2022 MBA To Watch: Xi Kang, INSEAD

Xi Kang


“Logical, empathetic, passionate and conscientious.”

Hometown: Beijing, China

Fun fact about yourself: I once wore prescription swimming goggles for a whole day including a flight from Mexico to New York. You can’t imagine how cool other people found me.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S. in Applied Physics, Beijing Institute of Technology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Assistant Policy Officer at the Diplomatic Mission of the European Union to China (European Commission)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Haven’t decided yet

Where will you be working after graduation? Haven’t yet decided but likely to be relevant to healthcare

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: It is not yet available at this stage, but I will actively seek leadership roles later, most likely at INSEAD’s healthcare club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? What I am proud of myself is learning how to work in a team full of diversity, which is done through everyday group discussion and assignment, and via a unique course named “Personal Leadership Development Program” – or PLDP in short. PLDP pairs a coach for each study group and conducts group and individual sessions to help me better understand my strengths and weaknesses in personal development, how I want to address them during MBA, and the goals to achieve by the end of this journey. It systematically puts together my reflections on individual performance and team dynamics and sets tangible targets for attainment at each stage of my MBA. Comparatively speaking, I am more comfortable working in team settings and dealing with differences and conflicts, which is a big takeaway I can hardly get from anywhere else.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? And why? Helping about a thousand student visa applicants avoid the distress of visa refusal is something I am most proud of in my career. As once an immigration official, I handled visa refusals every day. But I will never forget the call from a young girl who cried over the phone for half an hour. She misinterpreted a financial requirement in the immigration rules, resulting in her visa refusal. She missed her matriculation deadline, and her life plan was disrupted.

Since then, I could not get her crying out of my thinking. As many similar cases emerged, I felt obliged to make a change. Through difficult conversations with the people behind those refusals, I figured out the root cause. Applicants struggle to understand the immigration rules esoterically written. At the same time, different banking practices between the two countries further confuse them. To address it, I convinced my supervisor to support an initiative I led right before the next student season. I translated and explained the confusing rules in layperson language, provided examples on how to meet the rules, and got the message out on social media. Results indicate a 60% decrease of refusals on the same ground, approximately equal to a thousand students who have avoided the dismay of life disruption. It matters hugely to me professionally and personally because I have made an actual impact on the lives of many. It also shows how empathy can be the key to resolving conflict and bridging differences.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose INSEAD for its diversity. It is not a concept or a marketing phrase but is reflected in every bit of the design in the program.

* There is no dominant culture in our student body, so I won’t feel like a minority in the community. Actually, in a sense, we all are a minority here to embrace new cultures and celebrate our differences.

* Coming from a non-business background, fits in the program is a concern. Does the program truly welcome candidates with diverse profiles? During the application stage, I tell that from the admission essay questions. Although that INSEAD asks a bit more than its peer programs, I feel I can better describe myself in those essay questions – who excel at work and learn from mistakes, and have the passion for making changes outside of my profession.

* I always wanted to learn Spanish, for travel and new cultures. As INSEAD has a third language requirement which requires an A2 level on a third language before graduation, I would love to take the opportunity to get on with language learning.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is Professor Pushan Dutt, who teaches us Prices & Markets (Microeconomics). He somehow gets this magic to teach the dry economic theories with real examples and applications, which I find very enlightening. From economics crisis to oil price volatility to product pricing strategy, I have learned so much, and I love his way of teaching. He makes complicated economic theories live and vivid to me.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA tradition here is the INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC). I came to know about it before joining INSEAD through now an alumnus. When she was about to participate in the IVC, we discussed her business idea. It was intense and fun to experience the multi-stage event designed for aspiring entrepreneurs. The winner can even be awarded EUR 60K support for developing their venture. The 44th IVC is about to take place in the coming month, and I can’t wait to join.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about INSEAD is that everyone loves parties here, and academics are not so important. You know what? It is NOT the case. It requires a lot of effort to take up six core courses, finish them in one period (approx. two months), and balance everything with case preparation and job interviews. It is particularly true for someone like me who is not from a business background. If you are someone who longs for intellectual challenges and excels at multitasking, you should come to INSEAD.

What surprised you the most about business school? Again, I would say diversity. Yes, I know how much I have talked about it, but you don’t have a full experience until you are present on campus. Take my study group as an example. As diverse as one can imagine, my study group comprises five people, with six nationalities, and from three continents. Each of us has distinct experiences from consulting and corporate to government and start-ups. We don’t always agree on things, but we all learn a lot by working through our differences. I bet it’d be difficult to get that experience anywhere else in my life, so I am to maximize the learnings before embarking new career. The lifelong friendship and learning built upon our diversity will be a treasure to all of us.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Reflection, reflection, and reflection. It is not something nice to have but a must. I do not settle for telling all the stories about success and failure. I dig deep and ask myself a series of questions. Why do I do that and say that? What is the motive behind my decisions? What are the factors I have or have not considered? How does that tell about me? What is something I hold dear to, and what are those I find truly excited about (by which I define as something I am willing to dedicate extra time and effort into)?

From a practical perspective, reflection helps one write essays with breadth and depth. More importantly, it generates critical insights that are unlikely to change over time. It will give you a better sense of who you are and compass you to find your passion in life better.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Since I embarked on my journey of INSEAD MBA, the challenge of balancing competing priorities among coursework, job-hunting, and networking has always given me a headache. In this regard, the one I admire the most is Ying HE. Like me, she takes the full load of coursework, which is very intensive already, and actively explores new opportunities in her career transition. On top of all those, she also takes up a huge family responsibility with a newborn, who always needs her attention and care. I admire her multitasking as no one has enough time to do everything, yet she somehow manages to pull things off.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Patients and their families I have seen in the hospital have influenced my decision to pursue an MBA. I was once in a serious medical situation, for which I received a 5-hour surgery and took a year of physical rehabilitation to recover. When I frequently visited hospitals, I was surprised to learn just the sheer numbers of patients who desperately want to regain health and enjoy lives as they used to do. It is them, that moment and my own experience collectively have convinced me that I want a career in healthcare. So how do I make such a transition at the age of early 30? Getting an MBA is undoubtedly one of the best options. It gives me a platform to learn the knowledge, join networks, and be prepared to pivot into corporates/consulting in healthcare. These all contribute to my ultimate goal: to help patients and families relieve pain and live their lives to the fullest.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? There is only one. I want to craft and market solutions (either medical devices or healthcare services) in physical rehabilitation that would relieve pain and help post-op patients and seniors gain improved mobility so that they can live their life to the fullest with no limitation.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? One is that you never know what will happen tomorrow and how it will impact your life, so be flexible. Have a focus and be ready to explore and take alternatives. I would not have chosen to pursue MBA should there not be a pandemic. But here I am, sharing my story at the library of INSEAD Asia Campus in Singapore. Who would tell that!

The pandemic also strengthens my aspiration to do something impactful, which I define and measure by how others would benefit from what I do. When China was hit hard by the pandemic, doctors, nurses, and community workers devoted themselves 100% to keeping everyone safe and healthy. Their courage and dedication inspired me so much, and I cannot stop pondering what that is for me, which I am fortunate to find in healthcare, specifically tackling aging society. A career in such will provide me with the greatest satisfaction and meaning. That is why I chose INSEAD to prepare myself and make the pivot.

What made Xi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“The Admissions Committee appreciated the fact that Xi had an unconventional career path and the fact that he spent 2 years fighting for veteran survivor benefits unfairly denied. Xi is willing to create a positive impact on others and society matters to him. He is also a violin player and was an orchestra manager which is not something the Admissions Committee often sees in applications.”

Virginie Fougea
Global Director of Admissions & Financial Aid



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.