MBA Full-time (Class of 2000)
Lan Bi, like many people considering where to study for their MBA, had a balancing act to perform.
She had a good degree in English and had decided that the way to accelerate her career prospects, as China was opening her doors to the world, was to take a world-class business qualification.
Lan had a part-time job at Kraft Foods in Tianjin, one of the largest ports and industrial cities in China, while studying for her BA in English Literature and went on to work for Nestle China, progressing from a sales assistant to Assistant Product Manager. She was then selected to become one of the first local staff to be promoted to brand management in 1995 when Nestle China decided to transfer its central office from Hong Kong to Beijing.
Few people in Hong Kong wanted to make the move to mainland China at this stage of China’s modern industrial revolution. But Lan was astute enough to realise that the emerging ‘Asian Tiger’ would provide great opportunities for enthusiastic and well-qualified managers. And her BA and good English already gave her some advantages in the emerging multi-national economic culture in China.
She had also decided on a business MBA and then had to make the decision of where to study. Lan explained: “Too many students rushed to the States to study. They have a very complicated process and two-years in the States would have been far too heavy a financial burden.
“I had attended an education exhibition held by the British Embassy in China while on an earlier business trip and had some discussions with representatives of various universities.
“I then had a call from an agency which highly recommended Aston Business School and I did lots more research before finally choosing Aston due to its reputation for marketing as well as the cost implications of studying. I had to balance both.”
Lan attended Aston from September 1999 until October 2000. She found Birmingham rather different from the frantic environment of Beijing, which was then at the centre of the rapid changes that were sweeping China.
Also, although Lan had travelled extensively in Asia, this was the first time she had been to stay in any city in Europe.
Her father is a Professor of chemistry and her mother is an English teacher, but as Lan says, her career path has been totally different to theirs as they had lived through a period of a very conservative society.
Her first term at Aston proved a challenge, as Lan had been out of formal education for six years, but she soon settled in and she praised the help she and other overseas students received from Aston’s teaching staff. “They were very friendly and very supportive, especially towards the overseas students. Whenever we had issues, we could just go and see them directly.”
Lan enjoyed the group work of Aston’s MBA and found exposure to local industry, such as her visit to Cadbury’s in her first term, gave students a better understanding of the processes involved in modern factory management.
The social side of life at Aston proved positive for Lan too. She has classmates who are now working in Canada, the USA and with prestigious international companies now established in China. “I made quite a few good friends at Aston. We still keep in touch with each other.
“The days we were at Aston were really impressive and unforgettable and I would highly recommend Aston Business School and its MBA,” said Lan.
She did find that Aston’s MBA stretched her and encouraged her to think more strategically. Lan said: “It taught me to focus more on the whole business rather than on marketing only. I benefited from exposure to finance, manufacturing, HR and other areas.
“This enabled me to understand the whole business much better and exposure to that was very good.”
When she returned to China in 2000 Lan spent two years with Monsanto Far East Limited, dealing mainly with issues around the GMO industry, as the Market Development Manager. Then she went on to join Bristol Myers Squibb, the US-international pharmaceuticals company, as Product Manager for OTC/Vitamin before going on to join Unilever China as Marketing Manager.
Lan has just taken up a new position as Marketing Manager of Pepsi China.