Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Chao Fang, IMD Business School

Chao Fang

IMD Business School

“A global citizen trying to be a bridge connecting the east and the west.”

Hometown: Nanchong, China

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I enjoy picking up a new hobby or learning something new to challenge myself every year. I have practiced ballet for the last two years and plan to continue the practice, and now I am learning to crack business cases at IMD. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. in the future; who knows?

Undergraduate School and Major: Xi’an International Studies University, Bachelor of Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Alibaba Russia, Operation Advisor (Business Development)

What has been the best part of being in a small class with this group of classmates, known for their talent and versatility? The best part of being in small class for me is the bonding and the curiosity encouraged by the diversified backgrounds and experiences of my classmates.

Before the summer break, I worked in seven different teams on group projects, simulation assignments or integrated exercises. With each one, I experienced new team dynamics and gained diverse perspectives. It has been an interesting and challenging journey that has made me more curious. The more I get to know my classmates and develop connections with them, the more I realize how much I am learning from them.

Aside from classmates, what part of IMD’s MBA programming led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The focus on general management and leadership is one of the most important reasons why I chose IMD.

Working for about eight years in China for Walmart China and about four years in Russia for Alibaba, I analyzed my skill set and identified where I could bridge what I saw as gaps. I had encountered a very different cultural background and working environment in Russia, prompting me to search for an MBA where I could develop as a leader and gain a wider international perspective.

The one-year MBA is a good fit for me, well into my career, as it enables me to focus on leadership and general management. The whole experience is exposing me to different cultures and ways of communicating and interacting with people, and it is allowing me to address the gaps I identified.

IMD is known for academic rigor. What is one strategy you used that would help a future IMD MBA better adapt to the workload early on? Getting ready by reading the books or documents as early as you can is highly recommended. Other than that, I’d suggest being realistic and mindful of what you want to get out of the program and finding a way to manage your time and the result accordingly.

I am a curious person and I am enjoying the learning opportunity this year in this beautiful city is offering me. I’d like to take every minute to learn and to talk with people, however how I manage time for academic commitments, especially for group assignments, is vital.

In particular, these are some strategies I used to manage time and results:

  1. Prioritize tasks based on the urgency of the deadline.
  2. Communicate with team members and balance academic commitments and group ones.
  3. Where necessary, look for other ways to maximize learning, such as skim reading.
  4. Take care of myself – you can only achieve something if you are well and happy.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment in my career was to develop fashion categories from scratch in Alibaba Moscow Office and to manage the growth of GMV in 3 digits two years in a row despite the pandemic. I worked closely with my colleagues across the China headquarters and Russia office to identify the business opportunity. It was an unforgettable experience making business plans, communicating with brands, getting them on board, and developing them step by step.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at IMD so far: My biggest accomplishment at IMD so far is to have developed my self-awareness in many aspects, for instance, what triggers my emotions and why I react in a certain way. IMD provides an environment where I work with different teams for different projects. I receive feedback from professors, alumni, and peers and also have regular meetings with my IMD psychological analyst who is helping me better understand myself. We are all biased in some ways because of our upbringing, cultural background, etc. Thanks to IMD, I know where I come from, and this is an important starting point to build effective leadership in my point of view.

Where is your favorite hang-out in Lausanne? Why do you (and your classmates) gravitate there? Lac Leman, the lake next to the campus, is my favorite hang-out (although especially in the beginning, we hung out quite often in the White Horse bar and the Lacustre restaurant). There is a beautiful running route along the lake where I started to run with my classmates during the summer break. I really enjoy the view of the mountains and the lake and wish I had done this earlier!

What do you hope to do after graduation? My long-term goal for my career and my life is to live a fulfilling life and make an impact.

My short-term plan is to work for a multi-national company with a global presence, ideally in Europe, for a few years. I am also in touch with IMD alumni working in Chinese charity organizations as I’d like to initialize a project of social impact in the future, especially around education. As the first generation who went to university and got educated, I can’t be more aware of how important education is.

What has been your best memory at IMD thus far? The leadership experiential lab in February was one of my best memories at IMD so far. We had the chance to observe our reactions and behaviors in a group setting and a safe environment. I learned far more than I expected about myself and my fellow classmates. The experience provided me with a glimpse into my leadership style and what I could do to improve myself to be helpful to a team. It was intense and it was a wake-up call! From there, I started exploring and building my self-awareness as a leader.

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