Ren Yan: In the company of outstanding people

Volume 2, 2019

By Lü Zongshu and Lilly Zhang

The first time she meets all 63 CEIBS students, who have joined her class from many different cities across the country, she can accurately address each of them by name (a special skill all CEIBS class coordinators have to master).

She’s so familiar with CEIBS professors that when introducing them to students, she can effortlessly provide all their information: names, alma mater, past experience, research areas, where their key papers were published, what positions they concurrently hold in the business world and companies to which they have provided consulting services.

Born in Chongqing, she is a graduate of Renmin University. She has never been a teacher, but has won respect and affection from dozens of students who are at least 10 years her senior.

Her nickname is Daodao, which literally means knife. And though the moniker may bring to mind images of a fierce character from a Chinese martial arts novel, once you get to know her you will find a soft-spoken and humble lady.

She is Ren Yan, the coordinator for CEIBS EMBA 2017 Shenzhen Class Two.

Joining CEIBS

Although she had years of work experience before joining CEIBS Shenzhen campus in June 2017, Ren humbly describes herself as just a ‘rookie’ at CEIBS. Indeed, she is relatively new compared to some class coordinators who have spent over 10 years with the school. She is grateful for CEIBS’ systematic talent training model that helped her to quickly familiarize herself with the workflow when she came on board, and integrate with the rest of school.

Ren is equally impressed by the level of preparation done to welcome new students. By the time she got around to face-to-face meetings with the members of EMBA 2017 Shenzhen Class Two, three rehearsals ensured that all the venues and participants were ready, so that everything could go smoothly for their first day. If she had questions, she could contact her mentor at any time. “CEIBS has mature and systematic standards in talent training and daily operations, and through new employee training provided by senior employees, the information in the staff handbook, rehearsals of critical events and other methods, new hires can be trained to become qualified employees within a short period of time,” she explains.

With such standards in place, new staff can quickly know their benchmarks and how they can improve. “You can know where the lines for being merely qualified and being excellent are. Even if you can’t reach the highest standard, you still have clear goals in mind. This is probably an implementation of CEIBS’ motto of Conscientiousness, Innovation, and Excellence,” she adds.

CEIBS class coordinators have a skill dubbed ‘face recognition’, an epitome of the high professional standards to which class coordinators are held. It isn’t easy to memorize all the students’ names and faces in advance, using only photos provided at the time of application, especially when some of these photos were taken a long time ago. It requires a lot of work from each class coordinator before school starts. “Even though it’s a small detail, we believe that a good first impression can give students a smooth start in their life and study at CEIBS,” explains Ren.

This personal touch has received positive feedback from students. Many later recall the warmth they felt — and surprise — when class coordinators greeted them by name at their first meeting. Their sense of being in a strange new environment disappeared, replaced by a sense of belonging… to CEIBS.

The same approach was taken in committing to memory vital information about faculty. To facilitate memorization, Ren would reclassify professor profiles according to their educational background, teaching experience or research results.

But that’s just one small part of her job as a class coordinator. Ren believes that, just as the word ‘coordinator’ suggests, the most important qualities of the job — such as communication skills, empathy and comprehension and reasoning skills — are all related to coordination. At the same time, the job demands being detail-oriented and responsible, because programme-related tasks have high requirements for attention to detail.

 “We sometimes joke that the class coordinator job requires both the traits of an extrovert and an introvert. Class activities and programme support have almost completely different personality requirements. So if class coordinators take the MBTI [personality] test, many of them will probably receive a medium score in the E-I dimension – that is, they are somewhere between being an extravert and an introvert.”

Plant a phoenix tree to attract phoenix

EMBA 2017 Shenzhen Class Two, for which Ren is the coordinator, has a poetic nickname: Class of Wutong (phoenix trees). The name is derived from an old Chinese saying, “plant a phoenix tree, and phoenix will arrive”. It’s also the first class that enrolled after the Shenzhen campus relocated to the Wutong Industrial Park in 2017. Class of Wutong, as the name suggests, is a gathering of gallant individuals who, despite years of hard work, still have dreams that are dear to their hearts. They bring their questions about daily management into the classrooms, in the hopes of actually learning something and improving their skills. They are also full of energy whether they are engaged in work, study, sports or leisure.

Working with students who are generally older than she is, Ren thinks growth and challenges go hand in hand. She often reminds herself to keep an open mind while remaining true to herself, even as she constantly learns from students. If they provide good advice and suggestions, she actively thinks of how to implement their suggestion in order to improve existing procedures.

She is especially touched by the spirit of community and team spirit among Wutong Class students. When one student’s business unexpectedly ran into trouble, his classmates supported and cared for him throughout the crisis. Students maintain a closely knit community by actively organizing and participating in major class events such as study tours, visits and gala celebrations. They have all contributed to the Wutong Class fund, which is now up and running, ensuring that they have enough resources for regular class gatherings after graduation.

What Ren likes most about the job is that it helps her meet and engage with outstanding people. “Students, colleagues and professors (at CEIBS) are all outstanding people, and there are so many things to learn from them. This may sound like a cliché, but it’s how I really feel,” she says.