology Group (BTG): BTG is one of the largest professional student group on campus (450+ members).

* LEAD Facil: LEAD Facilitator are a group of selected 2Ys teaching Booth’s flagship leadership program LEAD to 600+ 1Ys.

* Co-lead for 2020 Booth Technology Conference: manage a team of 10 people planning for the second Booth signature technology conference.

* Active Member in Greater China Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of leading the Booth Technology Group through COVID. We were the first class of co-chairs who needed to work with the new virtual environment. As the lead for career, education, and alumni engagement, I focused on developing materials and events that fully immerse our students in the tech world and strengthen student connections with industry leaders. On the education and alumni engagement front, I brought in prominent alumni speakers including Anshu Bhardwaj (CVP at Walmart Global Technology) and Eunice Kim (VP of Netflix). These educational speaker series turned out to be one of the biggest events this year (attracted 260+ attendees) and were well-regarded by the students. I also revamped the recruiting guide and doubled the amount of content by adding more frameworks, cases, and insights from previous classes to make it more comprehensive and insightful. On the career side, I administered interview family support for 150+ members and recruited 23 family leads. Partnering closely with career service, I established new relationships with companies that didn’t do recruiting events at Booth before, such as Western Digital. Through helping our community, I was inspired to create better tools for students to manage job applications more efficiently. This is still work in progress, but I am excited to apply my programming skills to make a lasting impact.

COVID caused unprecedented challenges for our students and BTG. I am proud that my work helped our 450+ members to better navigate through this turbulent time and realize their dreams in the technology industry. And I can do this while getting A’s in all my computer science classes.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of launching an integrated risk management platform that saved my company’s (Citigroup) trading business from being shut down by regulators. I was selected as the only Assistant Vice President in my division to join the emergency task group. I didn’t have prior experience managing a complex, enterprise-wide technology project. But the time was tight and the stakes were high. I worked closely with the senior leaders to form workstreams with subject-matter experts to design the new system and with the technology team to implement it. I am proud I stood up to the challenge. We not only launched the platform in six months and saved the company’s core business, but also improved efficiency by saving 4,000 working hours per year. This experience also opened the door for me to the technology world and inspired me to pursue a career in product management.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Booth for its unique MBA/MPCS Joint Degree Program. Booth is the only top business school that offers such a dual degree program that I could finish at the same time within two years. It is perfect for people like me who want to have a successful career at the intersection of technology and business. I was able to leverage the programming skills and business skills I learned in the summer internship at Microsoft where I single-handedly built and launched a full-stack enterprise application from end to end. I can’t say enough good things about this program, and have been recommending this program to all wannabe technology leaders.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Raghuram Rajan. I am taking his International Corporate Finance class this quarter. He is no doubt the best professor I’ve had teaching the case method.  Every class is an ‘Aha’ moment. The insights he pulls from the cases are so unexpected but reasonable. I am constantly astonished at how deep he analyzed the cases and how well he guided us to see through the mist and uncover hidden secrets. Through his class, I have a completely different understanding of the case method. He was also a former Central Bank governor in India. It’s an incredible experience to take class from him.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is LEAD, a required 5-week intensive and experiential leadership class. Booth MBA journey starts with LEAD. It’s a great channel to introduce the new students to the community through fun activities such as the Leadership Retreat that took us to Lake Geneva for a weekend. (Luckily this experience wasn’t impacted by COVID for me). LEAD for me didn’t stop after the 5-week class was over. In my 2nd year, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the LEAD Facil program as one of the 40 second-years to design and teach the material to the next generation. LEAD Facil is a close-knit and super supportive community. I not only became a better leader, but also made great friends. Overall LEAD exemplifies Booth’s supportive and pay it forward culture.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? One thing I’d do differently is opening myself to the entrepreneurial world earlier. As a risk-averse person, I never thought about pursuing entrepreneurship before I came to business school. My classmates opened my eyes and motivated me to actively think about entrepreneurship opportunities. This year, I applied to the New Venture Challenge (NVC). Even though my idea didn’t get in, along the way I discovered the breadth and depth of Booth’s entrepreneurial resources and talents. I was amazed by the ideas my classmates generated and the support Booth is able to provide through entrepreneurship class and Polsky Center. If I had one more year, I will for sure dedicate more energy to entrepreneurship, take more classes in that area, and prepare better for the NVC.

What surprised you the most about business school? How high-quality my classmates are. I knew I would be surrounded by smart people, but it turned out I still underestimated how intelligent my classmates are. They constantly amaze me in every personal engagement, class interaction, group discussion, and event planning. In such an environment, I am inspired and challenged to grow more quickly than ever.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Reflect deeply on my past experiences and really think through how Booth can amplify my past successes and correct flaws.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Aaron Trobee has many traits and characteristics I look up to. He is one of the most natural leaders I know on a personal level. As one of the first few people I met at Booth, Aaron consistently impressed me with his leadership qualities. He is considerate, trustworthy, humble and speaks with such a calm and convincing voice that’s just hard not to listen to. His sense of time is also impeccable. He arrives 30 minutes early to everything pretty much, including 8:30 a.m. LEAD class. Before Booth, he was an army officer leading a troop with a size larger than Booth’s class (700+ people). I wish one day I could be a leader like him.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Why? Educational experiences were not disrupted much. I found the Zoom lectures to be high quality, just as good as, or even better than normal in-person lectures. The class discussions are as informative as before, and students do have the option to go to class in person.

Social experience took a bigger hit as expected. It is definitely a loss to the student body to miss a lot of Booth’s signature events that are held in person. The one I miss the most is the Battle of Bands. But the school did a great job of coming up with virtual events so that I could still maintain a close relationship with my classmates while social distancing. The school administration also offered free testing programs to ensure safety.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father was the key influencer. He got a MBA himself, and the MBA degree changed his life. He believed it could change mine as well. Seeing his example gave me more confidence investing in my business education. And I am glad I listened to his advice.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

* As I will be a PM for Power Platform, I want to increase the adoption and make the product even more user-friendly by citizen developers to empower everyone to harness the power of technology.

* Eventually, I’d love to create and grow a technology product of my own to commercial success.

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

“Xiangshi has always struck me with his humility, cheerfulness, can-do attitude, and his desire to go above and beyond both as a student and a Co-chair of one of the biggest student body clubs at Chicago Booth. He is humble to a fault. As a coach, I meet a dozen students weekly, many of whom unabashedly convey their admiration of Xiangshi’s leadership, and unconditional help, to me.

In particular, the initiative Xiangshi started for the Booth Technology Group, immediately after taking the reins of the club as co-chair and very shortly after lockdown, has had a scalable impact that will be felt for years by the students. Xiangshi led a group of 150+ First Years, created ‘Interview Families’ facilitated by second years who had been through the recruiting process themselves, and provided this group with the tools, resources, and methodologies required to successfully interview and recruit. He harnessed peer-to-peer sharing, support, and most importantly built a community of reciprocity. I bring this particular example up because in the time of COVID, in the time of investing in a once-in-a-lifetime MBA, in the time of potential job uncertainty, Xiangshi realized students needed support that went beyond just a prescriptive list of to-dos. They needed the intellectual, tactical, and peer-to-peer reassurance which only comes from real-life experience. He anticipated the students’ needs before they did and created a platform that added invaluable and immeasurable impact to the individual student and the student body at large.

Chicago Booth has not long been known as a ‘Techie’ school. While we have a robust curriculum that allows students to make forays into technology, the perception still anchors us as everything else with a little bit of ‘Technology’. To change this perception takes years, not just one year, and it takes a concerted and joint effort from faculty, staff, alumni, and students. The Booth Technology Group, with Xiangshi at its helm, has been critical in altering that perception and setting the course for Chicago Booth as a stellar talent pool for MBA Technology recruits. COVID and its consequences has upended not just lives, but careers, and in particular certain trends. Xiangshi signed on to be a student leader with no expectations that life would change swiftly and surprisingly with more students requiring help and attention. He has been a partner not only to the students, but he has also been a valuable partner to Career Services. The educational initiatives he has led for his group crosses over into other student groups as well, including the Chicago Booth Fintech, and Analytic Groups. Xiangshi has raised the bar for all in the way we approach and help students and for that, as his coach, as a Career Coach at Chicago Booth, and as a Chicago Booth alumna, I am grateful. It is indisputable that Xiangshi is an invaluable member of the Class of 2021, it is also inspirational that he will soon be an invaluable member of our community at large. I cannot wait to see his selflessness, drive, and goodwill have a scalable impact that goes above and beyond Chicago Booth.”

Meenakshi Dash
Associate Director Career Management,
Liaison to the Booth Technology Group
Full-time MBA Career Coach