Student Profile: Leading Across Cultures
Adam Zhang '11
Pre-SOM: Xinhua News Agency
Iíd been a reporter for the Xinhua News Agency in Beijing and Urumqi. My first non-news position was managing operations of the Africa bureau. I arrived in Kenya during the post-election violence in 2008. Some of the first tasks I assigned my coworkers asked them to risk their lives by leaving the compound to acquire food, water, and other necessary supplies. I realized with the tear gas and water cannons in the street, as the leader of the team, I had to join my colleagues in the effort. We pinpointed the safest routes, divided tasks, and allowed the bureauís daily functions to flow with minimal interruption.
A transformation happened when I was in Nairobi. I found that I was good at developing a strategic plan. I am passionate about bringing more justice and freedom to the media industry in China, but I realized that, to thrive in todayís world, media organizations need professional managers even more than they need skilled editors and reporters. SOMís integrated curriculum and focus on working across sectors make it the perfect place to get the business background that I need to work in that global context.
Yale is a huge name in China, so my experience here is of interest to people there. Every two weeks I write a column about being a Yale SOM student for the Wall Street Journal China. Iíve written about many things. Early on I wrote about adapting to the culture of learning at the school. SOM is very collaborative. At first, when my study group would brainstorm, I had difficulty. I didn't see the point of all the talking. In my experience, the leader is the leader. But, by working on problems together, I began to see the value of facilitating an open exchange of ideas. We are fostering better relationships and gaining skills together. Itís challenging but figuring out how to work with diverse perspectives is an important learning process.
The classes are linked to each other and the professors consistently make everything we study even more connected. We might use the same case in several classes so that we eventually examine the problem from every possible perspective. It is like the whole curriculum is a living thing. That's something I really like.
SOM is small enough that you have the chance to know everyone. We are kind of a family, and I really appreciate that closeness. The alumni are great too. They really want to help you because they have been through it. Iíve been having conversations with one graduate who has the same career aspirations as I do; he is just a few steps farther along.
The degree is an investment, not only in economic terms but also in terms of life experience. My short-term career goal after graduation is to become a well-rounded manager in a leading multinational media company. In the long-run, I aim to found and lead a media company in China, eventually building it into an organization with global clout.
Interviewed on October 26, 2009.