Q&A with CEIBS MBA 2017 Leela Greenberg
What is your earliest memory of being interested in China?
As strange as it may sound, my interest in China arose from a fascination with ancient philosophers like Laozi. I used to have a bilingual version of the DaoDeJing and I would stare at the Chinese side, wanting to understand its vertical, right to left lines. Essentially, it was language, specifically classical Chinese, which initially attracted me to China and lifted one corner of a world I have been exploring ever since.
How did you balance improving your fluency in Mandarin with preparing to take the GMAT and then your MBA studies?
While preparing for the GMAT, I was still working full time developing international programs for a private academy in the U.S., mostly engaging stakeholders in China. Often this required using Chinese, thus at work I had the opportunity to improve my Mandarin. At home, I prepared my GMAT and MBA applications.
Aside from Mandarin and English do you speak any additional languages? If so what are the unique challenges of learning Mandarin?
I speak Klingon very well and utilized it to its fullest this past ComicCon, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Just kidding, but I do speak Spanish. They say Chinese takes four times as long as Spanish to learn, but they also say that learning any language is a lifelong process. I believe that, on both counts. Mandarin is simpler in terms of grammar but because of that, it also creates stumbling blocks: inflection makes things more efficient, but challenges the Germanic or Latin-based language speaker to forget rules ingrained over a lifetime. Chinese characters and tones also present a medley of challenges as you train your brain and voice to clear new hurdles.
What are your post MBA plans?
My dream company? Definitely Alibaba! Why? I want to continue helping China grow and develop in the rest of the world. My ideal position will be as the international link for a Chinese multinational expanding in the USA or Latin America. For my internship I worked for Shanghai-based IoT start-up Bowhead Technology (巨鲸网络科技上海有限公司), founded by a former Alibaba Group VP. I am now with Bowhead as their U.S. marketing director. I act as liaison between international partners and China HQ, as well as providing strategic oversight and PR support as they move toward mass market adoption, first via e-commerce, and then in retail.
What are the advantages for international MBA alumni with Mandarin language skills in the job market?
The axis of global business is rotating east. On a macro level, in the past, MNCs entered China and international MBAs with Mandarin skills were useful to enter this new but isolated market; now, MNCs are originating in China and expanding globally, thus MBAs with Mandarin skills are crucial to navigate between multiple world regions and headquarters in China.
Why should Chinese Studies graduates consider an MBA?
Positioning. By speaking Chinese, you have a unique differentiator in the job market. There are many opportunities for Chinese-speaking MBAs, and also plenty of strong entrepreneurial paths requiring business basics and Chinese language skills.
Which exam did you find harder; the GMAT or the HSK?
What excites you most about China’s future on the global stage?
It’s exciting to see the hegemony of the United States, which lasted nearly 200 years, being nudged by China. Having a front seat to this interplay of global superpowers is among the perks and privilege of studying at CEIBS and doing business in China. The opportunity to act as a translator between these two nations — linguistically and figuratively — at a crucial time in history is exhilarating.
What has been the biggest impact of the CEIBS MBA on your career to date?
The CEIBS brand is a gateway to unexpected business opportunities and increasingly appears on the international radar. One recent example took place while I was on exchange at IESE in Barcelona. An IESE alumnae working for the Prime Minister of the UAE contacted me to ask about CEIBS. Their team then decided that we were the best school to represent Asia. The result? This February, a CEIBS delegation of 20 students will join Harvard, IESE, MIT and Wharton students to participate in the high-profile World Government Summit in Dubai. As an American CEIBS student who speaks Chinese, I will have the privilege of leading this group.