Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Lordson Zeng, Wharton School

Lordson Zeng

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“The outsider. The defiant. The underdog. The resolute. The underrated. The go-getter. The gladiator.”

Hometown: Wuhan, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a 7-YEAR free diver and part-time scuba diving instructor, I have dived in 17 countries and coached 60 junior divers. And I’ve led my diving buddies to create an NGO named “Diving-Safe”, mitigating dive fatalities in 9 countries, especially those diving destination such as Palau Philippines, Mauritius, etc.

Undergraduate School and Major: EUROMED MARSEILLE Ecole de Management, Master of Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Les premiers Capital, Co-founder

What has been your first impression of the Wharton MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Wharton story so far. Wharton is definitely NOT that “financial school” you heard of. In our very first Alumni panel at Irvine Auditorium, we were asked, “Hey, so what do you do?”. This is how I break the ice: “I’m a rapper!”. Yes! You heard me right. I have a cohort buddy who actually is a full-time rapper! From that, you can imagine how diversified and inclusive Wharton is.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the Wharton School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? First keyword is program-fit. I already had an EMBA offer from Chicago Booth and several MBA offers from top 16 B-school, but I turned it all down. I want a two-year, full-time, immersive, 3D experience that is in sync with my tempo to reinvent myself with an entrepreneurship path in finance. I prefer the full-time program since it can offer me enough room to dive in, I mean not just academically, but professionally, culturally, and personally. Second keyword is culture-fit. On one hand, every business school brags about its culture and inclusion. However, I saw it firsthand that Wharton lives it. You know, never have I ever felt so heard, so included, and so appreciated in every conversation I’ve had during my visit to Jon M. Huntsman Hall. On the other hand, ‘Learning From Others’ was, is, and will always be my magic to keep opening numerous doors. To me, going to business school is about learning from others. So the culture matters the most. I chose Wharton because its tight, close-knit community that really resonates with me.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at the Wharton School? It’s Private Equity & Venture Capital Club. Faye Teng is the co-president of PE & VC Club, who happens to be one of my Leadership Fellows at MGMT 6100. Teng was not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. I’m so keen to Private Equity & Venture Capital Club for two points: one, PE & VC is my post-MBA career; two, to absorb more from Faye’s leadership.

When you think of the Wharton School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? DEI. Wharton fits my need to be a DEI-focused leader. You know, in a cross-ethnic and cross-functional team where I lead every day, I always want to create authentic chemistry, and I really value the intellectual wisdom from different backgrounds or different cultures. So how do you lead diversely? How to manage inclusively? That’s my focus towards leadership. And Wharton meets my need the most. For example, I hunger for joining the ‘Leadership Venture’. This will distinguish me to lead skillfully rather than just boss around, and Wharton provides a community where I can listen to, befriend, learn from, empathize with, and cherish every future business leader.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: By incubating a unicorn company for Alibaba, I decided to hatch my own one that could embody my perspective of a people-space prospect. And I developed my new cause at a new definition adhere to an old problem. The commuter in the space of s city beard two lasting problems: congestion and air pollution. Think of the commuter in a city as the customer in a mall and the urge to a destination as the gravitation to a store, and the route to pick in a city as the zoning we design for a mall. I thought it was a jackpot, so I rolled up my sleeves to feed our baby startup.

However, under cutthroat competitions in Asia, we lost 90% of our market share overnight. Losing sleep at night and losing cash flow in the day, I had an epiphany—I thought I was infallible and invincible, but I wasn’t. It’s time to unmask my weakness and show my vulnerability with candor to unlock new business possibilities from my teammates.

Unexpectedly, it’s my ‘brave’ teammates who leaned in first. They gave me solace by putting themselves in my shoes. They’ve created space for me, allowing me to take a breath and not need to wear my mask anymore. Afterward, I leveraged every coffee, every lunch, and every karaoke night to bond with everyone. During every brainstorming, I was frank with my shortcomings to show my curiosity and encouraged everyone to do the same; slowly, the genuineness and candor in me aroused that in my team. As a result, we’ve reconstructed our hierarchy with an open, equitable, inclusive, interdependent, and candid culture. As a team, we managed to follow the shifting wave from “Copy to China” to “Copy from China,” which enabled us to pivot to overseas markets as the very first Chinese bike-sharing vendor—that redefine my leadership style to believe in the “strength in numbers” and change the organization.

That year, I worshipped Elon Musk. I perused, re-perused, digested, and absorbed his thought-provoking “First Principle Theory.” I craved to build my “Tesla” in a broader space for more people. “We don’t need it. People come to Antigua just for tour.”—but nobody was interested in us when we went abroad. Frustrated but determined and activated, the Elon Musk in me was quick to respond—using a map to anatomize our transportation status quo, designing a spreadsheet to pinpoint its mismatch between demand and supply, and initiating a pitch to each client with customized product mix. It’s gratifying. Subsequently, one resort co-presented a new sightseeing service with us—a mountain bike with a helmet, a portable 4G-WIFI, and a map APP. By persuading all facilities to partner with – and trust them ultimately endorse us – I finally saw our bikes everywhere in Antigua. Although we dominated Antigua, I decided to release the shark in me since I’ve smelt the blood—globalization. Then we penetrated Japan with sharing baby-strollers and France with sharing scooters. Seeing our little bikes bring all human beings smile, I was ineffably gratified and harvested one principle from my journey: under a worldwide uncertainty, self-awareness, self-management, and self-growth is my bedrock to be a worldwide leader.

What do you hope to do after graduation (at this point)?  Post-MBA, I’ll join BlackRock or Vanguard Group, chairing the real estate fund as a regional head, a role that will polish my managerial readiness and investment savvy to the C-suite level. That experience is a bedrock towards my long-term goal of founding my own real estate mutual fund to reinvigorate real estate eventually.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? It would be Give and Take, a book from Wharton’s top-rated professor, organizational psychologist, and author Adam Grant. The book delves into case studies, research, and anecdotes to illustrate how these different reciprocity styles play out in various contexts. Grant provides insights on how to become more effective givers without falling into the pitfalls of burnout or exploitation. He suggests strategies for identifying takers, protecting oneself from excessive giving, and fostering a culture of reciprocity in organizations.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford GSB, Columbia, MIT, HBS, and Kellogg.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Wharton School’s MBA program? Be Genuine. Be yourself in your application. Admissions committees appreciate authenticity and unique perspectives.

DON’T MISS: MEET WHARTON’S MBA CLASS OF 2025

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