Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Amy Xu, Harvard Business School

Amy Xu

Harvard Business School

“I always try to spark changes that end up at least sometimes good.”

Hometown: Plano, Texas / Hangzhou, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: When I volunteered in the Andean mountains of Peru, the only way to reach some villages during rainy season was by horse. One ride, I likely saved my life by jumping off a running horse, when it saw a herd of wild horses and suddenly chased after them at full gallop. Adding salt to injury, I later had to spend hours finding the horse since I had borrowed him.

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Business Administration & Master of Public Accounting from University of Texas at Austin

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: BOGE Rubber & Plastics Group – Head of Strategy

What word best describes the Harvard Business School students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? I would say the recurring theme is that there’s not one way to describe everyone I’ve met so far. I encounter people with vastly different personalities, backgrounds, and aspirations daily. What is fascinating is that I also don’t sense pressure to conform to a single quality – people know themselves well and are steadfast in their own pursuit. It is quite inspiring to hang out with such a crowd as it gives me courage to be myself and stay true to my goals.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? In my job in corporate strategy, I’m constantly selling my view and ideas to internal and external stakeholders (company executives, shareholder, investors etc.); I found that the ability to quickly and articulately communicate a view in simple words is crucial. Additionally, the problems in the cases are like the problems we face in the real world: often we have limited information, not so much time to decide, and a lot at stake. In today’s dynamic world, managers need to make such difficult decisions constantly, and I definitely believe training from the case method will set me up to become a more effective leader.

Aside from your classmates and cases, what was the key part of Harvard Business School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was drawn to HBS due to its global recognition and network. I’m not sure where I’ll be living in ten years, but I know I can tap into the HBS community regardless of where I go.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Harvard Business School I’m excited about Women’s Student Association. As a female manager in auto industry in a small German town, I was often the only or highest-ranking woman in the room. Gender equity is a topic close to my heart. I’m also excited to further grow my interest in sailing through the Sailing Club. It was hard to not take a liking to it as I lived so close to the Dutch border.

When you think of Harvard Business School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Leadership. Not leadership in terms of the title one holds, but in the sense of driving for impact and having the courage to challenge the status quo and the social responsibility in improving something around you.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of my proudest accomplishments would be helping a traditional German auto company adjust to drastic changes in industry and setup innovation mindset and team — so much so we identified synergies in sports industry.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Having lived on four continents, I always felt like a global citizen. However, COVID-19 really made me see just how interconnected and small the world has become. No one can really shut the door and stay away. It takes global effort to find a solution. I also saw how vulnerable and resilient people can be under unexpected changes as I worked to help our company survive global supply chain shock and volunteered to help marginalized groups such as new immigrants access information and care and to connect PPE supply with demand across different countries.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I was fortunate to be in auto industry when it’s facing disruptive changes. My role allowed me to be deeply involved in coming up with and implementing product portfolio change, global footprint shift, business model change, and company cultural change. Yet I also saw how much struggle incumbent players face, and I feel it is time to elevate my practical experience with more systematic training. Currently, the plan is to return to auto after graduation, but I’m definite open to explore since I’ve dedicated all my career to manufacturing, and a different perspective may be enlightening.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Darden, Fuqua

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Harvard Business School’s MBA program? Many people mention don’t set boundaries, and I’d like to repeat that. I once thought myself as an atypical candidate with more work experience. Coming from a “nonfeeder” industry or company, I almost self-selected out of applying. In the end, there’s no harm in trying. Also, it’s important to be authentic – that way, there’s no regret regardless of the outcome. I was working on many iterations of my essay and navigating many people’s advice until a couple days before the deadline. That’s when I scraped everything and just rewrote the whole essay with what I’ve always wanted to say. MBA application provides a rare opportunity for self-reflection and understanding, and treating it with sincerity can facilitate a lot of growth.


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