Student Profile: Systematic Business Knowledge
Catherine Feng '09
Pre-SOM: Diplomat with Chinese government
Co-leader, Greater China Club
Second-year advisor, Leadership Development Program
Summer internship: BP
When I was young, the first items on the evening news were state leaders meeting foreign guests in the Great Hall of the People. I came from a very small city in the Shandong province and fantasized that such a grand environment must be very interesting. I realized you need a foreign language to do that. At university I majored in English literature and translation. Since my husband worked in a publishing house, at night after work, we translated several books together: Heidi, Black Beauty, Great Expectations, and Kidnapped. It was fantastic, figuring out how to carry the beauty from one language into another.
I was very lucky to work for the Chinese government for some years as a diplomat, mostly doing media relations. I traveled with the leaders of China and sometimes maybe the news showed me in the background of Great Hall events but only so my parents could recognize, “Oh, that’s her.”
In 2000, I came to New York for the first time with the delegation of then Chinese President Jiang Zemin to attend the United Nations Millennium Summit. We were so busy that I only had time to go to Battery Park and wave to Lady Liberty.
I was posted to the consulate in New York in 2003. I smiled when I saw a blog by an American teaching in China who wrote that compared to Beijing, New York is a small town. I never had that feeling. New York is this center for finance and culture. The excitement of the place made me curious. In the diplomatic service, there’s an enormous sense of pride from serving your country. We were also there to serve the economic development of China. At the consulate, Chinese and American businesspeople would come in for advice. Talking with them, I felt there could be challenges for me in the corporate world.
I realized I needed systematic business knowledge to be successful in a career change. One big reason I selected Yale as the place to get that knowledge is the culture. I like the cooperative community, the family-like environment.
I didn’t realize I’d learned so much even in the first few months at SOM until I was interviewing for an internship with BP’s global leadership program. During the interview, I surprised myself with how much I knew. I was one of fourteen students out of 1,200 applicants from top MBA programs around the world to receive an internship offer.
I spent the summer in London working on BP’s strategy to enter China’s carbon trading market, which accounts for more than 50% of the world market. The first couple weeks were desk based, but then I took two trips to China to meet local stakeholders: project owners, government officials, banks, consultants, and so on. I enjoyed it very much. It was general management and strategy, just what I want to be doing.