6 New GEMBAs and Their Decisions to Return to School

Every autumn, CEIBS welcomes new students for the Global EMBA programme. This year, sixty business elites, highly successful but still facing challenges from both their personal and professional lives, come to the same life-changing decision: to come back to academia, where they can explore ways to make new breakthroughs.

There is a Chinese saying: at the age of forty, one understands the world. For the new students, the true understanding is about themselves - to stop worrying about the “challenges” and “crises” and to better manage their own lives and careers.

Let’s have a look at the stories of 6 of them!


“I need to break out of the same thinking, be challenged by others and get to a different way of thinking.”
Greg Harbin is an Apple fan himself, but it's not because he has worked for the Apple almost 10 years. His journey as a fan of Apple started much earlier. At the age of 8, the year when Steve Jobs founded Apple, Greg owned his first Apple product. In high school, when his classmates were busy saving money to buy cars, he spent all he had in the piggy bank for his first Mac.

With rich supply chain management experience in Nissha and Motorola, this Apple fan successfully joined Apple in 2008, in the Manufacturing Design and Operations Department. Most companies have functional rotations for their employees; however, Apple tends to have a different approach. Apple, with its entrepreneurial culture, encourages its employees to develop their career path within a single direction but in great depth. This allows the employees to grasp a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to succeed in each role. Greg feels privileged to have been so consistent in the same role and recognizes its value to his own development. “Different roles take different amounts of time to develop yourself deeply. A lot of people don’t have the commitment to do it.”

Greg’s persistence and hard work paid off. He was promoted to Senior Director within three years since his last promotion, which is a rare case in Apple. “If I did rotations in marketing or different areas, certainly I wouldn’t have been so effective.” In 2012, based on Greg’s former network and work experience in Nissha, he helped Apple to get through a crisis which contributed to the successful launch of the iPad mini.

However, in Greg’s perspective, working in the same role for a long time carries the risk of trapping himself into the same thinking. He wants to get out of the box. With that in mind, he decided to study at CEIBS. He expects to share his experience with others, be challenged and get to a different way of thinking. “I have passion for leadership. I want to understand the difference between what I perceive as leadership and how Asia and China perceives it. Then I want to understand how to bridge the gap,” he said.

Greg would like to equip himself with valuable skills in order to improve himself, serve the community and Apple China.  “You’re never too old to learn”.  That is why he chose the CEIBS Global EMBA.


“My advantage is that I can design specific HR actions according to what the business needs, which push the business forward.”
Lina Yu was born in Zhejiang Province, where business people are renowned for their high risk-taking entrepreneurship. She was influenced by this atmosphere and it led her to a colourful career life — even though she has been continuously working for Schindler Group since 2006. During these years, Lina spent her creative energy in different positions, among them participating in building the EHS department, coordinating the planning and realising of the China Growth Strategy, implementing People Strategy and building talent framework, or expanding the territory of the company’s digital business (which she is doing now).

During her position in the China Strategic Project Office, Lina also worked as the Key Account Manager for field operations. She started to realise how people are important to the organization, and wanted to leverage the company’s human capabilities to provide better service to the customers. In 2012, Lina was transferred to the HR department.

“I’m not from HR originally, nor did I have any specific HR experience, so challenges naturally arose during the settling period. My advantage is that I can design specific HR actions according to what the business needs, which will push the business forward further.” Lina led the HR team of Schindler China Field Operations build up their Talent Framework, and they started the tailored leadership program for their branches' General Managers and future leaders. Lina feels proud of these achievements.

“I feel especially grateful to Schindler’s culture of people development, which has given me the opportunity to experience different possibilities.” Lina said that one of her purposes of taking the Global EMBA is to summarise these business experiences that she has gained through working at different positions in Schindler. Another important motivation for her is a deep curiosity in the subject of Organisational Behaviour: “The behaviours and culture of an organisation is a major determinant of whether the strategy and business plan of a company can succeed or not.” After comparing the Organisational Behaviour course provided by different business schools, Lina chose the Global EMBA programme of CEIBS.


“I believe that GEMBA will allow me to become a rounded global leader.”

With a strong command of multiple languages and a dual degree in International Relations and Commerce, Vanessa's first work experience was connected to the political arena, as she worked in the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington D.C. and in the United States of America Embassy in Madrid.

Vanessa always had a great sensitive touch for fashion, which stimulated her passion in the exciting fashion industry, where she started to work at Hugo Boss right after her time at the US Embassy. Soon after, she joined Grupo Cortefiel (at that time the #2 fashion retail group in Spain) and worked for two years as senior buyer.

Vanessa’s long-time curiosity and passion for China drove her to Shanghai, where she joined H&M in 2008. Since then, she has been in H&M with multiple roles with increasing responsibility.

Currently, Vanessa is the Global Purchasing Assortment Manager and is responsible for the global menswear assortment. She manages an international team of more than 50 people located in multiple countries around the globe.
“The open-minded atmosphere and diverse working environment at H&M matches my own values and has allowed me to grow as a people and business leader.”
Vanessa’s motivation for joining CEIBS is to be in a global Business School with a leading and multicultural faculty and alumni. She expects the GEMBA to accelerate her growth as a global leader.
“CEIBS Global EMBA will provide me a broader vision of the world and China, whilst equipping myself with the network and skills required be a successful leader in this fast changing business environment,” she said.



“I’m a professional manager, and also a mother. I want to be a role model for my kids.”
In 2003, just 1 year after her graduation, Joyce Yuan stood out among the many applicants and joined GE’s Financial Management Program (FMP), which accepts only 10 trainees each year worldwide. After 2 years of training, Joyce’s excellent performance won her the ticket to another GE’s elite programme - Corporate Audit Staff (CAS), during which she worked in different positions across GE’s global locations as auditor and project leader. It was also during this period that she became the first female in GE to be sent to the Middle East from China, helping to build the local auditing teams there. Currently, Joyce is the Executive Controller of GE Healthcare, which is GE’s largest and most profitable (USD 2 billion each year) business in China.

Joyce describes her experience in GE as “Ascending as a helicopter”, but not without pressures. In 2008, at the age of 28, Joyce was in charge of a team with members at least 5 years older than her. She had to work with them in a negotiation with the local government in Chengdu regarding the establishment of a new local office. “I was actually terrified, because they were far more experienced than me.” Joyce said.

Joyce's secret of success is to communicate actively and not to worry about making mistakes - as long as she can make timely corrections and then avoid them in future. Meanwhile, she actively sought ways to make up her own shortcomings: when she realised her weakness in managing primary level financial works back in 2011, she requested to work in a remote factory in Xiaoshan, Hangzhou as the head of finance of the Asian supply chain.

The greatest motivation that brings Joyce back to business school is her eagerness to explore the world outside GE. “Such a prolonged experience in GE has become both an advantage and a disadvantage for me.” She didn’t hide the fact that she is now a bit lost after all those years in GE: should she still work in finance or move into another sector, such as operations? “Maybe my career won’t change dramatically, but at least I have two years to widen my eyes and learn more, which may inspire me in terms of organising my future life, both personal and professional.”

Joyce said that being able to study in CEIBS Global EMBA programme at this age is a present for herself with great support from her husband. Though she always thought about coming back to academia, their busy work and personal schedules kept preventing her from doing so. Thanks to her husband’s continuous support and encouragement, she finally made the decision. As a mother of two children, Joyce looks forward to making her life more interesting, so she can be a role model for her kids.

“The career pathways for engineers and managers are not completely unrelated nor on opposite sides. They could be integrated.”
One day, on the way to the airport with his retired boss, Wenjie Wang again expressed his gratefulness to his boss who once supported him for a promotion. In return, the boss replied in a serious manner, “Wenjie, I did not choose you because we have known each other for 10 years. It was for the benefits of the company - you were the best among all the candidates.”

Wenjie felt awakened by this comment. He realised that the company and the seniors are always observing; the selection process for promotion had already started even before you noticed it. Wenjie clearly remembered that within ten minutes of the announcement of his promotion, congratulation emails from the seniors had already filled up his mailbox.

This year marks Wenjie’s tenth anniversary in Honeywell. It is in this company Wenjie experienced the most important change in his career: switching from an engineer to a manager. In August 2014, he became the APAC IT Director and CIO of Honeywell (China). “The career pathways for engineers and managers are not completely unrelated nor on opposite sides. They could be integrated.” Wenjie encouraged engineers to try wider possibilities with their skill-sets and create a more powerful influence.

His advice is that our careers should not only be about the work itself; we need to think ahead and set higher goals. Wenjie emphasized the importance of strategic career planning. He said that companies not only value loyalty and stability of an employee, but also the ability to plan and evaluate his or her career, because people with strategic thinking can go further in the longer term than those who are short-sighted.

Speaking of the reason that brought him back to the books at this stage of his life, Wenjie said that it is a result of many coincidences. When Wenjie learned from Professor Jack Wood’s Opening Leadership Module that people would experience a new change every 2.5 to 3.5 years, he suddenly realised that this year is exactly the third after he moved back to China to work: “Maybe my sub-consciousness has felt the change.” Of course, Wenjie hopes to use this opportunity to summarise his business practices so far: “I have many on-the-spot experiences that will need time to be sorted and summarised into a systematic way of thinking. The process is not as easy as I once imagined, but sometimes you need to prove your thoughts.”

And this is Wenjie Wang, who loves to talk about arts and “the quality of touch”, who trusts his sub-consciousness, who is both an ex-engineer and a senior executive.



“Where should I go? Is there any other possibility in my career and personal life?” 
“Where should I go? Is there any other possibility in my career and personal life as the second generation of a family business?” Jing Li has been asking this question to herself for the past few years. This is serious for her, especially after having given birth to two children, which to a great extent disrupted her professional life.

Jing is the daughter of Mr. Shouxiang Li, founder and chairman of Shunjie Group, a famous construction company in Shanghai. After her overseas studies, Jing came back to China in 2007 and started working for the family business. She started from the bottom, but rose up gradually through her own efforts, and finally became one of the members in the management team. Meanwhile, she kept seeking business opportunities for the company, and became the intermediary of several material brands involved in the company’s construction projects. In 2009, Jing spearheaded the foundation of Shunjie Group’s purchasing platform — Jingdian Trading.

Recalling her career, Jing said that she has kept looking for her place in the family business, for which she keeps working hard. However, after experiencing some challenges from various projects, she started to feel like she had stagnated. During this time, she also became the mother of two children, a role which requires great responsibility. And that was when Jing started to ask: where should I go? Is there any other possibility in my career and personal life?

Only 8 months after the birth of her second child, Jing decided to join CEIBS. She hopes to find some answers to her concerns through studying and communicating with her excellent classmates. Jing found the leadership knowledge she just learned during the opening module very useful. The 1 to 1 coaching sessions encouraged her to face issues in life directly and to tackle them actively. “I want to find myself!” This is the task Jing now works on and which she is determined to accomplish.

Of course, Jing is also deeply motivated by her eagerness to study management. She had already heard that the Global EMBA programme in CEIBS delivers rich and deep academic content. In fact, this was the reason she chose CEIBS among the many business schools. As always, the 2017 Shanghai cohort of the Global EMBA is an international community with highly diverse backgrounds. Jing looks forward to studying together with people from all around the world. She would like to widen her business perspective, to gain insights into other companies and industries for their current conditions and future opportunities, to explore the rich possibilities in company management, and to prepare her own future career.