2021 MBAs To Watch: Haichen Liu, IMD Business School       

Haichen Liu       

IMD Business School

“A brave and ambitious woman, ready to overcome and learn from all of life’s challenges.”

Hometown: Beijing, China

Fun fact about yourself: I was studying for my MBA degree in Switzerland with my rescue dog, a black Labrador I adopted 9 years ago in New York. He has now lived in 3 continents, joined me on a 2-month road trip from New York to San Francisco, and enjoyed swimming in the Geneva Lake (Lac Léman) whenever the weather was nice!

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S. in Chemistry from Beijing Normal University, M.S. in Chemistry from New Jersey Institute of Technology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Beike Finance as the Head of Operations, China

Where will you be working after graduation? Customer Experience Manager at Beckman Coulter, a part of Danaher’s General Management Development Program in Germany

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Expert in the Technology Cluster, Lead for the Yearbook Committee

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The Yearbook. It is a year-long project to record, highlight and commemorate our year at IMD. As you may imagine, we faced lots of challenges in 2020. The yearbook team and I received much support from the class to collect memories and put those precious photos and quotes in the book. I am proud of producing this collection of beautiful moments and feel deeply rewarded seeing the smiles and tears on my colleagues’ faces while reading it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I joined a Fin-tech startup at its very early stage and helped it go public three years after being founded. I was privileged to have the opportunity and responsibility to help a startup grow. I learned so much in public relations, marketing, sales, strategy, product management, business operations, finance, and most importantly, execution throughout the different business stages. I am proud of the real impact I brought to the business and the people around me.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose IMD because of the world-famous leadership development program. Throughout my professional career, I was inspired, encouraged, and guided by great leaders. I wanted to be a “perfect leader” who has all the strengths they have, but I did not know how to be like that. I felt that I needed to go to a professional institution to learn.

The leadership development program helped me realize that everyone has their own leadership style. There is no “perfect leader”, but “leadership that helps and works.” It is essential to understand and accept myself so that I can develop leadership based on who I am. Also, leadership needs to be adjusted based on circumstances. IMD provided me with a toolkit of leadership development, and it will be a life-long learning.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would organize a grieving session for our loss during COVID lockdown. From mid-March to early June, we had to take our classes and exams at home due to Switzerland’s lockdown measurements. During that period, we missed our birthday class dance and parties, the coffee chat with colleagues and professors, the ping-pong matches, the late-nights in the dungeon (the nickname of our study rooms), the hugs… Basically, by losing the interactions on campus, we lost part of our shared secure base.

Thanks to IMD we went back to normal quickly. Yet, the grief of losing something remained hidden and unresolved until September. During the High Performance Leader special course, I cried in front of the whole class when talking about my loss during the lockdown. I realized how that hidden grief had impacted me, and that I was not the only one. I wish I had addressed it together with the class right after the lockdown. The experience remains forever as a lesson of the importance of grieving.

What surprised you the most about business school? The diversity of IMD surprised me the most. Before I joined IMD, IMD’s diversity was just the number of nationalities on the brochure.

The reality of studying, working, and having fun with 37 different nationalities without a dominant culture is astonishing. Our differences came up in small things like how punctual one should be when attending a party or big things like geopolitical issues. Depending on the topic, it could be a friendly discussion, or it could trigger a heated debate. It is eye-opening when a stereotype is broken, or a mutual understanding based on cultural backgrounds is formed. Despite all the differences, we have one thing in common: we agree to disagree.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I do not think IMD chose me because of ONE thing I did during the application process. I feel the process, especially the IMD Assessment Day, is designed to evaluate the candidate as a person, rather than “a combination of factors A, B, and C.” Everyone is unique.

I enjoyed the interactions with the IMD admission office and I even became friends with my fellow candidates during the assessment day, enjoying Lausanne after such an intense experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Aurore Amaudruz. She is a bold leader with charisma. She has a talent for organizing social events and the confidence of being on the stage. Thanks to her, “The Princess of Lausanne,” the class had a wonderful year exploring Lausanne. She is an excellent alumna from EPFL, the world’s top engineering university, and a semi-professional Ski Mountaineering athlete.

I learned a lot from her. She brought me to local events right after I settled in Lausanne. Her humbleness and awareness inspired me in our Innovation Week team. We share our love for animals and sports. I admire her confidence in taking the initiative and her passion for taking care of others.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Thanks to IMD’s well-equipped IT infrastructure and professional office staff, I did not feel any disruption in switching to the online course. Of course, everyone has a learning curve, but the process was smooth and well prepared. Though having 8-10 hours of online classes every day is challenging, we spent much spare time on the lawns and in the Geneva Lake.

After we went back to campus and were split into two classes due to covid restrictions, the professors adjusted their agendas using discussions and teamwork to conduct courses in two separate classrooms simultaneously. The new teaching methods demanded high energy from professors since they could not have a single short break for the entire half-day. It was also demanding to manage the dynamics and the timings in the two classrooms while repeating the same content. We very much appreciated the efforts the professors and the MBA office put in to guarantee we could have the best experience.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The CEO of my previous company influenced me a lot. He was my mentor. He helped me clarify my motivation to pursue an MBA degree in Europe and provided resources to help me, such as connecting me with the alumni from different schools, pointing out the key questions that I needed to think about, and encouraging me as my secure base.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would like to be a leader who facilitates trust within an organization and between organizations. I also want to establish and develop a business that does good for human beings.

What made Haichen such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021? “With 6 years’ experience in operations in the financial technology industry, Haichen was an active class member and contributor winning the Prix Fondation Vaudoise pour la Formation Bancaire 2020 and graduating with Honors.

We are sure she will be successful and inspire others wherever she goes, we wish her all the best for the next chapter in her life.”

The MBA Team



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