2023 MBA To Watch: Karen Xi Manqi, CEIBS

Karen Xi Manqi

China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)

“Trilingual pragmatist with a terminal case of wanderlust and too many ideas for one lifetime.”

Hometown: Singapore, Singapore

Fun fact about yourself: My favourite movie remains The Matrix.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, UK

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Business Director, Focus Reports (Publisher of leading trade publications for the healthcare and energy industries)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Bayer Strategy & Business Consulting APAC, Shanghai office

Where will you be working after graduation? Bayer Strategy & Business Consulting APAC, Shanghai office

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
Leadership roles
Student Ambassador President and co-producer of the CEIBS MBA student podcast, Mapleside Chats
– President of INNOVATEChina2022 (flagship student-led business innovation competition)

School awards
– Outstanding Achievements Scholarship
– Global Ambassador Scholarship
– Community Service Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Pitching a healthcare theme for and then leading INNOVATEChina2022, the flagship CEIBS MBA student-led business innovation competition, as President. We successfully raised the necessary sponsorship for the USD 18,000 in cash prizes from well-regarded industry leaders like Boehringer Ingelheim, Qiming Ventures and Merck KGaA; formed strategic partnerships with global entities like McKinsey and the Galien Foundation; attracted very international participating teams; and produced our own Industry Guidebook – all with just a team of six and during severe lockdown restrictions in Shanghai. It was a very intense and challenging nine months, but we learnt so much and also had so much fun!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It may not be a single achievement per se, but in retrospect I am very proud of myself for having the courage to eschew the well-trodden paths of investment banking, consulting, and law after my undergraduate degree in 2015 to join a niche publishing company that no one had heard of. This decision allowed me to live and work in 10 countries on five continents in just six years, meet numerous Heads of States, make lifelong friends all over the world, hone my skills in sales and business development, and nurtured a deep interest in the healthcare sector. Not bad for an impulsive decision at the age of 21!

Why did you choose this business school? I had spent a year in 2019 covering the booming healthcare sector in China. After that year, I was convinced I needed to stay in China. China is already one of the top healthcare markets globally, though its pharmaceutical and biotech sectors are still nascent, and most importantly, there were serious unmet needs in the 1.3 billion people that live here. CEIBS is based in Shanghai and it has an extensive network (and probably the best within the Chinese healthcare sector, so it was really a no-brainer decision.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I would have to say Professor Eric Bouteiller, who is an adjunct professor at CEIBS. His background is quite distinctive, as he was an academic at HEC for many years before joining industry. During that time, he led the Chinese and Asian operations for a French specialty pharma player and was also actively involved with different industry associations. This meant that he had a very interesting combination of both academic principles and real-world insights, which made his courses very engaging and relevant. He is also a very dedicated educator and supporter of the MBA class. He has also contributed a significant amount of time, energy, and effort to support not only INNOVATEChina2022, but also other classmates in their questions about entering the pharma industry.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? I would say the Go-To-Market elective course taught by Professor Yi Xiang. Firstly, this was probably one of the topics taught at business school I was least familiar with, so I was fascinated. However, Professor Xiang is also a veteran professor with great command of all his cases (and also knew what happened after the events mentioned in the cases, which I often find to be the most interesting part). He was able to engage us very effectively in class and challenge our thinking in a constructive manner, and also had excellent classroom control.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Our annual ski trip in December – a third of my batch went to Jilin province together in the northeast and had a great time! It was an excellent bonding experience and really brought us closer to each other very early on in our MBA programme.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
Ultimately, I think I was quite intentional about my MBA experience and made conscious choices to do (or not do) what I did (or did not do). Looking back, there is not really anything I would do differently, because I did all that I could and wanted, given all the constraints I faced (e.g., I would have loved to have gone on overseas modules with my classmates, but the COVID situation made that impossible.)

What is the biggest myth about your school? I am sure different people have different perspectives, but I have heard very often that a negative aspect of CEIBS is the rigidity or inflexibility of the administration or programme in general. There is sometimes a lot of comparison with more established MBA programmes and business schools overseas. However, I think it is important to remember that the cultural and institutional settings of CEIBS and other business schools in other countries are very different. Learning to adapt and also to communicate well are important skills to learn during an MBA degree!

What did you love most about your business school’s town? For me, Shanghai absolutely ranks as one of the best and most exciting cities in the world to live in (despite the impact of COVID). It has the dynamism of New York, the history of London, and an almost unparalleled level of convenience that makes life very comfortable.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was fortunate enough to have met Professor Eric Bouteiller during my job posting to Shanghai in 2019, where I interviewed him as an industry expert for an industry publication I was producing. At that time, he was not yet a professor at CEIBS. When I made the decision to apply to CEIBS, I decided to ask him for a reference, which he kindly provided – I think this probably boosted my application!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? If I had to pick just one, I would have to say Edward Tang Longyi, who was vice-president of INNOVATEChina2022 and also the President of the CEIBS MBA Consulting Club. He was indispensable in the successful execution of the competition and his competence, warmth, and reliability are characteristics that I appreciate enormously. What I admire most, however, is the fact that he has managed to obtain his MBA degree (with active social and extracurricular participation) while remaining a devoted and responsible father of two and also contributing to his family business. An incredible feat of personal organisation and time management!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Firstly, I would like to see myself in the C-suite of a major healthcare multinational company one day to contribute to society via the development and deployment of innovative medical solutions. Secondly, having lived in Mexico for a year-and-a-half, I am passionate about the country and the Latin American region. I would like to see the business platform that I co-founded (TechLATAMAsia) support the flourishing of business and cultural ties between Latin America and Asia over the next few decades.

What made Karen such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Karen is a hard-working, talented and visionary student with already meaningful actions in bridging the different parts of the world. She exemplifies the motto of our school, “China Depth, Global Breadth.

On top of her good academic record, she has been very active in our school life. As an example, with a small team of classmates, she was able to re-boost INNOVATEChina, a student-led business innovation competition for the world’s leading business schools. The vision was to focus on Chinese innovation in healthcare that could be exported to the world, which is a new trend of the industry. Concretely, she has planned and executed the promotion, the funding, the content-building and an impeccable jury process. By itself, it is a major achievement. When taking into account the context, the result is exceptional. It was done during the very strict covid control imposed in Shanghai during 2022. Her resilience and motivational skills have been key to boost the morale of her team and connect and motivate student participants and industry leaders from around the world.

Her network, her willingness to support her classmates, and her drive for a purpose are an asset for the CEIBS community.”

Dr Eric Bouteiller
CEIBS Adjunct Professor of Management



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